Joint initiative for the digitalization of supply chains in industry.
Employees in production

Everything in flux: Manufacturing-X as a common data space

An open environment for data exchange is essential so that companies can use data confidently and jointly across the entire production and supply chain. This is based on standardized rules: Manufacturing-X aims to realize the concept of digitally networked industry. The “X” stands for “exchange” and symbolizes the exchange of data and collaboration in complex value-added systems across different industries.

The work on Manufacturing-X, funded by the German government, is still in its infancy. Under the umbrella of Plattform Industrie 4.0, corporations, SMEs, and associations are developing a concept for the digitalization of supply chains in industry. As a member of the consortium, Phoenix Contact is helping to develop Manufacturing-X and already offers technological solutions that enable the systems to speak the same language across industries and countries. This keeps energy and data flowing in the Manufacturing-X, without companies losing control of their own sensitive and profitable data or having to change the interfaces used.

People in the background behind symbols that symbolize security

OT security in the factory Our solutions to prevent factories from becoming vulnerable to hackers

Connecting all the devices in a network to the Internet provides many advantages for production operations. This includes being able to easily access sensors, machines, and systems anywhere and anytime so that status checks can be performed on demand or service partners can be engaged to carry out maintenance work.

However, this type of networking also has its risks, e.g., cyberattacks – especially if the software on the devices is not up to date. In order to localize necessary updates for all devices in a production system, a common data space is required in which both the digital twins of all devices and the corresponding software updates are available.

Man at a PC looking at the digital twin of a product

Digital twin – the key concept for Industry 4.0

The concept of the digital twin has become an international industry standard through the work of the Industrial Digital Twin Association (partner of Plattform Industrie 4.0). This is where industry’s data requirements are brought together and harmonized. The Asset Administration Shell (AAS) is the technology used for this purpose.

Blue, floating container on a beach with AAS written on it

Standardized interfaces for digital twins: Asset Administration Shell

The AAS provides several submodels for an asset. Each submodel provides the data for a specific aspect of the product. For example, there is a “Digital Nameplate for Industrial Products” submodel that provides the basic and legally required data such as approvals digitally, just as they are shown on a printed rating plate.

“Handover Documentation” is another submodel – documents that are usually in printed hardcopy form are provided digitally. In this way, operating manuals, for example, can be provided in a more sustainable manner. In addition, the AAS is an open implementation that makes it possible to transfer other data models as submodels alongside the standardized data, so that specialized solutions can also be offered.

In the future, Phoenix Contact will gradually add administration shells to its products so that they can be used in the Manufacturing-X data space.

Digital data chain

The three technologies in the digital data chain

The Asset Administration Shell provides a uniform, manufacturer-independent application programming interface (API) for calling up product data and submodels, in which security is uniformly assured. This means that, for the first time, all supplier data is consistently available to the operators of machines and systems.

The digital data chain combines three technologies to create a coordinated approach for the automated identification of objects in work processes and automated access to information about the objects:

  • Identification: automatic identification of physical objects (IEC 61406)
  • Data (access) management: API management (OpenAPI)
  • Open data standardization: administration shell (IEC 63278)
Digital identification using a QR code on a product

Easy scanning with digital identification: digital nameplate

With QR codes in accordance with IEC 61406 (previously DIN SPEC 91406), we are opening up the automatable use of information for our customers via a globally unique product identifier. This product identifier is used to access human-readable information as well as the associated digital twin, i.e., the AAS. Globally, there are a multitude of data formats and versions for digital twins.

The digital twin: We’re on board!

Phoenix Contact has been promoting the concept of the digital twin in various organizations, such as the Digital Data Chain Consortium (DDCC), Plattform Industrie 4.0, and the Industrial Digital Twin Association (IDTA) from the very start.

Connect with our experts

Björn Axenath, Senior Project Manager Digital Innovations, Phoenix Contact
Björn Axenath
Senior Project Manager Digital Innovations
+49 5233 3-48803
“I will be happy to answer any questions you have about Manufacturing-X.”
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