BMW Group and Microsoft launch Open Manufacturing Platform

by Autocar Pro News Desk , 02 Apr 2019


At Hannover Messe, German carmaker BMW Group and Microsoft have announced a new community initiative to enable faster, more cost-effective innovation in the manufacturing sector. At present the partners say that in manufacturing, production and profitability can be hindered by complex, proprietary systems that create data silos and slow productivity. The Open Manufacturing Platform (OMP) is designed to break down these barriers through the creation of an open technology framework and cross-industry community.

The partners says that it (OMP) is expected to support the development of smart factory solutions that will be shared by participants across the automotive and broader manufacturing sectors. The goal is to significantly accelerate future Industrial IoT (Internet of Things) developments, shorten time to value and drive production efficiencies while addressing common industrial challenges.

The OMP is built on the Microsoft Azure Industrial IoT cloud platform, which is intended to provide community members with a reference architecture with open-sourced components based on open industrial standards as well as an open data model.

In addition to facilitating collaboration, this platform approach unlocks and standardises data models that enable analytics and machine learning scenarios – data that has traditionally been managed in proprietary systems. Utilising industrial use cases and sample code, community members and other partners will be able to develop their own services and solutions while maintaining control over their data.

Commenting on the announcement, Scott Guthrie, executive vice-president, Microsoft Cloud and AI Group, said: “Microsoft is joining forces with the BMW Group to transform digital production efficiency across the industry. Our commitment to building an open community will create new opportunities for collaboration across the entire manufacturing value chain.”

With currently over 3,000 machines, robots and autonomous transport systems connected with the BMW Group IoT Platform, which is built on Microsoft Azure’s cloud, IoT and AI capabilities, the BMW Group plans to contribute relevant initial use cases to the OMP community.

One example is the company’s use of their IoT platform for the second generation of its autonomous transport systems at the BMW Group plant in Regensburg, one of 30 production and assembly sites worldwide. This has enabled the OEM to greatly simplify its logistics processes using a central coordination of the transport system, creating greater logistics efficiency. In the future, this and other use cases, such as digital feedback loops, digital supply chain management and predictive maintenance, will be made available, and in fact, developed further within the OMP community, with the BMW Group retaining ownership of its pre-existing business Intellectual Property (IP) and data.

“Mastering the complex task of producing individualized premium products requires innovative IT and software solutions,” said Oliver Zipse, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for production. “The interconnection of production sites and systems as well as the secure integration of partners and suppliers are particularly important. We have been relying on cloud services since 2016 and are consistently developing new approaches. 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.”

The OMP is said to be the next evolution in the BMW Group and Microsoft’s long-standing technology partnership and mutual commitment to innovation and creating industry-wide opportunities for collective success.

The OMP will be designed to address common industrial challenges such as machine connectivity and on-premises systems integration. This will facilitate the reuse of software solutions among OEMs, suppliers and other partners, significantly reducing implementation costs.

Stefan Hoppe, president and CEO, OPC Foundation, said: "This is very good news for the manufacturing industry. The use of open international industry standards such as OPC UA in the OMP community enables manufacturers, machine builders and suppliers to integrate their existing equipment and systems efficiently and securely. For a long time, companies have promoted proprietary, closed ecosystems - the OMP commitment to open development will shape tomorrow's manufacturing".

The underlying platform will continue to evolve over time, along with manufacturing requirements, to incorporate new innovations including areas of analytics, artificial intelligence and digital feedback loops. 

The broader OMP community is being formed now, with recruitment of additional partners underway. The OMP Advisory Board is expected to be in operation with an initial set of 4-6 partners in place and a minimum of 15 use cases rolled out into select production environments by the end of 2019.