The buzzwords “agility” and “flexibility” are often justifiably uttered in the context of software engineering and, on a higher level, Industry 4.0. I also see the approach and attitude towards day-to-day challenges – as well as strategic ones – that define these terms as an aspiration and activity of our community.
The first obvious challenge in this regard was a successful transition to virtual meetings. For an organization like PROFIBUS & PROFINET International (PI), whose primary function is cross-company coordination, this provides a decisive advantage, so almost all meetings of the technical and marketing working groups now take place online. Output has remained unchanged, specifications are available on schedule, and work in the successive subject areas proceeds according to previously coordinated plans.
In particular, we had very positive experiences in transitioning workshops. Compared to in-person events, a much larger number of participants can gain competent information from the experts. The openness and level of detail of inquiries from participants show the high level of interest of customers in integrating PI technologies. We’re not stopping any development of formats and content, though. Basic information like frame structure and state machines can be explained more conveniently by video anytime, which allows us to focus on the specific tasks of implementation and realization. Naturally, it also enables us to concern ourselves more and more with new topics like TSN, OPC UA, and security.
We’ve been using agile processes in the PROFINET Tester development project for years, such as monthly/quarterly sprints with continuous evaluation leading to an official annual version. It goes without saying that this will also be the development method for the new PROFINET Community Stack project. The core concept here is a common PROFINET stack for standardized PROFINET services. Adjustments to and support for the Ethernet hardware, the OS, and application APIs, are then handled individually by the corresponding technology suppliers.
Constructive cooperation with other organizations – the OPC Foundation in particular – has also since borne fruit and will be enhanced with new functions like energy management in line with our customers’ requirements.
It’s not only subjects like TSN and OPC UA, which have already been introduced which need to be pursued (in an agile way) in line with customer requirements, though – we’ll also be adding newer technologies like omlox, SPE, and 5G to the overall portfolio as needed. The path to standardization leads to the coordination of specific use cases.
After all, agility and flexibility only make sense if they continually optimize our customers’ application or allow it to be reinvented. Clearly, customers are demanding this adaptability – primarily through digitization – now more than ever. The fact that we’ve managed it so far demonstrates our success, and the great willingness and readiness of the community to continue to do so reinforces our future viability.
P.S. I myself have been active in the PI community since the first version of PROFIBUS (and am no longer the youngest, obviously) but this continuous expansion of the technology in line with customer requirements, the integration of new technologies, and, most importantly of all, the constructive cooperation in the community with lots of different partners also demands and fosters personal agility and flexibility (and keeps you young, too 😉).
–– Xaver Schmidt
–– Industrie 4.0 Working Group