The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group

The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group

Scheer PAS and German Edge Cloud
Innovation

Where the future lies

Industry requires new methods. The goal is clear – faster digitalization of manufacturing processes, together with enhanced flexibility and agility when it comes to adapting production processes. At the same time, new applications need to be created directly on the shop floor with next to no programming. This isn’t just a futuristic vision – Scheer PAS and German Edge Cloud already offer an IIoT platformwith microservices and low-code technology.

Text Steffen Maltzan, Ulrich Sendler ––– Photography

Has industry ever been under so much pressure on so many different fronts? Climate protection and sustainability, the pandemic and the collapse of supply chains, the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis, and widespread geopolitical realignment are just the primary examples. Virtually nothing has remained unaffected. Without being cynical, this also has an upside in addition to all the downsides. It forces companies to make changes they were previously not yet willing to consider.

There were good reasons for this caution. Adapting IT landscapes to new challenges and the specific requirements of a manufacturing company isn’t simply a question of quickly making a few smart decisions and investments. If product and production data needs to be compiled and processed in a way that enables it to be used for analyses and process improvements – or even for IIoT-assisted management of manufacturing processes – things become even trickier, not to mention the fact that it’s practically impossible to find the necessary specialists for such tasks.

A FUTURE WITH COMPOSABLE SOFTWARE

However, the time has now come to act. According to a study by the analysts at Gartner in May 2022, no fewer than 60 per cent of all new manufacturing execution systems (MES) will already be made up of modular components (composable software) by 2025. The end of an era dominated by monolithic systems that can only be adapted with a great deal of effort appears to be in sight. The traditional automation pyramid with its IT levels based on industrial manufacturing – such as ERP, MES, Scada, PLC and sensors/actuators – is gradually being replaced by more flexible IIoT platforms. A far higher degree of flexibility is required for the IIoT applications of the future.

In most cases, however, the reality right now is these very pyramids – dominated by systems that have been in use for some time – and the question is whether to keep these or replace them. When it comes to the manufacturing industry’s digital transformation, there is good reason for the current largely brownfield approach – that is to say, optimising factories while operations continue. The key questions in this context are how progress can be achieved without losing investments already made in the IT architecture, and which digitalization steps are both realistic and cost-effective.

What is low-code?

Digitalization is achieved faster in manageable steps with an agile design. A low-code approach is ideal for this, paving the way for manageable applications and adaptations without extensive IT know-how. The principle involves modelling the applications on a graphical interface. This can be as simple as using drag & drop, with automatic implementation in program code. As a result, domain knowledge relating to the content of the application – in manufacturing, for instance – leads directly to digitalization, without the need for time-consuming programming.

STRATEGIC PARTNERS FOR IIOT

An unrivalled partnership has the answers. Two industry and IT pioneers – Prof. Friedhelm Loh and Prof. August- Wilhelm Scheer – have joined forces. They both run highly successful family-owned businesses that, time and again, have produced innovations to keep industry moving forwards. In the case of the Friedhelm Loh Group, the primary focus has been on the industrialisation of panel building and switchgear, and on the supply of system solutions for enclosures, power distribution, climate control and IT infrastructure.

The Scheer Group, meanwhile, is a pioneer in IT-based process integration and the professionalisation of service-oriented software architecture. To be more specific, the IIoT experts at German Edge Cloud (GEC), part of the Friedhelm Loh Group, are collaborating with the integration and software specialists at Scheer PAS.

An initial result of this partnership is being applied in the GEC IIoT platform – the ONCITE Digital Production System (DPS). Scheer PAS is becoming part of this system as an application composition platform with its low-code and integration functionality.

EVERYTHING INTEGRATED

The ONCITE DPS thus combines previously separate core components of a digital production environment in one integrated system – intelligent management of manufacturing with MES and MOM functions, IIoT as a database, and lowcode capabilities for simple application development. On top of this, edge computing meets all demands regarding sovereignty during data processing. The result is platform and application functionality in an integrated solution with modern, flexible architecture.

The technology is just one aspect, though. Experience, including in-house at the Rittal plant in Haiger, shows that nothing works without the domain knowledge that comes from decades of work in the field of industrial automation. After all, even 30 years after IT first started being used to help control industrial processes, the necessary networking of all machines is still incredibly difficult with the technologies available at this point. The flexibility and agility that are currently in widespread demand are even more elusive, and the tight budgets available, especially at small and medium-sized companies, present a further challenge. GEC is using its industry experience and Scheer PAS its flexible software to tackle this task for their customers.

Smart manufacturing: Rittal rigorously implements Industry 4.0 standards at its production plant in Haiger.

MICROSERVICES ON AN OPEN SOURCE PLATFORM

Gartner sees huge potential once software systems old and new are no longer linked via programmed interfaces but can instead communicate via their application programming interfaces (APIs). Amongst IT specialists, word has it that a backend era is dawning, with open source platforms such as Kubernetes providing the backbone for “containers” that share and supply data independently using microservices.

That is the basis for low-code or no-code solutions – the customer and users can make changes, create applications, and turn entire business functions and processes into composable (modular) applications without having to do any programming. This is at the very heart of the new partnership. German Edge Cloud is using its ONCITE DPS to take analytical and management power directly onto the shop floor and, if required, into the cloud with inbuilt data sovereignty.

A growing library of ONCITE Industrial Suite applications is available for immediate use. GEC automation expertise comes into its own where specific connectors to the machines are required for the Scheer PAS API management solution to work effectively. For its part, Scheer PAS then enables rapid adaptation of the installation thanks to its very own low-code platform, which reduces programming to the dragging and dropping of icons.

LOW-CODE FLEXIBILITY

As a result, new application services can be adapted flexibly and introduced on the shop floor during the production process, without the intervention of the IT department and without stopping the production line (zero downtime). An industrial engineer or an experienced machine operator can generate modular (composable) software by independently creating and integrating custom apps, dashboards and new data sources.

It’s exactly this speed and flexibility that are needed for industry’s digital transformation to take off, for SMEs to keep up with large businesses such as car manufacturers, and for the creation of resilient supply chains in which all the players can react with agility to new situations.

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— Rittal
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Industriepark Höchst is undergoing a change

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