Actyx in Digital Manufacturing magazine: "Platforms for manufacturing without effort and servers - how it works".

June 18th 2020 by Maximilian Fischer

This article was originally published by Digital Manufacturing. Please follow this link to get to the original article (German article).

Digital platforms are preparing to "orchestrate" the factories. But high investments make many companies shy away - there is another way.

Platforms for medium-sized businesses: Actyx simplifies the digitalisation of factory processes with a specially developed platform. Due to high costs and barriers to entry, factory processes are often still primarily analogue controlled. The first App Store for manufacturer-independent factory software is to follow at the end of the year. Factories are complex systems in which people, materials and machines must be optimally coordinated to produce high-quality products at the right time. Information flows and decisions are automated, and processes are better controlled overall. Factories become more efficient and at the same time more flexible.

Platforms for the factory: What the Bitkom study reveals

However, many factories shy away from the often high investments and risks associated with the introduction of new systems. According to a Bitkom study, 73% of the factories surveyed see high investment costs as an obstacle to introducing Industry 4.0 approaches [1]. Software solutions fail not because of ideas and creativity, but often because of the cumbersome nature of the software used. The breakthrough of Industry 4.0 can only be achieved if software becomes cheaper, more accessible and more flexible.

Digital Manufacturing article graphic

Platform solutions that enable flexible and reliable software systems in the factory are now increasingly coming onto the market. One of them is from the Munich-based start-up Actyx. The basis of the system architecture is decentralized edge computing. There is no need to rent or buy servers. The software runs where it is used, on the machines, on devices or on the mobile terminals of the employees. By combining concepts from the block chain world and the Internet of Things, data is not stored on servers, but locally on edge devices such as IPCs, tablets, scanners or gateways. This approach promises significantly improved reliability, scalability and flexibility compared to central client-server solutions.

Start smale, scale big

The Actyx platform addresses software developers and cooperates with system integrators, IT service providers and standard software providers as well as developers from IT departments of manufacturing companies. These use the platform as a basis for digitisation solutions. Solutions on the platform are implemented in apps, which can be combined modularly and flexibly. The risk is reduced by starting small and, thanks to the decentralized approach, can easily be scaled up. The entry hurdle for an IT project is thus reduced and risky, expensive large-scale projects are avoided.

Manufacturing platforms for medium-sized businesses The platform is suitable for both medium-sized companies and corporate groups. For example, the PERI Group, a leading medium-sized manufacturer of formwork technologies, profits from a solution for the digitalization of repair processes in 7 plants worldwide.

"You can start very quickly, try out, develop the solution further without having to make large installations in your own data centre", says Dr. Fabian Kracht, CEO of Peri. The Duisburg-based steel group Klöckner & Co also uses a solution on the Actyx platform for the digital control of metal processing steps and was able to increase productivity in the plant by more than 10% thanks to the solution. A roll-out of the solution to other plants in Germany is next on the agenda.

What users report

The Actyx Marketplace is the next step in the Actyx mission to make software more accessible to factories. Based on the Actyx platform, software companies will be able to offer standard apps that other users of the platform can buy as a building block for a solution. Instead of developing new software for each factory, existing building blocks can be used by different experts. Digitization projects can thus be implemented even faster.

The Italian software company Alleantia is the first company to offer such a standard app and illustrates the principle. Alleantia has developed a software that allows to connect more than 5000+ machines in a plug&play way. Machine integration does not have to be implemented every time. In addition, developers who are not specialized in machine integration can also offer digitization solutions around machines. For example, developers specializing in data science/ AI could easily implement predictive maintenance or optimization solutions.

The future: Apps can be easily loaded onto the production platforms

"In the future, factories will be able to download software as an app without any effort. This cooperation is a milestone in the direction of an app marketplace. But together we will achieve a bigger goal: to turn IoT integrations into added value for the end customer by developing simple, quick to implement and cost-effective solutions", comments Oliver Stollmann, CEO of Actyx on the development. By combining standard and individual apps, nothing stands in the way of factory digitisation.

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