Better value Creation through Industrial Connectivity

Industrial Connectivity allows manufacturing companies to optimize their value creation through the use of innovative technologies across the entire process chain. Raik Wehser, Partner at Detecon and responsible for the Manufacturing sector, explains how Digital Twins, 5G networks, and new ecosystems can assist producers in facing current challenges.

What role does Industrial Connectivity play in developing digital strategies?

It plays a pivotal role. The objective is to establish appropriate infrastructure to best support development, production, and operations. Various technologies can be utilized for this purpose. Alongside Wi-Fi and ultra-broadband, 5G technologies, in particular, ensure scalability and innovation capability. Crucially, Industrial Connectivity involves selecting or providing the optimal mix of technologies along the company’s specific value chain. Digital transformation aims at enhancing productivity and efficiency. Increased automation and improved transparency and control of processes in production and development necessitate the interconnection of all components relevant to value creation.

IT and information security must certainly also be appropriately considered and implemented holistically as a strategic approach. What aspects should companies focus on regarding IT and information security?

To better safeguard intellectual property and mitigate risks, all aspects must be considered. A strategy should encompass the following key areas: Physical security (including perimeter access protection), cyber security (including protection against unauthorized access to IT systems), and particularly enhancing employees’ security awareness. For instance, we assess weaknesses within the company by sending phishing emails. How many employees open the email and why? Evaluations reveal where targeted measures need to be implemented. Supply chain security also ensures comprehensively that appropriate security standards are upheld within the supplier chain. Where are information security management systems operated, and are external employees adequately trained? Additionally, we address incident and business continuity management: How well-prepared is the company for emergencies? Are risks in the event of incidents mitigated through recovery and restart processes? Comprehensive security can only be achieved collaboratively across all areas, even though physical fences are not required for an IT system.

Digital Twins are frequently discussed in the context of industrial digitization strategies. What tasks remain to be addressed here?

Strictly speaking, the pure virtual representation of a machine park is merely a "Digital Shadow." We only refer to a true Digital Twin when it interacts bidirectionally with reality. For instance, if a warehouse reaches capacity, the Digital Twin automatically initiates the use of an alternative warehouse. By simulating processes, such as those involving manufacturing robots, we can detect potential collisions early based on parameters. The key to the usefulness of a Digital Twin lies in its customized depth of development. Achieving 100% realism is too costly. The granularity of reality representation must closely correlate with the expected effects, such as reduced collisions, to justify the investment.

A particularly intriguing case concerns the digitization of Lifecycle Management. Digital twins of buildings are created for this purpose – and then?

Buildings encompass a multitude of functions. Windows open and close, doors lock, heating and water supply operate. The Digital Twin can now automate many building functions. Security doors, for instance, must undergo inspection cycles. Windows must also be closed at night. Digital inspections through sensors on windows and doors significantly reduce the workload for the security service. In addition to simple functional tests, entire facility management can be digitally controlled. Where is stock running low and needs replenishing? How do I guide unfamiliar individuals to a hidden machine? Room occupancy can also be measured and controlled with presence sensors. Generally, the depth of representations is crucial for the benefit of use cases.

IoT platforms are expected to leverage the value of data even more. What challenges must companies be prepared for here?

Whether it's Digital Twins or IoT platforms: it's crucial that the data and information models function effectively initially. What about the semantics? Machines must be capable of interpreting data. A meaningful information model must integrate all areas, from development to production and quality assurance.

What role do so-called "partner ecosystems" play in the field of Industrial Connectivity? Is the spirit of cooperation still insufficient in German companies?

Complexity is increasing across the board and surpassing existing structures in development or production. Products now consist of a myriad of individual components. OEMs, manufacturers, and service providers deliberately delegate large (partial) projects that are controlled through general contractors. Designed intelligently, 1 and 1 become more than 2. For complex ecosystems, partnerships are simply necessary, as aspects often complement each other well. Properly connected, companies have the opportunity to grow through these complex challenges.