Noting that complex, proprietary systems can adversely affect productivity and profitability, the partnership announced the Open Manufacturing Platform at the Hannover Messe today. The idea is to set up an open technology framework and cross-industry community to accelerate automotive and manufacturing sector developments.
"Microsoft is joining forces with the BMW Group to transform digital production efficiency across the industry," said Microsoft's Scott Guthrie. "Our commitment to building an open community will create new opportunities for collaboration across the entire manufacturing value chain."
The Open Manufacturing Platform (OMP) is reported compatible with existing Industry 4.0 reference architecture, which focuses on automation and exchange of data in manufacturing. The platform is designed to encourage the sharing of smart factory innovations between companies that sign up to the OMP community, aiming to boost industrial IoT developments, shorten the time taken to deliver innovations and improve production efficiency. The solving of common manufacturing problems will also be looked at, such as machine connectivity and on-site systems integration.
The OMP is centered on Microsoft's Azure IoT cloud platform, and will eventually be made up of open-sourced components based on open industrial standards. It will also provide community members with open data models that allow for analytics and machine learning, liberating such data from the confines of proprietary systems.
BMW says that it currently has more than 3,000 machines, robots and autonomous transport systems linked up to its own IoT platform, which has Microsoft Azure at its heart. The German automotive giant has pledged to provide the OMP with initial use cases, starting by sharing details of efficiency improvements made at its production and assembly site in Regenburg, Germany. Other use cases will be made available and further developed within the OMP community, and a robotics standard for autonomous transport systems based on the Robot Operating System is expected to be made available to the OMP community too.
"We have been relying on cloud services since 2016 and are consistently developing new approaches," said BMW's Oliver Zipse. "With the Open Manufacturing Platform as the next step, we want to make our solutions available to other companies and jointly leverage potential in order to secure our strong position in the market in the long term."
An OMP Advisory Board is currently being formed, with another three to five industry partners being sought to kickstart platform operation. Both the Board and at least 15 use cases are expected to be in place by the end of 2019.
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