Our society has already seen three industrial revolutions and now the fourth seems imminent: “Industry 4.0” is the buzzword used to describe the increasing integration of production machines in networks and the growing communication between them. Companies are hoping to boost productivity and achieve greater profit margins, but many technical issues remain to be solved. How much autonomy do these interconnected machines really require? Which safety aspects need to be addressed? The Industry 4.0 Application Center at the University of Potsdam is dedicated to finding the answers by investigating procedures and processes in this area. In a move to reinforce its strategic commitment to exploring new technologies, Asseco Solutions, an ERPII specialist based in Karlsruhe and catering to small and medium-sized companies, is supporting this research.
The cooperation between Asseco Solutions and the Industry 4.0 Application Center encompasses two fields: research and teaching. For the purpose of the research, Asseco will work closely with its strategic partner N+P Informationssysteme. Together, they will install the ERP and MES application in the model factory in the application center. The partners thus want to contribute to research in this area and help the scientists find solutions to precise procedural questions arising with Industry 4.0 and associated technologies, based on sound empirical evidence.
In the second area of cooperation – teaching – the ERPII solution APplus, together with other Asseco partner products, will be installed in the University of Potsdam’s ERP laboratory. The aim here is to support students in their studies, as well as in the realization of practical study projects. The whole range of functionality of the products will be available to students and other universities for teaching purposes. Asseco Solutions will also benefit from the use of its product: the cooperation will provide the ERP manufacturer with critical input for continuous development and optimization of APplus.
Solutions to new challenges
In the Industry 4.0 Application Center at the University of Potsdam, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Norbert Gronau heads up a team with the goal of developing practically oriented process scenarios, which can point to the potential and possibilities of Industry 4.0. Combining purely computer-based simulations with a physical model factory, the center provides a hybrid simulation environment for manufacturing and logistics processes. The different simulated elements are all interconnected and allow for customized degrees of decentralization. In addition, standardized interfaces make it possible to embed real industrial components in the system. That way, the utility of a particular manufacturing version can be assessed, or alternative solution strategies can be compared.
“Working closely with our clients, we constantly encounter the challenges of Industry 4.0. The fact that production machinery communicates with the ERP system is no longer something of a novelty; indeed, it has practically become a requirement. We have now reached the point where a finished product that has left the company sends information to the manufacturer as required during its operation at the client’s location. This is a whole new field. In future, customer and supplier relationship management will also have to accommodate product relationship management. It is a highly interesting challenge, which we are looking forward to tackling head on together with our partners N+P and the University of Potsdam.”