Acount on Expert Forum in openautomation

Source: Ertüchtigen Agenten Produktionsanlagen für Industrie 4.0? In: openautomation, No. 3, 2014, pp. 22-23. PDF. Available: Link.

Do agents support production systems within the context of Industry 4.0?

Account of the 6th expert forum "agent systems in the context of industry 4.0"

The complexity of products and production systems in machine and plant engineering demands flexible and easily adjustable automation systems to provide changeability. Radical concepts require completely novel mechatronic approaches as suggested my Mr. Hoos (Festo AG & Co. KG). But also already existing production systems need to be updated for Industry 4.0 due to their durability of up to 20 years – from rigid solutions with little flexibility, towards flexible couplings as Professor Göhner (Universität Stuttgart) showed.

How can that be realised? Agent based coupling approaches provide an excellent problem-solving approach, Professor Vogel-Heuser (Technische Universität München) explained at the Expert Forum "Agents within the context of Industry 4.0": "Through their abilities to learn and self-adapt and self-organise, agent systems are ideally suited. In our distributed yoghurt production “"myJoghurt" they provide the different manufacturing locations in Stuttgart and Magdeburg with the possibility to tether the different historically grown automation systems individually via a base agent. At that different controller solutions can be used – right up to hybrid platforms that contain applications in various languages such as C or IEC 61131-3." As response to the question how a specific implementation on a controller could be realised Vogel-Heuser said: "We provide a starter kit for different programming languages that gives the users of the agent platform a basis for integrating their systems."

Which methods and tools are used for the analysis of large amounts of data and how it is possible to learn from that is shown by Professor Niggemann (Hochschule Ostwestfalen-Lippe) and Dr. Mattingley-Scott (IBM Germany). Various possible applications of Industry 4.0 were suggested at the Expert Forum – from ramp-up management (Professor Jeschke, RWTH Aachen) right up to specific applications in industry (Dr. Drath, ABB AG and Dr. Schlick, WITTENSTEIN AG). Highlights of the event were the international scientists’ talks: Professor Leitão (Universität Bragança, Portugal) and Professor Colombo (Schneider Electric Automation GmbH/ Hochschule Emden/Leer) reported on the potentials of service-based architectures and agents for future applications.

But what exactly do such concepts provide for developers of controller software? Leitão on that: "Agents and agent-based architectures enable – combined with further mechanisms like cloud-technologies and self-organisation – modular, interoperable and expandable cyber-physical systems. Systems do thus become more intelligent, more flexible, more scalable and more changeable." Professor Jay Lee (University of Cincinnati, Ohio) – one of the advocates of cyber-physical systems in the USA – complemented these advantages and introduced possible applications for agents in the area of big data: "One of the agents’ potentials lies in being able to collect and to evaluate data on cyber-physical systems runtime. In the future the monitoring of the machines will be done by sensors and the date will be recorded and analysed continuously. The intelligent evaluation of the data causes cost savings, higher operational efficiency and improved product quality."

The Expert Forum was a success, because it brought national and international researchers and national industry experts together for two days and especially gave young international scientists the opportunity for discussions und networking on half a day.