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Announcing the IoT Industrie 4.0 reference architecture

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Whether you call it Industrie 4.0/Industrial IoT or simply Digital Manufacturing, innovation on the shop floor is of heightened interest to organizations. By seizing opportunities to integrate vertically from machines to cloud, horizontally among supply networks, or along the lifecycle of the product, organizations can improve processes, quality and interoperability to meet changing business needs and achieve extremes of custom manufacturing.

Industrie 4.0 doesn’t replace the typical business requirements in the manufacturing space (productivity, error prevention, and flexibility). Rather the completeness of interoperability better supports overall equipment efficiency, predictive maintenance, and product/process quality. Lean manufacturing is better supported by avoidance of technology gaps and eliminating complexity.

Functional scenarios for disruptive innovation in manufacturing are data-driven and especially insight-oriented. These expectations and requirements mean Industrie 4.0 represents a special case of the general Internet of Things reference architecture due to the need to integrate the operational technology (OT) layer with the IT layer in a manufacturing context. What makes it special are the closed environment and it’s unique availability or compliance needs, the three layers (Edge, Plant, and Cloud/Enterprise), and the high importance of a flexible functional deployment among the three layers.

The main challenge remains accessing the data of the automation layer in a secure way, while avoiding timing discrepancies between the OT layer (lower millisecond level down to nanoseconds) and the IT layer (middle millisecond and higher). Most manufacturers have specific requirements for the autonomous operation of each factory, such as continuing operating even if connectivity to a central IT or cloud infrastructure is not present and low-latency of reaction on events.  In addition, normally there are strict requirements for data locality, privacy, and security, which is often expressed as “production data is not allowed to leave the factory”.

It is likely that this attitude will change over time, driven by the speed of innovation, improving network latency, high security standards, and the cost advantages of cloud-based systems. But Industrie 4.0 projects that are starting today need to address both present and future requirements.

IBM’s Industrie 4.0 reference architecture addresses the current challenge and future needs by the clear definition of the three layers – Edge, Plant, and Enterprise – and the flexibility to deploy and move similar functionality at all three layers. Additionally, the architecture assumes that functionality today likely needs to be deployed on premises, but that this will evolve to dedicated or even public clouds over time. The Industrie 4.0 reference architecture is based on the IBM Internet of Things reference architecture, the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) reference architecture, the Purdue model of ISA-95, and best practices observed in real world projects.

Co-author: David Noller

References

Industrie 4.0 Chief Architect

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