The production environment of tomorrow at the CeBIT

Clients know that Krones is represented on the international platforms of the manufacturers of machines and lines for the food and beverage industries. Our presence at the CeBIT – the world’s premier event for the digital industry – is, by contrast, something new. A shared project on Industry 4.0 with Microsoft was the trigger here: Krones joined forces with Microsoft to formulate a concept for what an industrial communication platform, with real-time networking between the line’s owner and the line’s manufacturer, might look like in the future.  This gave birth to the idea of displaying the result in a Showcase on Microsoft’s stand at the CeBIT. The showcase fits in perfectly with this year’s motto for the fair. The principal focus is on the keynote issues of Industry 4.0 and “datability”, the ability to utilise large quantities of data intelligently and also responsibly. For the blog, we talked to Ottmar Amann, who’s responsible for the project.

Ottmar Amann, why is Industry 4.0 a topical issue for Krones as well?

Firstly, the market is demanding a continuous increase in efficiency and flexibility for its production operations, and secondly, our customers are insisting on high levels of quality, but also on reduced complexity and lower costs. All this cannot be covered by machine technology alone, which is why we are devoting a lot of attention to this issue. What we need as well is innovative IT solutions and technologies, ones that interlink existing knowledge and the data sources available with the production lines in actual operation. We’re aiming to marry this information, so to speak, to make it available to our clients in real-time.

The Showcase – something for the future or already on offer for the clients?

No – it’s true we’re already offering our clients many IT-based applications, but the Industry 4.0 standard is in quite a different league altogether, in fact it’s a league no one’s playing in as yet. Everyone is still engaged in development and preparations. But we’re already thinking about what a communication platform like this ought to contain, so that in the future, too, it will be able to support the owners of beverage production and filling facilities with intelligent solutions. These are mapped out in the Showcase that Krones is presenting in conjunction with Microsoft.

What should we imagine this communication platform will look like?

Communication will flow in all directions. We shall be exhibiting examples of horizontal and vertical networking and interaction of humans, machines and lines. Machines will learn and optimise themselves autonomously, and valuable manufacturer’s information will be addressed directly to the particular location involved, where it is actually needed.

You’re talking here about manufacturer’s information. But surely you don’t mean traditional categories like operating manuals?

We’re talking here about highly specific and predictive information. For example, recommendations for action involving line status, maintenance work, but also malfunctions in real-time, generated from feedback based on mass data and relational knowledge. Personal and role-specific concepts are also factored in. So everyone gets the information he or she needs and can effectively liaise with his “counterpart”.  At any time required.

You said at the beginning that innovative machine technology is by itself not the answer to the dynamic on the market, and to line owners’ demands for more flexibility, lower costs and reduced complexity. Is Industry 4.0 the answer?

Industry 4.0 is only the logical next step in the development process. You need both. The goal Krones is pursuing is to create an added value for the line owners, far beyond the confines of machine technology, not least in regard to productivity, networking and more flexible production facilities. And I think we’re well on the way to getting there.