The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group

The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group

Twin three – the production twin

The king of twins

When determining whether new machines can deliver optimisation, the worlds of business and science work in percentages. In the case of processes, on the other hand, the focus is on the factors that can be improved. In the ultra-dynamic world of digital transformation, that means it’s time for the king of the digital twins – the production twin – which can be used to plan, measure, automate and control production lines. And what do you know? You can just about make out the shape of the smart factory on the horizon.

Text Ulrich Kläsener, Hans-Robert Koch ––– Photography

Launched in 2022 by German Edge Cloud (GEC), the ONCITE Digital Production System (DPS) is a platform for the agile management of manufacturing processes using flexible software architecture. The concept is as follows: During operation of the manufacturing process, master data is compared with dynamic data from production, matched with IIoT sensor data and analysed in its entirety to derive well-informed decisions at all levels – from workers to management – to improve process efficiency. In this way, the ONCITE DPS represents the glittering prize of the factory: the production twin.

The Rittal plant in Haiger: Every day, around 8,000 compact enclosures are manufactured here using highly automated processes.


You need experience to tackle something like that. According to Dieter Meuser, CEO Digital Industrial Solutions at German Edge Cloud, the company has built up practical know-how from 500 fully digitalized factories worldwide. In summer 2022, the market analysis and consultancy company PAC also rated GEC “Best in Class” for its combination of factory expertise and IT. In the “Open Digital Platforms for Factory-edge-centric Industrial IoT” category, only GEC and IBM/Red Hat achieved this rating. “We are delighted with this top spot,” says Meuser, who is fully aware that the smart factory can’t function without the digital production twin.

It is an intelligence driven system or force that reveals things which previously would have been hidden by comparing and contrasting the device history record (how the product has been produced) with the device master record (how the product is to be produced). Markus Asch, CEO of Rittal International and Rittal Software Systems, agrees. “Manufacturing processes only achieve maximum efficiency if they can be mapped as transparently as possible. The depth of data needs to increase further still if manufacturing based on the principle of “batch size 1” is to be possible. Most importantly of all, a totally unique data set must accompany each and every product. In addition to agile software systems, this is the fundamental prerequisite for ultimately being able to provide IIoT-supported production management - and so become truly ‘smart’.” he explains.

The ONCITE DPS therefore takes primary data such as the bill of materials and extracted work schedules from the ERP systems, along with additional PLM, MES and Scada details. In this way, production can be run efficiently from the first steps of digitalization through to digital production optimisation. “The system is the data hub and delivers flexibility for IIoT applications,” says Meuser. The ONCITE DPS supports system networking, the visualisation of processes, and applications – from track & trace through to agile, IIoT-assisted production management. The software services can be used in parallel with existing IT/OT infrastructures and operated in a variety of environments. A gradual migration of existing MES/PCS/ Scada content to ONCITE is also possible.


One hardware option GEC uses is highly scalable factory edge infrastructure directly on the shop floor. That means it is possible to react quickly, with low latency, a minimal load on the network in terms of data streams, and a high level of data sovereignty. When it comes to UX and usability, the new partnership with Scheer isn’t all that surprising, because GEC adopted the “best-of-breed” approach to develop the ONCITE DPS, using independent “best of” software tools for each and every task on a flexible platform. Scheer PAS has developed a leading platform that enables users to click their way through a graphics-based process to put together their own business processes and models for all parts of the company.

Standardised modular systems are frequently provided for this purpose. Such concepts, which require no text-based programming languages, are called nocode or low-code solutions. Given the speed of change, Meuser is certain that this approach is the future. “Even at the commissioning stage, it can reduce outlay by up to 70 per cent. The ability to adapt software solutions to your own requirements yourself and react to changes is a key success factor for companies,” he says.

  • Digital twin at the Haiger plant

    The Rittal plant in Haiger shows how GEC uses the digital manufacturing twin to make a smart factory that little bit better every day.

    At one of the world’s most cutting-edge enclosure manufacturing facilities, more than 250 networked high-tech machines and system components spread across 24,000 square metres produce around 8,000 AX compact enclosures and KX small enclosures every day using highly automated processes. The data analytics solution for the production lines is based on the ONCITE DPS, a core product of GEC.

    This integrated platform, which also includes the 3D production model, acts as the central data hub, collects the masses of data from all kinds of sensors, harmonises this data and makes it available in a circuit comprising analytics, alerts and live dashboarding. As the learning curve rises, so too does productivity, and the more you know about the future, the more logical and effective predictive maintenance scenarios become.


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