ST 001-14 2014-01-08

New impulses for the innovation driver software

Dr. Karl Tragl, Chairman of the Executive Board at Bosch Rexroth AG

Software is already one of the most important drivers for innovation today: For economical production, even of the smallest number of units, manufacturers can use software to flexibly combine individual processing steps for the production of different products. Software accelerates engineering and commissioning and allows efficient and secure processes. In addition, brand new perspectives are currently surfacing for using software to effectively integrate corporate IT and automation in the production halls. The basic prerequisite for such innovations was and is the same: the involved systems must be able to share and process data via open interfaces.

Software is already responsible for a major part of the value added by machines. Packaging of food products or web-fed printing are examples of this. In the past, machines used to be driven by central drives with a complicated and wear-prone mechanical system. With every change, the operators had to turn the machines off and adjust the mechanics with a wrench. Today, software takes over this synchronization task: All it takes to integrate additional production stations is a data cable connecting the new station to the production line. Modern engineering surroundings are structured in modules, and written functions can be re-used. Machine safety is also ensured with a secure logic for the most part.

Software's degree of innovative strength is high, but it used to be limited: machinery manufacturers were only able to implement functions within a corridor dictated by the controls manufacturer: the IT world and automation were working with different languages.

New margins for software innovations

In the past year, Bosch Rexroth has opened up new margins for the innovative strength of software with Open Core Engineering. On the one hand, a new interface technology enables the programming of controls with IT languages so that production and IT will be able to communicate directly with each other in the future. At the same time, Bosch Rexroth has given machinery manufacturers broader access to the control core, so they can program functions individually.

Evolution has already begun

Early applications show a considerable potential for innovation: With Open Core Engineering, machinery manufacturers can integrate Smart Devices such as smart phones and tablet-PCs for wireless access to their machines. Machinery manufacturers also have new possibilities to integrate machines with corporate IT or to use the results of simulation programs directly for production. Last but not least, they can increase the flexibility and productivity of their production lines through customized functions.

While openness has always been the deciding factor for innovations through software, the increasing degree of integration definitely heralds the end of proprietary interfaces. Only manufacturer-independent open standards for programming and data sharing will allow machines to effectively communicate directly with each other, and only in this way can software increase value creation, efficiency and the degree of innovation of machine concepts.


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