A technology kit for industrial communication

Networked production processes and digital factories provide an important key to securing Germany's competitiveness and ability to innovate. The IC4F – Industrial Communication for Factories – project, in which KION and its subsidiary STILL are heavily involved, has also been dealing with this topic for almost three and a half years. The Hamburg-based intralogistics provider now hosted the final event at which the results achieved together with the project partners were presented:

The digitization of industrial production is a complex process that has been underway for many years. However, this is not so much a 10,000-meter run, where you can precisely manage your strength and where it is clear when the finish line is reached. Rather, the transformation to digitalized production is a long-distance run, and thus a continuous development. This has many facets and is showing increasing success but is still a great challenge: There are several hurdles to overcome. For example, some important tools are still lacking to put new industry standards into practice. Initiatives such as the PAiCE funding program (Platforms, Additive Manufacturing, Imaging, Communication, Engineering) of the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology provide support and facilitate important basic research. An associated project is IC4F (Industrial Communications for Factories): KION's subsidiary STILL is playing a key role in this project and is one of 15 project partners from industry and research - including Robert Bosch GmbH, Siemens, Deutsche Telekom AG and Nokia. Over the past three and a half years, they have jointly developed a technology kit for a trustworthy and secure industrial communication and computing infrastructure.

This kit is based on an open architecture and allows modular extensions for new applications and communication technologies, explains Ansgar Bergmann, Project Manager for Data and Networking in Technology and Innovation at KION GROUP AG. "The results of our research will enable users to select appropriate information and communication technologies according to industry 4.0 requirements and a specific migration approach.“ Secure, robust and real-time communication solutions for the manufacturing industry use key technologies from 5G, multi-access edge computing (MEC), cloud computing, virtualization, industrial monitoring and analytics. The final event in Hamburg gave the participants deep insights into the milestones of IC4F. STILL had invited project partners and internal stakeholders to the Hamburg headquarters. There a Nokia mobile radio campus network, essential for IC4F, has been set up which will also serve as a pioneer for new communication technologies such as 5G.

We have lots of experience in the areas of industrial networking and Industry 4.0 and have put it to profitable use.

Ansgar Bergmann, Project Manager for Data and Networking in Technology and Innovation at KION GROUP AG

„We master the successful networking in the warehouse“

In several live demonstrations, experts from various disciplines presented the results of the project work. One of these projects ("Use Case Truck-to-X Communication"), which was mainly developed by STILL, deals for example with door control in a factory building. In this use case, both forklift trucks and other factory installations are integrated into a common communication environment - a cloud. Indoor localization provides the position data of the forklifts, which are then processed by various applications of the participating project partners. The gate control is thus purely from a virtual world. The door opens automatically as soon as a forklift truck approaches. In order to achieve this, the forklift truck and gate generate digital twins. The virtual model, which controls the processes, is continuously able to compare these data. For example, the door only opens when the dimensions of the forklift truck – i.e. the height of the fork – fit through. In addition, the truck's drive control is accessed, and the driver receives a warning in case of an emergency. Scratches and damage to the vehicles and gates will then be a thing of the past.

Ansgar Bergmann is proud that the KION subsidiary STILL was able to contribute its expertise to IC4F and play a decisive role in its development. "We have lots of experience in the areas of industrial networking and Industry 4.0 and have put it to profitable use. We have benefited from the fact that we have already been involved in the development of several guidelines for the industry on behalf of the German government and the German Engineering Federation.“ Of course there are also advantages for STILL itself: "First of all, we have proven to ourselves that we have mastered successful networking in the warehouse and that our approaches work. In addition, we were able to gain a lot of new insights which we will now use in cooperation with our customers to the benefit of both sides," says Bergmann.

Other highlights of the project presentations included the "Bring your Own Network" approach from Siemens for easier installation of multi-tennant networks in companies and a modern "Certificate Management via the Cloud" solution from Telekom, which increases both security and convenience in the field of industrial communication. "These proof-of-concept implementations serve to verify the methodology and validate the use cases," says Ansgar Bergmann. However, the KION expert is firmly convinced that much of the knowledge and experience gained from the IC4F project will later flow into industrial applications and be of great benefit to customers. "With these experiences we are the ideal partner regarding all topics concerning Industry 4.0 as well as networking in the warehouse,“ adds Ansgar Bergmann.

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