The keyword Cloud is not new, and neither are apps. They are, however, in the context of real engineering. In the manner in which AUCOTEC now offers them in any case. This concept not only enables the designing of machines, plants and mobile systems without dedicated server hardware and with the required scalability in the Cloud. AUCOTEC’s cooperative platform Engineering Base (EB) can also be used on any device, regardless of hardware and client installations. Thus it is possible to offer EB in-house as “Software as a Service” (SaaS).
Who actually benefits from engineering in the Cloud and why? What about security? These questions are being asked by everyone who attaches the major importance to their data, which it has now had for some time.
“Whoever operates globally and has to master complex engineering challenges has the most
added value,” said Reinhard Knapp, Head of Global Strategies at AUCOTEC. According to him, “The more differentiated the processes and the more sophisticated or complex the division of labour, the more interesting Cloud and app uses are becoming.” For example, to flexibly provide EB via Cloud worldwide: virtual teams with experts from different locations can be assembled at any time, depending on the resources and expertise required. The engineers responsible are able to access and actually edit all aspects of the plant design. This is exactly as it has always been with EB’s extensive front-end interface, only now it is even more flexible.
In addition, apps allow customized applications tailored to individual roles in the process, for example, for project managers who need an overview of the engineering progress. They can call their app at any time with their device, with a personal dashboard that displays the specific information required, regardless of
whether it is material data or detailed documents, the engineering status or a consumer analysis. There are many options; with EB, they do not remain as some unattainable “Cloud Cuckoo Land”, but can be implemented in practice.
The fact that mobile access to engineering data is possible in such an uncomplicated manner is thanks to EB’s three-layer architecture. The application server between the database and client also allows the client-independent provision of information via Web services. “Such Web access would have to be completely
redeveloped and would also have to be maintained separately for a file-based system. EB, however, possesses the necessary flexibility ‘inherently’,” explained head strategist Knapp.
The Web Communication Server (WCS), which was designed to fit the concept, completes EB’s openness with the access option via Web technology. It is based on globally valid standards such as WSDL, SOAP, RESTful API, JSON and WCF, thus there is no extra work involved for the IT Department. EB’s business logic can be accessed directly via the WCS.
The multi-layer basic principle first opened EB for communication with other servers, e.g. of ERP or EDM/PDM systems. Thus EB was also open to other front-end applications like mobile apps – and this was already long before the idea of Industry 4.0! Today, the Internet of Things (IoT) is inconceivable without M2M communication, as offered by EB and WCS, because the essential networking needs Web technology.
Specific, focused, mobile, flexible
The use of apps is an integral part of the Cloud concept for AUCOTEC. They facilitate access to engineering and allow mobile data usage and data creation, which can be tailored to very different tasks. Since such tasks differ in every company, AUCOTEC offers to develop apps tailored to the needs of customers. If an
idea for an app is of interest to many customers, everyone can benefit from it of course. This is how initial apps have already been developed. They are based on HTML 5, adapt responsively to each display, and can be used with Android, Windows, iOS or in browsers. One app, for example, is tailored specifically to the information requirements for main
tenance tasks in plants (see below). Another app is used for the mobile recording of the actual status of a plant and the transfer of this data to EB via a smartphone. The system enables you to derive where optimizations through services or plant extensions would be possible. The Sales team then makes the plant operator a ready-made offer calculated
on the basis of real engineering data. This app was developed for an EB user who not only sells plants to his customers but, with his maintenance concept, also offers secure functionality throughout the lifecycle of the plant. With the EB app, the user was able to extend his offer – very efficiently and in very real terms.