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Volkswagen AG Forges Ahead With Transparent Prototype

In accordance with German automotive Industry 4.0 initiatives, the company currently receives RFID-tagged prototype parts from more than 150 suppliers for its Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi brands.
By Malte Schmidt
Oct 11, 2015

The aim of Industry 4.0 is to create an intelligent factory characterized by flexibility, resource efficiency, high ergonomics and electronic networking of all value-adding process partners. One key technological basis for this is the Internet of Things (IoT), which involves the idea that, in the future, objects will communicate independently with each other and with their environment.

The automotive industry has long been striving to optimize production and logistics processes. At the same time, the industry is also known for the high level of electronic networking between suppliers and vehicle manufacturers in the production process. However, it does not automatically follow that the automotive industry is in a position to handle all new requirements in relation to Industry 4.0—for example, cross-company communication.

The background to this is simple. The current communication structures and standards have grown throughout the years and become firmly established, giving rise to complex relationships between networked companies. It takes a commensurate amount of time and effort to ensure that these structures can handle future trends. In practice, the requirements for the implementation of the Internet of Things are often lacking at cross-company level, which means that there is no solid basis for turning potential innovations into reality.

The Internet of Things implies that "things" can also communicate between companies. In the case of the automotive industry, this primarily involves parts and components that are produced by suppliers and assembled by the vehicle manufacturers to create finished vehicles. Parts and components must have a standardized, unique label so that they can be networked and communicate automatically in the future.

There are plenty of comparative examples to illustrate this basic principle. For example, computers are connected to the Internet as a matter of course. To achieve this, computers must have an IP address so that the networked devices can be clearly identified when online. This principle can also be applied to the automotive industry, resulting in the equivalent of an IP address for parts and components. The auto-ID working group of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) has come up with some potential solutions in industry recommendations VDA 5509 (prototype parts) and VDA 5510 (series parts). These are key early steps in an area with enormous potential.

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