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Industrial digitization: "Isolated solutions must be a thing of the past"
Dr. Christian Liedtke has been part of the core team of the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance since its inception. Since December 2022, he has now been Chairman of the Alliance, which now has more than 100 member companies. A conversation about goals, internationalization and resilient supply chains.
21 February 2023
Reading Time: 4 min.
The alliance would be founded in April 2019, but let's start at the beginning: What is the goal of the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance?
Dr. Christian Liedtke: "The goal of the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance is to digitize industry - and to do so in an end-to-end, simple and standardized way. You can imagine it roughly like this: On the one hand, there are organizations that define industry standards. On the other hand, there are customers who don't always know exactly how to implement these standards on their factory floors with a wide variety of machines and systems. This is where Allianz comes in. It takes customers by the hand to implement industry standards and digitize factories."
As an alliance, it is our great concern that isolated solutions and the proliferation of industrial communication standards will eventually become a thing of the past. Our more than 100 member companies have therefore committed themselves to uniform standards such as I / O Link, OPC UA, ECLASS or NAMUR for consistent communication between machines as well as different software solutions.
How can you imagine your day-to-day work as Chairman of the Board of Management at Allianz?
The Open Industry 4.0 Alliance was founded in 2019 as an association and did not have many members at that time. The Corona pandemic slowed us down a bit, because alliances are a lot about face-to-face meetings, getting to know each other personally, and joint workshops. But now the alliance is just at the stage of a start-up. Recently, a limited liability company was founded in addition to the association, and there are now several permanent employees in addition to a managing director. I am in contact with these colleagues almost every day.
We are currently working very intensively on internationalization and are making strategic adjustments. As Chairman of the Board of OI4, however, it is also important to me to get things off the ground and to work on specific projects. That's why I get involved in our working groups such as "Use Cases & Go-to-Market", "Machine Manufacturing" or also in the "Industry Committee".
I was elected for three years. By then, the alliance will have grown up. And until then, I have to hold many discussions, travel a lot and work to ensure that the work of the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance establishes itself as an important ticket when industrial companies want to implement digitization, IIoT und Industrie 4.0 in their own halls.
Many member companies of the alliance come from the DACH region. Now it is to become more international. What does that mean exactly?
The Open Industry 4.0 Alliance is now well known in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. At least within the industry and among the minds that take care of digital transformation at their respective companies. This means: Either they are already members of the alliance or they have decided against membership. This also means that we can no longer expect significant growth in the DACH region. Outside the DACH region, things look different. We see great potential there. We are already very far along in Denmark and the Netherlands. Here we also encounter a very open mentality when it comes to networking the industry. In these countries, it is very clear that the focus is on the digitization of industry - which, by the way, is also strongly promoted by the respective government.
Let's take a look at current challenges and trends such as reshoring or resilient supply chains. What contribution does the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance make to current economic policy issues?
By helping customers digitize processes, we create transparency. This also applies to upstream and downstream production processes. The better I, as a manufacturing company, know my own processes and the respective dependencies, the better I can react to bottlenecks, failures or flexible adjustments. This helps to stabilize supply chains and make them more resilient. As an alliance, we are looking deep into the details of the store floor.
When we work as an alliance on a customer's digitization project, suitable member companies always join forces. This automatically leads to an exchange of knowledge. And also to insights into whether or how it is economically feasible to bring production back to the home country. The cooperation that takes place within the alliance should not be underestimated. People from a wide variety of companies exchange ideas over short distances. That inspires. And that then leads to optimization, efficiency and flexibility.
Many decision-makers in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) still shy away from robots and automation. But those who try it often find it amazing how smoothly the integration runs and how quickly their investment pays off. This was also the case with the following SMEs, which give insights into their production.