Text Ulrich Sendler and Steffen Maltzan ––– Photography
For a long time, software for industry was primarily a tool that could be used to control key processes more efficiently, from order processing and engineering through to production and service. The systems used for this purpose had their own language and their own data format, so the exchange of data between them proved problematic. This form of IT is now reaching its limits, as it certainly does not allow data to fulfil its ascribed key role as the new fuel needed to drive a smart factory.
The fact that data must fulfil this role is indisputable, however. What is needed is an open software architecture known as composable software, which offers maximum flexibility via application programming interfaces (APIs) and can integrate and extend new software applications fast. “Composable software, based on microservices and open standards such as Kubernetes, is increasingly being recognised as a solution,” says Andreas Zerfas, CTO Digital Industrial Solutions at German Edge Cloud. This solution has now also been tried out in practice and proved successful – including in the ONCITE Digital Production System (DPS) at the Rittal plant in Haiger.
The microservices architecture of the DPS offers the flexibility that is needed to now truly deliver the promised benefits of Industry 4.0 with IIoT applications and flexible manufacturing management (smart MOM). In situations where conventional, closed, monolithic software, such as traditional manufacturing execution systems, is reaching its limits, the door is therefore opening to new possibilities. If, for instance, it transpires that data relating to the movement of a robot arm is useful for a particular step, this movement can be added in a trice. The newly obtained data can also be used as input via an API. This is how composable software works.
SWITCHOVER IS OPENING FURTHER DOORS
If required, industrial customers can choose from a range of ONCITE DPS expansion stages and forms of use. The ONCITE Industrial Suite services work both on edge applications directly on the shop floor and on all standard cloud platforms. A hybrid multi-cloud forms the basis for this, and this is currently establishing itself as the most favoured type of solution in industry.
“With container technology, most software development steps through to operation can be truly automated,” says Zerfas. DevOps is the watchword. Instead of laborious programming, followed by a test phase and, finally, release, these steps are conducted in parallel and are much, much shorter.
To boost the adaptability further still, German Edge Cloud has chosen Scheer PAS as a strategic partner. As a result, Scheer PAS is part of the system as an application composition platform with its low-code and integration functionality.
On this basis, with ONCITE DPS, open standards, cloud-native microservices and digital twins, it is now possible to make that step of becoming a smart factory. The adaptability of the DPS is currently being demonstrated at Rittal in two respects when it comes to energy. In the Rittal plant, the rapid integration of the new “energy flows” parameter has increased the transparency of production by adding an increasingly relevant factor. What’s more, at Rittal, the software is serving as a basis for the new RiZone OTM Suite for optimised management and energy monitoring in data centres.