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Industry 4.0 From Product Description to Unique Identification

Author / Editor: Meinolf Gröpper / Alexander Stark

Industry 4.0: The guideline "Interoperability through standardized features" describes the steps from product naming to catalogue and Internet presence. It also provides assistance in assessing one's own situation and applies corresponding standards as examples.

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The new VDMA guideline "Interoperability through standardized features" is now available free of charge.
The new VDMA guideline "Interoperability through standardized features" is now available free of charge.
(Source: VDMA)

The new VDMA guideline “Interoperability through standardized features” describes how signals and values are exchanged between manufacturing units, thus following the Industry 4.0-principle. The keyword is “standardization”. Products, individual parts, assemblies, or plant elements are described by characteristics that are transferred in a specific format. Both the descriptions and the transmission format are available in a standardized way and form a common “language”. This creates the basis for receiving systems to correctly understand the data and to use it for subsequent processes such as order intake, production orders or maintenance notes.

Numbering Systems Ensure Traceability

Mechanical engineering companies have done considerable preparatory work to take this step towards Industry 4.0. For many years, the German mechanical and plant engineering industry has been using numbering systems to identify their products. In this way the companies can trace what was delivered by whom, which manufacturing processes were completed and which product version is used by which customer.

Guide Describes the Necessary Adaptation by Using an Example

Of course, an adjustment process is necessary. The guide describes this process in great detail and by providing specific examples. By using a supplier relationship of three partners and one end customer, an example from the value chain was selected. This example is used throughout the entire guideline. After completion of an essential step in the process or a fundamental insight, a summary presents or deepens the facts in a comprehensive manner. Thus, the terms "identification", “reference marking” and “class/characteristics” become vivid and are not only “implemented”. This guide also shows how they relate to the machine as a whole or the systematics of a class structure.

Product Structuring Guide

Anyone who has ever thought about how to structure a product in such a way that it can be found by anyone looking for it will find instructions in this guide. Especially because it introduces the possible categorizations and classifications without having to deal with standards and their actual purpose and orientation. This book outlines standards for the most important applications.

Clear Specification of Components

In this context, the numbering systems used by mechanical engineering companies need to be reconsidered. This aspect is addressed in the “Reference Indicators” chapter of the handbook. In this section, the example is continued by giving the delivered part a “unique specification”. It can be localized according to the preferences of the observer according to function, product hierarchy or the installation location in the machine or plant.

Differentiation of Classification and Labeling

In addition, this chapter provides answers to the distinction between classification and labeling as well as the terminology from product to instance, if the product provides operating data. These data then provide information about a process or a tool that is used in this process. When recorded over a period of time in the form of a time series, this information contributes to the knowledge of the condition of the machine and provides information on efficiency, productivity or supports the decision for preventive maintenance.

Codification for Products

The logical consequence of this effort and the efforts made to date is, of course, the step of naming the product in such a way that it can be clearly assigned. With reference to standards, the example describes how a product is to be designated uniquely for the global market. The product description used up to this point are now supplemented by a codification. This codification provides the product with a unique identification. This supports the ordering system in national and international business transactions and cooperations as well as the perception of the entire company worldwide. The prerequisites for the IIot (Industrial Internet of Things) have been met, as has the ability to operate in an industry 4.0 environment.

Self-Assessment and Recommendations for Action

The instructions and tips of the guideline are completed by recommendations for action. This chapter at the end of the handbook deserves a lot of attention. On the basis of the previous presentations and descriptions, it supports the reader in the self-assessment of his company and the measures to be taken. For the self-assessment, a maturity level model was chosen in which five quality levels of a company are defined. In order to move from an estimated actual level to the next better one, the handbook describes measures for each level that gradually lead the enterprise towards industry 4.0 and digitalization.

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* Meinolf Gröpper, VDMA Computer Science

This article was first published by konstruktionspraxis

Original by Monika Zwettler / Translation by Alexander Stark