The future of manufacturing is open

Posted on 2 April, 2019

Director, Azure Internet of Things

With the expansion of IoT across all industries data is becoming the currency of innovation. Organizations have both an opportunity and a business imperative to adopt technologies quickly, build digital competencies, and offer new value-added services that will serve their broader ecosystem.

Manufacturing is an industry where IoT is having a transformational impact, yet which also requires many companies to come together for IoT to be effective. We see several challenges that slow down innovation in manufacturing, such as proprietary data structures from legacy industrial assets and closed industrial solutions. These closed structures foster data silos and limit productivity, hindering production and profitability. It takes more than new software to drive transformation—it takes a new approach to open standards, an ecosystem mindset, the ability to break out of the “walled garden” for data as well as new technology.

This is why Microsoft has invested heavily in making Azure work seamlessly with OPC UA. In fact, we are the leading contributor of open source software to the OPC Foundation. To further this open platform approach, we have collaborated with world-leading manufacturers to accelerate innovation in industrial IoT to shorten time to value. But we feel we need to do more, not just directly between Microsoft and our partners but across the industry and between the partners themselves. It’s not about what any one company can deliver within their operations – it’s about what they can share with others across the sector to help everyone achieve at new levels. It’s clearly a much bigger task than any one organization can take on, and today, I’m pleased to share more about the investments we are making to advance innovation in the manufacturing space by enabling open platforms.

Announcing the Open Manufacturing Platform

Today at Hannover Messe 2019, we are launching the Open Manufacturing Platform (OMP) together with the BMW Group, our partner on this initiative. Built on the Microsoft Azure Industrial IoT cloud platform, the OMP will provide a reference architecture and open data model framework for community members who will both contribute to and learn from others around industrial IoT projects. We’ve set up an initial approach and are actively working to bring new community members on board. BMW has an initial use case focused on their IoT platform, built on Microsoft Azure, in the second generation of autonomous transport systems in one of their sites, greatly simplifying their logistics processes and creating greater efficiency. More information about this and the partnership can be found here.

The OMP provides a single open platform architecture that liberates data from legacy industrial assets, standardizes data models for more efficient data correlation, and most importantly, enables manufacturers to share their data with ecosystem partners in a controlled and secure way, allowing others to benefit from their insights. With pre-built industrial use cases and reference designs, community members will work together to address common industrial challenges while maintaining ownership over their own data. Our news release, shared jointly with the BMW Group this morning, can be found here.

A rising tide that lifts all boats

The recognition of the need for an open approach is taking hold across the industry, as evidenced by SAP’s announcement today of the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance. This alliance – focused on factories, plants and warehouses – between SAP and a number of European manufacturing leaders will help create an open ecosystem for the operation of highly automated factories.

OMP and the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance are complementary visions. Both recognize the need for an open platform for the cloud and intelligent edge on the ground in the factory. Both highlight an open data model and standards-based data exchange mechanisms that allow for cross-company collaboration.

We’ve been working closely with SAP on efforts like the Open Data Initiative and across the industry on a wide range of initiatives including the Industrial Internet Consortium, the Plattform Industrie 4.0 and the OPC Foundation. We look forward to continuing this fruitful partnership and working to align OMP and the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance. Collaboration is the lifeblood of future manufacturing and the more we work together, the more we can accomplish.

Read more here.