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A uniform information model for manufacturing

IoT Use Case IDTA und VW Sachsen, Digitaler Zwilling
9 minutes Reading time
9 minutes Reading time

Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH is pushing ahead with important milestones in electromobility and digitization of production. A milestone is the introduction of digital twins to identify the greatest (energy) losses in manufacturing processes. They are not alone in this challenge: As one of the more than 80 members of the Industrial Digital Twin Association (IDTA), they are standardizing the digital twin to enable efficient digital scalability of product and process information.

The digital twin is the key technology of Industrie 4.0. With the so-called Asset Administration Shell the IDTA as a user organization opens up the technology for every company. In a project with Siemens, MHP – A Porsche Company, Lenze, Schneider Electric and Phoenix Contact, they are developing an information model for energy monitoring of a plant network at Volkswagen. The challenge lies in the Integration of manufacturer-specific data into a standardized model that is open and flexible enough to be used across business processes. This model will form the future backbone of the digitization strategy.

The challenge: Implementing standardized digital twins, developing cross-manufacturer information models and reducing high levels of engineering effort

With its strategy presented in 2021, the Volkswagen Group is pursuing a transformation into a tech company. These include the ramp-up of electromobility and transformation toward digitization. The brand Volkswagen Passenger Cars will invest 18 billion euros in electromobility, hybridization and digitization by 2026. With the start of production of the ID.5 and ID.5 GTX, Volkswagen has successfully completed the transformation of the vehicle plant Zwickau (Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH) into a pure E site. This is the world’s first high-volume factory in this segment to be completely converted from vehicles with internal combustion engines to electric drives.

Important milestones were reached in 2021 in the core topics of digitalization and new business models. A key component of the digital transformation is the energy optimization of production to increase the overall effectiveness of the plants. The production facility in Zwickau produces six models of the Volkswagen, Audi and Cupra brands with the classic production areas of press shop, body shop, paint shop and final vehicle assembly. The plant in Zwickau is doing important pioneering work for the group and is initiating the milestones for achieving the digitization strategy.

The Dresden site with its Pilot Factory business area plays an important role in this and, with its vehicle production, offers an ideal environment for developing and testing future technologies. As an innovation location, the Dresden site is actively shaping the digital transformation at Volkswagen.

The insights and experience gained from this project will help not only the Volkswagen brand but also the group to further develop the digital transformation of production quickly and efficiently by applying standards such as the Administration Shell.

The production facilities are characterized by new and existing plants with varying degrees of networking and digitization. In order to perform an energy demand-based optimization for the entire plant, the data from many plants and the implementation of multiple use cases are necessary. This requires a data foundation with the same information models for all devices in order to save engineering effort. This is worthwhile for the environment, because up to 80 percent of the costs and environ-mental impact of products are predetermined by their design.

Expenses arise today when individual values per use case have to be read out from automation components and manual adjustments have to be made for new devices. An example: Temperature values are configured in devices once in “Fahrenheit” and once in “degrees Celsius”. Non-standardized data models lead to poor integrability and lack of scalability. In its digital transformation, Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH is therefore relying on an end-to-end standard with the aim of complexity reduction. The vision: a standardization of all data models and an ID for the devices and components so that they only have to be configured once – i. e “zero touch“. During operation, the exchange of data and the configuration of parameters should be based on a uniform information model, so that they can later be set automatically and across all manufacturers, without the need for IT experts to be involved each time. The goal is simple commissioning and independent configuration of the ma-chines, in that each manufacturer brings along its standardized data model in a technology-agnostic manner – i. e. “Plug and Produce“. The requirements of Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH are clearly defined: The information mod-els to be developed should bring scalability, technology agnosticism and interoperability. So they should work together as seamlessly as possible using the Administration Shell as the standard for information networking. As a member of the Industrial Digital Twin Association e. V. (IDTA), they are thus helping to shape the world standard of Industry 4.0 and are entering the race with a concrete project.

The solution: The "Asset Administration Shell" (AAS) - as a uniform model

As a member of the IDTA (Industrial Digital Twin Association e. V.), Volkswagen is helping to shape the development of the digital twin. They are using the network, including expert knowledge of industry standards, to jointly develop the digitization of energy demand representation in the green and brownfield. Here, the Administration Shell provides an information basis for digital twins and reduces costs on the shopfloor with regard to planning, assembly, commissioning and operation in the context of energy demand measurement.

The IDTA is a non-profit organization that has been working since 2020 to establish the administration shell in the market and ensure its international dissemination. Originating from the VDMA and ZVEI associations together with Bitkom and more than 20 companies from the electrical industry, mechanical engineering, the software industry and user industries, the IDTA is a spin-off of the Industry 4.0 platform. In building an internation-al community, the IDTA relies on open source development. This open approach is intended to make it easier for anyone – even small or medium-sized companies – to access the tech-nology and thus have the opportunity to participate in the data-driven economy. For this reason, a complete catalog of partial models is publicly available on GitHub.

To implement the goal of Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH, standardized submodels were developed in a joint project at the Zwickau site. The “Energy Monitoring” project was launched at the Zwickau plant with selected network participants of the IDTA. In the project, energy data of a motor was collected across manufacturers via an “energy meter” of the project participants Siemens, Phoenix Contact and Schneider Electric and mapped as a digital model. With predefined roles of the project participants, the digital twin is now being implemented in practice.

Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH: Requirements for the project

Siemens: Technology package incl. Digital twin

MHP – A Porsche Company: Project management and consulting

IDTA: uniform data model of the Administration Shell.

Other partners: Lenze, Schneider Electric, Phoenix Contact

Together, a partial model of the administration shell was set up, with simple standardized processes within the IDTA. Standardized submodels provide transparency about the energy consumption of a production and allow a device to be replaced quickly, without engineering effort. An individual Ad-ministration Shell can be imagined like a “bookshelf“. Each “book” in it describes a specific characteristic or capability of a device (or “asset”) with a prescribed structure of the IDTA, such as the table of contents or the design of the shell – for example, the definition of the temperature parameters “Fahrenheit” and “degrees Celsius”. From the contents of the books of this bookcase, all the data and information about a particular device are presented and stored.

bookshelf = Administration Shell

book = partial model of the devices

If we now use the technical terms “Administration Shell” for the bookshelf and “partial model” for a book, we get the following:

An Administration Shell consists of a set of submodels describing all content or functional characteristics (with properties, states, parameters, measurement data, capabilities) of an asset. Depending on the asset and depending on the implementation, the Administration Shell consists of different numbers of submodels.

Via the digital nameplate each asset can be identified and addressed worldwide via its own Administration Shell – whether it is tools, robots, blueprints, processes, equipment components, customers, contracts, organizations, or even software. The Administration Shell thus resembles a digital CV file. It maps all information from the lifecycle of a real-world device in a structured way in its “digital twin”. The administration shell is the core standard and thus the implementation of the digital twin for Industry 4.0.

The result: Energy efficiency through standards, faster time-to-market

With over 80 members from providers and users across all industrial sectors, they provide a platform to drive technology development based on the Administration Shell.

The administration shell and the associated sub-model “Energy Monitoring” enable the digitization of energy demand-driven production in the greenfield and brownfield. It is the information basis for digital twins and can reduce costs on the shopfloor in terms of planning, commissioning and operation as part of energy demand measurement.

The Digital Twin connects physical industrial products with the digital world. For the successful practical implementation and international dissemination of this core technology of Industry 4.0, a common understanding among all stakeholders in industry, associations and research is necessary.

With the IDTA, companies can now move into operationalization and have a single point of contact for all the results they are working on with others in the context of the Digital Twin and the administration shell. The further development and international distribution of the Administration Shell thus becomes accessible to everyone.

IDTA acts as a central point of contact for all stakeholders. It provides the necessary specifications for the administration shell and creates and harmonizes the submodels for the Industrial Digital Twin into the Big Picture.

✓ All information from devices in production can be mapped, even those without a data connection

✓ Devices with standardized models can be exchanged regardless of manufacturer

✓ Data endpoints no longer need to be mapped, since this information is already stored in the Administration Shell

✓ “Plug & Produce” of devices in production: Efforts in the workshop for planning, commis-sioning and operation can be reduced. Existing standards such as OPC UA can continue to be used.

In application

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