Dr. Karl Tragl, Chairman of the Executive Board at Bosch Rexroth AG
In the discussion about Integrated Industry, end users demand more possibilities for the integration and they are impatient. The integration of systems, regardless in which division, however, is not a revolution, but a process. It begins slowly and only develops a large and unstoppable dynamic, when a critical mass of users is achieved. In that case, however, integration changes the surrounding conditions sustainably.
When the first smart phones were introduced to the market, many considered them a kind of expensive toy without having true usefulness for the vast masses. Hundreds of millions of devices later, they have completely changed the markets for hardware manufacturers as well as for software and Internet companies. A mass phenomenon arose from high end devices for a few trend setters that shapes communications worldwide.
Integrated Industry won't revolutionize industrial production from one day to another, either. But in a few years already, the integration of production in Germany will have achieved a level that cannot be imagined today. It promises considerable efficiency gains and economical production of small lot sizes up to a quantity of 1. The technologies necessary for this presently exist: integration capable automation components with their own intelligence, where the software takes over more and more tasks, which have been carried out mechanically so far.
What's still missing, is the consistent implementation of open standards, with which machines can exchange information among each other and with the IT world. Technical solutions are already available. For example, Bosch Rexroth has built the bridge between automation and IT world with the new interface technology of its Open Core Engineering and has opened the control core for extended access at the same time. Machinery manufacturers can therefore independently program new software functions in a number of languages. At the same time, Open Core Engineering closes the gap in the data exchange of production and company IT.
The current discussion about Integrated Industry is important and necessary in order to ensure reliable surrounding conditions in parallel with the technical further development. It must be lead in order to answer important questions: Where does the protection of sensitive data stand, what about machine safety? Which qualifications are necessary in production in order to direct integrated systems? In this matter, economy and politics are needed as well as machine manufacturers, industrial users and software companies.
Even today, the first industrial companies are switching to integrated production systems in pilot projects. For this, they need machine manufacturers that apply comprehensive communications and programming standards. Because experience teaches us: Integration only succeeds, if many play along.