It is already the second digital drumbeat within a few months: After cooperating with Microsoft on the Automotive Cloud, the Volkswagen Group has now announced a collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to jointly build the Volkswagen Industrial Cloud. The Volkswagen Group is thus bringing its two major domains into the cloud – first the networked vehicle and digital services and now its production and logistics. The new Volkswagen Industrial Cloud is intended to raise the global production network of the Volkswagen Group with its 122 production plants to a new level of productivity. But what exactly is behind it? And what concrete advantages will the new cloud bring? We ask Martin Hofmann, CIO of the Volkswagen Group, and Gerd Walker, Head of Volkswagen Group Production.
Interview with Martin Hofmann, CIO of the Volkswagen Group, and Gerd Walker, Head of Volkswagen Group Production
Together with Amazon Web Services, the Volkswagen Group is developing the Volkswagen Industrial Cloud – thus launching a new era for digitally networked production worldwide. IT manager Martin Hofmann and Gerd Walker, Head of Volkswagen Group Production, answer key questions.
Simply explained: What is the Volkswagen Industrial Cloud?
Walker: The Volkswagen Industrial Cloud brings together data from all machines, plants and systems in all factories. This enables us to analyze our processes even better - and thus become more productive. Our long-term goal is to integrate the global supply chain for more than 30,000 locations and 1,500 partner companies into the Volkswagen Industrial Cloud.
So the decisive progress lies in the worldwide exchange of data across all plants?
Hofmann: Yes. Today we still have the situation that the IT at the production level in the plants differs in parts – because most locations are also very different. That doesn't make it easy to standardize data and summarize it across the board. With the Volkswagen Industrial Cloud, we are able to do this: we consolidate the data from all locations. In the future, we will be able to evaluate and control all key figures from production and logistics, regardless of their type, globally. We will go live with Industry 4.0.
“The Volkswagen Industrial Cloud enables smart real-time control.”
A concrete example?
Walker: If a truck is about to get stuck in a traffic jam, a component is faulty or a machine breaks down, everyone involved knows immediately. Because the information is immediately available via the cloud. For example, material flows, and possible delivery bottlenecks can be managed even better. The Volkswagen Industrial Cloud enables smart real-time control – simultaneously in Wolfsburg and Shanghai, Chattanooga and Uitenhage.
In other words, the Volkswagen Group saves a lot of money by investing it in innovations?
Walker: Cost saving is one effect. Our main goal, however, is to become faster, more transparent and safer.
Does the new cloud also make your production less vulnerable to digital attacks?
Hofmann: Our IT security has everything on the radar everywhere, every day, every hour. With the additional networking provided by the Industrial Cloud, we will know immediately if an unknown software is installed in a supplier's IT system. And then we can quickly assess whether we need to sound the alarm. At the same time, all the data and information we store in the Volkswagen Industrial Cloud is backed up by ourselves. It's like a safe deposit box: we distribute the keys ourselves. We decide who gets an insight into our data and information. For the architecture of corresponding cybersecurity solutions, we have agreed with AWS to use our associated company Deutsche Cybersecurity Organization (DCSO) in Berlin as the lead company.
“Both partners contribute their strengths.”
After Microsoft, Amazon Web Services is your second cooperation with a US digital giant within a short period of time. How exactly does the Industrial Cloud differ from the Automotive Cloud?
Hofmann: With the Volkswagen Automotive Cloud, Volkswagen is concentrating on creating an automotive ecosystem that provides digital value-added services via a cloud connection in the cars of our customers. The Volkswagen Industrial Cloud is about production processes, connecting machines and systems in the factory and, in the long term, integrating the entire supply chain with our suppliers.
Why don't you also develop the Industrial Cloud with Microsoft?
Walker: As a company, we use the individual strengths of both cloud providers. With Amazon Web Services, we are gaining a strong partner for the industrial cloud who has great technological capabilities and innovative cloud technologies in the production environment. Especially in the areas of logistics and the supply chain, they are among the leaders.
What will Volkswagen and AWS each contribute?
Hofmann: We develop everything together – the cloud-based carrier architecture DPP as well as the services based on it. Both partners contribute their strengths: AWS, which has just been described, and Volkswagen, its great expertise in the development of IT solutions in the production environment. But we determine the structure and strategic orientation.
What's your schedule?
Walker: The collaboration is initially planned for five years. We will start with Europe and gradually integrate other regions. We want to put the supporting architecture into operation by the end of the year, then we'll see. The goal is to integrate companies from the entire value chain. It is about creating a steadily growing global ecosystem in the production and logistics environment of the Volkswagen Group.
“It is about creating a steadily growing global ecosystem.”
How will the Industrial Cloud be developed in the future? And where?
Walker: We have decades of expertise throughout the Group in the construction and operation of highly complex production facilities. We have experienced teams from production, logistics and IT with a broad cross-sectional understanding of IT solutions in manufacturing. And we will continue to sharpen this expertise in the production-related environment.
Hofmann: We will focus some IT locations much more strongly on platform development and the Internet of Things. In Berlin, together with Amazon Web Services, we will set up a center that will consistently and exclusively focus on the Industrial Cloud. In Dresden, specialists will concentrate on platform and software development, with a special focus on the Internet of Things. The Wolfsburg Smart Production Lab deals with robotics or control systems. And at the Data:Lab in Munich, our AI experts develop novel self-learning systems and algorithms for data analysis. In the medium term, around 220 specialists will focus on the Volkswagen Industrial Cloud.
You are talking about creating the Volkswagen Industrial Cloud as an industrial partner network. Who should participate?
Walker: We are creating our Industrial Cloud as an open industry platform in which other partners from industry, logistics and trade can participate. These can be large suppliers, plant and machine builders. It is also conceivable that the cloud platform will in principle be accessible to other automobile manufacturers. They will all benefit from networking and an open exchange of information.