By Holger Paul
Why does the manufacturing industry need OPC UA and companion specifications?
Industrie 4.0 in the factory will only work if machines and plants can communicate with one another - regardless of which manufacturer they come from! Otherwise, processing data properly or integrating a new machine into an existing machine park quickly will be impossible. OPC UA and the companion specifications ensure that, for instance, a company can monitor its machine park all over the world, irrespective of who the manufacturer of the machinery is. This becomes possible when all machines deliver the same information to the control center in the same language and structure.
Surely this opens the door to data theft?
No, because the core information, for example the respective machine control system, is not communicated in the open architecture. This knowledge remains with the developer and the people who are granted access. In addition, OPC UA was developed in accordance with the "security by design" approach and the companion specifications are based on this. OPC UA is not a gateway for hackers.
What is VDMA's specific role in this process?
We coordinate the development of the OPC UA companion specifications in our working groups. It is a three-phase process. In the startup phase, the objective is formulated and the new system is harmonized with existing communication standards. This is then followed by the standardization phase, in which the communication elements needed for the respective machine types are identified and standardized. Finally, all of this is transferred into an OPC UA information model and the final details are clarified. Here it is important that the comparison specifications are devised in the VDMA trade associations so that they incorporate the expertise of a whole industry. In addition, it is crucial that industries exchange information and experiences with one another. The entire process is also carried out in a standardized manner, which is laid down in VDMA Specification 40 000.