Microsoft and BMW: We can help you build a smart factory with the cloud, robots, and IoT

The Open Manufacturing Platform will offer use cases and an 'open technology framework' built on Azure.

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Microsoft and BMW want to make it easier for manufacturers to build smart factories that harness the Industrial Internet of Things and cloud computing.

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BMW's own IoT platform currently connects over 3,000 machines, robots and autonomous transport systems and is built on Microsoft's Azure cloud computing service. The two companies are working on what they are calling the Open Manufacturing Platform (OMP), which they said will create an open technology framework that will support the development of smart factory offerings, and want automotive companies and other manufacturers to sign up.

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The companies said that manufacturers can be hindered by proprietary systems that create data silos. Microsoft said the idea of OMP is to offer a reference architecture with open-source components based on open industrial standards and an open data model, although it will all be built on Microsoft's Azure industrial IoT cloud platform. The companies aim to have a set of four to six partners and a minimum of 15 use cases rolled out in production environments by the end of 2019.

"Utilizing industrial use cases and sample code, community members and other partners will have the capability to develop their own services and solutions while maintaining control over their data," the company said.

BMW will provide examples such as its use of IoT in its autonomous transport systems at its plant in Regensburg, Germany, which has allowed the company to simplify logistics through central coordination of the transport system.

Microsoft said this and other use cases — such as digital feedback loops, digital supply-chain management and predictive maintenance — will be made available within the OMP community.

The OMP will be designed to address common industrial challenges, such as machine connectivity and on-premises systems integration. This could make it easier to reuse software solutions among OEMs, suppliers and other partners, reducing implementation costs. Microsoft said a robotics standard for autonomous transport systems for production and logistics will be contributed to the OMP for everyone to use. 

Last week the world's biggest carmaker Volkswagen said it will use cloud computing and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies from Amazon Web Services (AWS) to connect and manage its manufacturing plants and supply chain

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