Automation 2017 - Communication Technology and Industrie 4.0

By Wolfgang Morr

Company and Product News

“Lions only kill when they are hungry”.  This is how Thomas Tauchnitz of Sanofi and member of the NAMUR board of management described the reluctance of end user companies to implement new technologies during the closing podium discussion of the Automation 2017 event in Baden-Baden, Germany.  Consequently, those companies do not feel the need to adopt new technologies or even support their development but several panel members remarked that companies might suddenly be forced to change their minds.

On the event, topics like Industrie 4.0, Cloud Services and Data Analytics were discussed intensively.  Multiple obstacles for the application of Industrie 4.0 in the process industries were identified: lack of associated business models, legal issues and the absence of basic technologies.  But there were also declarations of intent to overcome these obstacles through a joint effort of suppliers and users.

The Automation congress has shifted from an event concentrated on measurement and control to an event that covers the contribution of automation technology and IT to the whole production lifecycle.  The topics covered now included: the development of methods and devices, the application of automation in different industries, plant maintenance, but also business models, data analytics and cloud services.  The recent appearance of new players in the automation market was reflected in the choice of contributions to the congress, although traditional topics still have their place.

IT-security for production is one topic that has become increasingly important over the last decade.  IT-security is a prerequisite for the successful implementation and operation of Industrie 4.0 scenarios.  Although this truth is widely accepted, there is still uncertainty regarding suitable solutions.  This is also true for safety systems where there is still an on-going discussion with respect to the appropriate architecture, i.e. integrated with basic control system or separated.

Another key component of Industrie 4.0 is communication technologies as there obviously is no Industrie 4.0 without communication.  This topic was also examined during the congress, from OPC UA to TSN and Profinet, just to mention a few.

Other topics at the Automation 2017 included:

  • Assistance systems for operators
  • Virtual commissioning
  • Digital Twin in the plant lifecycle
  • Modular automation, i.e. automation for modular process plants
  • Automation ML

Legal aspects of “the digital world” were addressed in the dinner speech.  Engineers tend to ignore such aspects., but they will become increasingly important as technologies develop further.

The Automation in Baden-Baden still is a remarkable congress with opportunities to learn about the latest developments and the contributions from academia, technology suppliers and end users. In this respect, it is an almost unique event which was also reflected by the 400+ participants.

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