Research Project: RES-COM, The First Step Towards Resource Efficiency for Industry 4.0
The industrial sector is undergoing a major paradigm change that is altering the fundamentals of production. The traditional, centrally controlled production hierarchy is being replaced by decentralized, self-organizing products. Cyber-physical systems with digital value added now bridge the gap between the material and digital worlds and are turning products into smart products that actively support the manufacturing processes. The conservative use of energy and resources will become a constraint for the successful manufacturing centers of the future. Industry 4.0 is a forward-looking project that integrates current trends in information technology for the fourth industrial revolution.
Similar to social web services like Facebook and Twitter in which people interact, industrial products and everyday objects will have the capability to communicate their status, their environment, the stage of production or maintenance, and to do this either on demand or self-initiated. Cyber-physical systems give products the ability to communicate and thus link them to the online data world, creating an Internet of Things. The development of these cyber-physical systems, which connect integrated memory and communication capabilities, sensors, actuators, and digital product memories, rests on the results of several successful research projects in Germany that had as their goal the study and use of technological trends for innovative products and solutions. A good example is the collaborative project called SemProM (Semantic Product Memory) sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in the context of the "Digital Product Memory" innovation alliance.
Machine-to-Machine communication and radio sensor networks support resource efficiency in
production and maintenance
Products and their individual components will play a key role in manufacturing and logistics processes: The products know which components have been integrated, what transport and storage is required, and they transmit the critical signals for the downstream production processes, which is stored in their digital product memories. The product under construction controls its own manufacturing process and monitors over the embedded sensors the relevant environmental parameters and initiates an appropriate response to a fault signal – it is both an observer and an actuator at the same time. The production always maintains the pace of the human who can step in at any time.
The business potentials of Industry 4.0 are not only due to the optimization of operational processes, but also lie in new services in a variety of application areas. A complement to the Internet of Things is the Internet of Services, where smart products offer their functions as intelligent services. This new generation of products can use machine-to-machine communication (M2M) to mutually exchange information, initiate actions, and interactively control each other via the Internet.
Dynamic, decentralized production processes offer an approach to a more efficient use of resources: Events like interruptions in the production cycle, raw materials of varying quality, energy or material bottlenecks are detected and corrected in a timely manner by decentralized sensors. Friction losses from the flow of information through a central control unit are minimized. The resource requirements can be determined and planned dynamically: Resources like water, power, or raw materials can be delivered on demand, thereby reducing excess capacity. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) become a catalyst for a more conservative use of resources in production. For example, it is possible to better satisfy not only economic requirements, but also the special environmental need for CO2 neutral, energy efficient, urban production.
One of the first elements along the path to the efficient use of resources in production and services is the BMBFsponsored RES-COM research project. In the RES-COM project, prototype scenarios for context-activated resource efficiency are being implemented by means of highly networked and integrated sensor-actuator systems, from embedded systems to cyber-physical systems. This challenging scientific undertaking is getting ever closer to a solution thanks to the pioneering role of Germany in the field of the Internet of Things.
The digital product memory, embedded systems, and software service agents make up the basic technologies. Networked by machine-to-machine communication, distributed systems make holistic decisions in consideration of what resource-relevant parameters have been set by the managers, the component units, and the individual product specifications. Resource waste becomes a unit failure, which can be quickly diagnosed on the basis of detailed records – including the decision criteria. The standardization of communication structures permits efficient resource use to be offered as a service – as a flexible platform which links employer and contractor and supports decision makers as well as implementing technicians in using resources more efficiently. This culminates in material and energy-efficient, resource-friendly technologies and processes.
The major challenge for product-controlled manufacturing is the adjustment of the ICT structures for communication between data sources, units, and products. Products are often inseparably merged into more complex units; they are defined by physical proximity, or simply logically belong together as elements of a process. The future IT systems must facilitate the communication of these interim or permanent data collections in order to enable a comprehensive and detailed overview of resource use in the associated processes. They will provide not only opportunities for the innovative use of resources in automation, production, and maintenance, but will further create the basis for a holistic cross-industry view of the cost-efficient and responsible use of resources. The RES-COM approach is based on a completely new type of core technology, which consists of a combination of active digital product memories and software service agents with embedded sensors and actuators. An example for the benefits of RES-COM is the transparency and optimization of the operating infrastructure in terms of an "Energy-Supply-Chain", the use of materials to support the vision of "no waste" production, as well as for intelligent process management, perhaps by adopting a technology like the automatic start-stop mechanism used in automobiles for the field of urban production. Active product memories capture and analyze the resource use in a decentralized manner and communicate among themselves for the autonomous optimization of the underlying process. RES-COM addresses these requirements through a network of local, distributed, autonomous systems with key structures that support the vision of a future “Internet of Resource Efficiency.”
RES-COM was launched in June 2011 and is funded by the BMBF, department 514 IT-Systems for a period of three years with about 9 million Euro.
DFKI is the consortium manager; overall project supervisor is Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wahlster. The other partners are SAP, Siemens, IS Predict, and 7x4 Pharma.
Prof. Willem Jonker, Chief Executive Officer for EIT ICT LABS, visits
the SmartFactoryKL in Kaiserslautern