Article from Monireh Pourjafarian, Researcher at DFKI

The DIMOFAC project aims to provide the infrastructure needed for the development of a digital manufacturing platform. Such a platform promises a variety of services that will support manufacturing in a broad sense. It provides the digital description and extension of functionalities of the manufacturing physical assets for the purpose of enabling the modularity, adaptability, and responsiveness of the production lines: DIMOFAC’s end goal.

The content of the platform will be based on the production data of the six European pilot lines that are part of the project:

The aforementioned goal underlines the importance of data interoperability between different production plants. This refers to “the ability of systems and services that create, exchange and consume data to have clear, shared expectations for the contents, context and meaning of that data” following the Data Interoperability Standards Consortium.

Unfortunately, today’s information models are developed in-house, so they satisfy enterprise functional requirements but are no more interoperable than traditional data models.

This problem brings the needs for a common information model (CIM) between the different production lines. Indeed, a generic and common information model which is specially developed based on the industrial standards would enable data understanding:

1. Horizontally, between devices and systems (that is to say assets) and their administration shell.

2. Vertically, across dissimilar systems within different layers of industrial automated production plants (Field Level, Control Level, supervisory Level, Planning level, Enterprise level, and Cloud).

To fulfil this goal, the DIMOFAC Common Information Model will be built based on the Reference Architectural Model Industrie 4.0 (RAMI 4.0). RAMI 4.0 give companies a framework for developing future products and business models. It describes a structured way of approaching the deployment of Industry 4.0.

Interestingly for DIMOFAC, RAMI 4.0 aligns in particular popular and global Industry 4.0 standards for the realisation of interoperability (of various production lines). In short, it ensures a common perspective and a common understanding among all participants involved which results compatibility between very different production plants. In other word, it brings the existing industrial standards into the current production modules to enable a machine-readable, semantically unambiguous self-description of their properties and capabilities.

Furthermore, for the model to be transparent for all pilot lines in DIMOFAC, it will be built based on the concept of Asset Administration Shell (AAS) of Plattform Industrie4.0. The Asset Administration Shell is a key concept of industry 4.0 that along with the asset forms the Industry 4.0 Component (I4.0 Component). An I4.0 Component can be a production system, a single machine or station which is globally uniquely identifiable. The structure of AAS provides information about assets and I4.0 Components in a way that it can be exchanged in a meaningful manner between partners in a value creation network.

The Common Information Model blueprint is the key foundation for reaching the objectives of the DIMOFAC project. It finalised the holistic architecture for smart modular production. The DIMOFAC Common Information Model is a reference model for any industrial implementation and intends to maximise the reusability of the data model.

As the contexts and applications within DIMOFAC are radically different, the Common Information Model should allow the integration of production modules and services in modular production lines with minimal manual intervention.

Therefore, to name a few, the Common Information Model enables the development of flexible multi-functional Plug-and-Produce modules and thus flexible and reconfigurable production lines, production process such as orchestration of process, communication between the digital twins and shop floor.

In the case of DIMOFAC and more specifically for the Plug-and-Produce service, it means that if for instance Philips and Albéa have to exchange data in a meaningful way between their modules or assets, or even their production lines, they can do it thanks to the data interoperability that is provided by the Common Information Model which is developed based on the Asset Administration Shell meta-model.

The exchange of data between pilot lines is an end-to-end infrastructure boosting data sharing, affecting all hierarchy levels, that is to say product engineering, shop floor and management/business.

The Common Information Model promises to equip all six DIMOFAC pilot lines with meaningful and standardised information as well as common understanding of concepts in the data structures. This will ensure the data interoperability between the DIMOFAC pilot lines.