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Digitalization

What the New “Data Cloud” Holds

Partnership with Amazon Web Services: Gerd Walker, Head of Group Production, and Head of IT Martin Hofmann discuss the benefits of fully networked factories.

Volkswagen is working with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to develop the Volkswagen Industrial Cloud, launching a new era of digitally networked worldwide production. The partnership will be in place for an initial five years. Head of IT Martin Hofmann and Gerd Walker, Head of Group Production, answer key questions about the new cloud.

Put simply, what is the Volkswagen Industrial Cloud?
Walker: The Industrial Cloud will consolidate data for all the machines, plants and systems from all of our factories. This will allow us to better analyze – and streamline – our processes. We are potentially also hoping to integrate our global supply chain, made up of more than 30,000 locations and 1,500 partner companies, into the cloud.

 

So crucial progress lies in exchanging data between all our plants worldwide?
Hofmann: Yes. Today we’re still facing a situation in which IT systems on the production level sometimes differ from plant to plant – because most of these locations are so different themselves. That doesn’t exactly make it easy to standardize data and consolidate it on such a wide scale. But the Volkswagen Industrial Cloud will allow us to consolidate the data from every location. In the future we’ll be able to globally analyze and manage all kinds of key figures from Production and Logistics. We’ll be running Industry 4.0 live.

Can you give a specific example?
Walker: Soon everyone involved will know immediately if a truck is stuck in traffic, a component is faulty or a machine suffers an outage. This is because information will be directly available via the cloud. For example, this will enable us to better manage the flow of materials and possible supply bottlenecks. The Volkswagen Industrial Cloud facilitates smart management in real time, whether you’re in Wolfsburg, Chattanooga or Shanghai.
 

So Volkswagen will be saving a great deal of money to invest in new projects?
Walker: Absolutely. Saving money is a welcome bonus. But our primary goal is to become faster, more transparent and safer.

Will the new cloud make your production less susceptible to digital attacks as well?
Hofmann: Our IT security team has everything, everywhere on its radar – every hour of every day. The additional networking the Industrial Cloud will provide means we will know immediately if a subcontractor’s IT system is running any unknown software. This will allow us to 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 will go through additional verification by our team. It’s like a safe deposit box: we are the only ones who can hand out the key. We are the ones to decide who can view our data and information. We came to an agreement with AWS to use our associate company DCSO (Deutsche Cybersecurity Organisation) in Berlin to take charge of creating the architecture for these kinds of cybersecurity solutions.

After working with Microsoft, you’ll soon be starting a second collaboration with a US-based digital giant by working with Amazon Web Services. What distinguishes the Industrial Cloud from the Automotive Cloud?
Hofmann: Volkswagen uses the Automotive Cloud to focus on creating an automotive ecosystem. This will enable us to offer our customers digital value-added services in their vehicles. The Industrial Cloud is used for production processes, networking machinery, plants and systems in our factories, and potentially for integrating the full supply chain with our subcontractors.
 

Why aren’t you working with Microsoft to develop the Industrial Cloud as well?
Walker: We are taking advantage of the individual strengths of both cloud providers. We have a strong partner at our side with Amazon Web Services. It has exceptional technological skills and innovative cloud technologies for production environments. They are among the top for logistics and supply chain solutions in particular.
 

What will Volkswagen and Amazon Web Services each contribute?
Hofmann: We are developing everything together – both the DPP cloud-based support architecture as well as the services to be built on top of that architecture. Both partners bring their own strengths to the table: Amazon Web Services comes with the skills described above and Volkswagen has expertise in developing production-related IT solutions. But we are coordinating on structure and strategic orientation.

What’s the timetable?
Walker: We’ve initially set up our partnership for a five-year period. We’ll be starting with Europe and gradually expanding to other regions. We want the supporting architecture to be up and running by the end of the year. The aim is to integrate companies from the entire value creation chain. We want to create a constantly growing worldwide ecosystem for the Production and Logistics environments at the Volkswagen Group.
 

How will this second cloud be developed?
And where?

Walker: We have amassed decades of expertise throughout the Group in setting up and running highly complex production processes. This means we have experienced teams from Production, Logistics and IT with an in-depth interdisciplinary understanding of IT solutions in production. Basically, we are bolstering our expertise in the digitalization of production in the Group and in our brands. To do so, we have set up our own Production IT department, run by Porsche.
Hofmann: We will be reorganizing some of our IT locations to focus more on platform development and the Internet of Things. In Berlin, we’re working with Amazon Web Services to set up a center to consistently and exclusively work on the Industrial Cloud. Our specialists in Dresden are concentrating on platform and software development, with a specific focus on the Internet of Things. At the Smart Production Lab in Wolfsburg, we’re working on robotics and control system solutions. And at the Data:Lab in Munich, our AI experts are working to develop innovative self-learning systems and algorithms for data analytics. In the medium term, we’ll have some 220 specialists working on this project with an emphasis on the Industrial Cloud.

You mentioned creating the cloud as an industrial partner network. Who would be involved in this?
Walker: We are creating our Industrial Cloud as an open industry platform that other partners from the industrial, logistics and retail sectors could potentially join. This may include major subcontractors and equipment and machinery manufacturers. It is also conceivable that the cloud platform could be made accessible to other automotive manufacturers as well. They would all benefit from networking and an open exchange of information.

"In the future we’ll be able to globally analyze and manage all kinds of key figures from Production and Logistics. We’ll be running Industry 4.0 live."

Martin Hofmann, Head of IT

How Data from Every Plant Will Be Consolidated

Networking will bring opportunities for greater efficiency and flexibility in production.

The Volkswagen Industrial Cloud is planned to be up and running by the end of the year, with the first concrete services and features available at the same time. The aim is for the Volkswagen Industrial Cloud to form the basis for digitalizing Production and Logistics.

“The Volkswagen Group, with its global expertise in automotive production, and Amazon Web Services, with its technological skills, are the perfect pair. We want to use our global industry platform to create a growing industrial ecosystem whose transparency and efficiency
will benefit everyone involved,” says Oliver Blume, CEO of Porsche and Head of Production at Volkswagen AG. “Volkswagen’s Industrial Cloud will transform Production and Logistics at the company. It is further proof of Volkswagen’s innovative strength and technological supremacy,” says Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services.

The goal is to uniformly design and network the IT systems used at the production stage of machinery, plants and systems – such as for production planning and warehousing – across all of the Volkswagen Group’s 122 production facilities. In their collaboration, both companies are relying on Amazon’s technology in the fields of the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning and computing services, which is specially designed for the production environment and expanded to meet the requirements of the automotive industry.

 Volkswagen’s new Digital Production Platform (DPP) will serve as the architecture. In future, DPP will be connected to all locations within the Group as well as to other companies. The platform standardizes and simplifies the exchange of data across systems and plants.

Volkswagen aims to use its cloud to create new opportunities to further increase efficiency and flexibility in production. Consolidating data from all of its factories creates new opportunities to optimize workflows and processes. This includes making controlling the flow of materials even more efficient, facilitating early identification and correction of supply bottlenecks and process disruptions and optimizing the operation of machinery and systems in every factory.
In addition, the platform serves as a precondition for quickly supplying new technologies and innovations across locations.

How data makes its way into the cloud: Volkswagen is networking Production and Logistics.