Logistic platforms for Industrie 4.0

The vision of Industrie 4.0 confronts the logistics sector with new challenges — although topics such as networking and digitized process chains that follow the “Smart Factory” pattern are in fact well-known themes. Yet, in the face of exponentially growing volumes of data and the rising number of players in global supply chains, a rethink is required. Conventional management methods and systems are reaching their limits. But how to exploit the potential of digitalization in a targeted way to develop internationally competitive business models within logistics?

The German Federal government’s recommendations for implementation of Industrie 4.0, which has been officially declared a matter for top-level politics, clearly state: “In Industrie 4.0, business and engineering processes are dynamic in character, meaning that production processes can be modified at short notice and respond flexibly to equipment failures or other disruptive events, caused by suppliers for example.” But without seamless digitalization of supply chains, none of this will succeed.

Industry or politics — who is driving the process?

Could politics be the real driver here? IT firms such as SAP, Telekom and Bosch are probably better placed than the world of politics to develop a robust business model. In the USA, the scene is dominated by the international Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), whose members include IBM, Microsoft and Cisco, among others. But besides these companies, there are already innovative medium-sized enterprises that are systematically exploiting the opportunities of digitalization and are offering tools for the networking of companies in spite or maybe even because of the lack of standards. The goal is always to network the logistics systems in a more intelligent manner as an integral component of all value creation steps and to eliminate system boundaries. These networking platforms have the potential to make disruptive change in the logistics industry. Today’s planning processes, still mostly organized manually and based on the laborious exchange of information by telephone, fax and e-mail, will either disappear or be pushed to the margins.

Towards Industrie 4.0 with industrial Internet platforms

So how can the entire logistics process be digitized with the ultimate aim of implementing automated communication that spans multiple companies and is at the same time immune against errors? In the past, the generally chosen route was to link companies via bilateral interfaces. In today’s conditions, this is no longer appropriate since the lengthy implementation time and the huge effort entailed by this method negatively impact the flexible networking of enterprises. Moreover, there is a constant need for updating the interfaces. All this represents a substantial obstacle to the prompt networking of enterprises in a business relationship, especially in case of ad-hoc relationships.

This is why the economy needs open industrial Internet platforms with which dynamic and complex business networks can be flexibly established and controlled. This will allow the flexible interlinking of different services so that every participant is supplied with all the necessary information (e.g. order status) at all times. In addition to order details and checklists this includes status information for preceding and subsequent steps. The innovation: New standards can be configured online at any time and system updates leading to unproductive downtimes are a thing of the past. Users benefit in multiple ways…

To find out more on the benefits, impact on the staff and a 10 years’ prediction visit http://www.catkin.eu/pressespiegel/ and read the full article (05/2016 — International Transportation).