IBM is involved in constructing the new demonstrator at SmartFactoryKL. Ralf Bucksch, Technical Executive Watson IoT Europe / IBM Software Sales & Distribution, explains in this interview his reasons for advocating on behalf of a long term collaboration with SmartFactoryKL, why he believes Production Level 4 is the right way to go, and how IBM specifically benefits from working with SmartFactoryKL.

Why did IBM become a Platinum partner in the development of the new demonstrator for HM 2020?

Since 2014/2015, we have been active participants at SmartFactoryKL and have contributed along with other partners to its further design and development; it is only natural that we continue to fully support the new SmartFactoryKL orientation to Production Level 4 under the direction of Prof. Ruskowski. It is fully compatible with IBM’s AI strategy in the sense of augmented as opposed to artificial intelligence. Augmented intelligence follows the example of using AI-based systems to support people. The orientation of SmartFactoryKL 2025 provides an ideal environment for our active involvement. The modular concept of the 2020 demonstrator is a lesson in flexibility, while at the same time cost-effectively implementing new technologies.

How is the Technology Initiative important to IBM as a (strategic) partner?

The framework of the Smart Factory Technology Initiative allows us to jointly discuss today’s digital manufacturing concepts in a protected room and put them into practice for the future. We develop future solutions on neutral ground, jointly with all members of the association – without the sales targets and the usual competitive thinking so necessary in the market. These solutions are then made available via SmartFactoryKL to other members (not the public), which would otherwise require them to expend considerable additional effort.

Why is IBM active in certain working groups?

IBM is involved in three working groups: AG1 (Cyber-Physical Production Stations), AG2 (Connect&Control), and AG3 (Cognitive Factory). This is not a question of “why” for us, since a significant contribution is possible in all three working groups with our technology: to the development and expansion of the SmartFactoryKL, to the construction of the demonstrator, and to the goal of achieving Production Level 4.

What (economic) benefits does IBM gain from its membership in SmartFactoryKL?

Our membership over the years has resulted in strategic new partnerships as well as new customer relationships. The question of direct economic benefit has never been a priority for us and, in fact, would be self-defeating in our joint efforts with the partners of SmartFactoryKL. Our engagement is guided by the “IBM Academic Initiative” in the context of promoting university and research institutions. Our participation in SmartFactoryKL is of considerable benefit to IBM’s public image in an Industrie 4.0 context and for the digital transformation of business and industry. In many situations we have received referrals/inquiries from SmartFactoryKL, situations where we would otherwise have had little or no contact. In addition, through our involvement in the SmartFactoryKL, we have established deep relationships with users and competitors alike. The latter are particularly important, since the complexity of the requirements of digitalization and the use of AI makes a close and trusting cooperation essential in the interests of developing the best solutions for the needs of the market. The SmartFactoryKL platform is ideal for our purposes.

About IBM

IBM helps organizations transforming towards Industry 4.0, starting with the idea all the way to building a sustainable value chain. Vertical and horizontal integration, data-driven optimization of production, maintenance and products, plus more efficient process across all business units are the foundation for our clients’ success. IBM offers consulting, design and implementation, along with the components of the solution. Industry analysts see IBM leading in delivering complete IoT software platforms with integrated functions such as cognitive capabilities, augmented reality, Blockchain, natural language processing or edge computing. Scalability and open interfaces of the IBM solutions are making Industry 4.0 a realistic option for every organization.

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