The Fourth Industrial Revolution is in full progress. An increasing number of manufacturing companies are using information technology to digitize their products and services by integrating production machines and production processes with enterprise information systems and digital processes. These interconnected smart machines, products, and processes build the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
However, if we want to integrate the functionality and data provided by the production machines and resources with information systems such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and business process management systems (BPMS), several interoperability, abstraction, and interaction issues must be addressed: machines have different non-standardized programming interfaces; are programmed in low-level programming languages (e.g., G code); are very complex; and operate mostly in isolation. Nevertheless, this bi-directional integration of the IIoT devices with information systems shows a lot of potential and benefits for both areas. On the one hand, live status data about production machines and processes can be fed directly into the ERP systems, e.g., to optimize the production plans or adapt the production plans in case of machine failures or downtimes. On the other hand, the BPMS can monitor, analyze, and control production processes, e.g., to adapt or reconfigure the production processes in case of exceptions on the shop floor. Realizing these flexible and dynamic processes and production lines is among the main goals of Industry 4.0 developments.
In this blog post, we present a novel software stack to reduce the gap between the production shop floor and enterprise-level management systems. First, we discuss how to abstract and integrate production machines via web services that can be called from BPMS. Then, we showcase this software stack by using the Camunda Modeler and Camunda Platform to automate and execute exemplary production processes in our own smart factory.