Following the agreement between Volkswagen and Amazon Web Services, two other major brands of IT and automotive have launched a joint initiative. These are Microsoft and BMW who have reported that they want to create an Open Manufacturing Platform (OMP) that seeks to stimulate innovation and accelerate the development of intelligent factories.

Production and profitability, as stated in a note issued by Microsoft, can be hampered by complex proprietary systems that create data silos and slow productivity.

The Open Manufacturing Platform (OMP) has been designed to break down these barriers through the creation of an open technological structure and an inter-industrial community. The initiative should support the development of intelligent solutions for factories that will be shared by participants in the OMP in the automotive and manufacturing sectors in the broad sense. The aim is to significantly accelerate future industrial developments in the Internet of Things, shorten the time taken to exploit and improve the efficiency of production while addressing common industrial challenges.

Microsoft Azure at the base of everything

Built on the Microsoft Azure Industrial IoT cloud platform, the OMP aims to provide community members with a reference architecture with open source components based on open industrial standards and an open data model. In addition to facilitating collaboration, this platform approach aims to unlock and standardize data models that allow analysis and machine learning scenarios, data that have so far been traditionally managed in proprietary systems.

It is clear that both this latest agreement and the one between Volkswagen and Amazon Web Services show the will of cloud computing providers to give a boost to capture and manage terabytes generated by the network of connected Iot devices, such as robots and sensors.

•Microsoft will work with BMW Group to transform the efficiency of digital production across the industry • said Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President of Microsoft Cloud + AI Group •. Our commitment to building an open community will create new opportunities for collaboration along the entire value chain of production.

Objective: to recruit partners

As mentioned, the Open Manufacturing Platform will be built on the IIoT cloud platform Microsoft Azure. Its reference architecture will be based on open-source standards, an approach designed to encourage other partners to participate. It should be noted that BMW already has 3,000 autonomous machines, robots and transport systems connected to its IIoT platform, built on Microsoft Azure. And this, the automotive group said, will contribute to the project by providing concrete cases of initial use. An example is the use of the Internet Object Platform for the second generation of autonomous transport systems at the BMW plant in Regensburg, Germany, one of the 30 production and assembly sites of the German group worldwide.

This case of use has allowed BMW to greatly simplify its logistics processes through the central coordination of the transport system, creating greater logistic efficiency. In the future, this and other use cases (such as digital feedback loops, digital supply chain management and predictive maintenance) will be made available and, in fact, further developed within the OMP community.

Microsoft said that a wider OMP community is being trained, with the recruitment of additional partners. It is expected that by the end of 2019 the Advisory Board of the Open Manufacturing Platform will be operational with an initial series of four or six partners and a minimum of 15 cases of use introduced in selected production environments. The two initial partners, Microsoft and the BMW Group, will encourage other manufacturers and suppliers, including companies outside the automotive industry, to join the initiative.

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