AWS And VW Open Industrial Cloud Project To Partners

‘Having the chance to open this up to the entire value chain, that‘s truly a transformative process,’ said Dirk Didascalou, vice president of IoT at AWS. ‘If you really want the overall industrial industry to benefit from the cloud, from new technologies and digitalization, the only way to do this is open, because…the biggest impediment to industry transformation was the siloing.’


Automaker Volkswagen Group and cloud computing partner Amazon Web Services are opening up their industrial cloud project to other manufacturing and technology companies, with AWS Partner Network members ABB, ASCon, BearingPoint, Celonis, Dürr, GROB-WERKE, MHP, NavVis, SYNAOS, Teradata and WAGO joining in the first cohort contributing software applications.

The Seattle-based AWS and Germany’s VW announced a multi-year agreement in March 2019 to build the industrial cloud, a cloud-based digital production platform to help transform the automotive company’s manufacturing and logistics processes using AWS’ cloud infrastructure and compute services and technologies including internet of things (IoT), machine learning and analytics. The goal is to digitize and connect production and logistics data at VW’s 124 manufacturing plants to improve efficiencies and increase the quality of VW vehicles.

The opportunity for AWS to tackle industrial transformation or “Industry 4.0” at a mega-scale with the leading automotive manufacturer is a formidable challenge, according to Dirk Didascalou, vice president of IoT at AWS (pictured above).

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“But then having the chance to open this up to the entire value chain, that‘s truly a transformative process,” said Didascalou, who noted VW itself has 1,500 suppliers with 30,000 of their own factories. “If you really want the overall industrial industry to benefit from the cloud, from new technologies and digitalization, the only way to do this is open, because…the biggest impediment to industry transformation was the siloing. Making this an open architecture, inviting everybody to participate and benefit, will truly have…the macro-optimization that digitalization can bring to this industry.”

Participating partners will contribute industrial software applications that will be available to individual VW plants via an app store-like approach to help optimize their operations.

In addition to AWS’ hyperscale and cloud capabilities, VW knew it needed other partners already in the automotive business in terms of manufacturing, level of use case capabilities and supply chain logistics, according to Nihar Patel, who works on strategy with VW’s chief information officer as executive vice president of new business development for the Americas and Germany.

“Our starting point has been our production systems, our manufacturing systems, so those partners who help us put the things together -- from stamping to robotics, to paint shops, paint booths,” he said. “Then as we broaden that…there‘s the whole value chain of incoming parts all the way until the vehicle departs.”

Siemens, an AWS Advanced Technology Partner, has been an integration partner for the project since March 2019.

“They are really great on the shop floor, they really understand how that works,” Didascalou said, noting Siemens’ MindSphere product -- a cloud-based, open IoT operating system that connects customers’ products, plants, systems and machines – and its factory automation capabilities.

Some of the new partners announced today already have been working with VW.

“Now, to put them on to an AWS level of technology, activate that into our plants…and then scale it across the plants -- that‘s something we would always need,” Patel said. “This is the right time now to open it up, because we’ve done enough testing, we’ve done enough PDCA -- plan, do, check, adjustments. It was now time to start scaling with a few people and learn a little bit more before we take bigger steps later on.”

Teradata, a San Diego cloud data and analytics company with industrial IoT experience, will be providing cloud-based data analytics to optimize VW’s production processes and improve plant productivity.

“Our cloud-based data and analytics solution provides comprehensive data intelligence and supports Volkswagen in fully leveraging the value of data in production to increase efficiency and quality,” Sascha Puljic, vice president of Central Europe at Teradata, an AWS Advanced Technology and Consulting Partner, said in a statement.

One initial use case is leveraging the company’s Teradata Vantage analytics platform to analyze data from VW’s welding procedures in manufacturing to improve the production and quality of manufactured parts.

Zurich-based ABB, a provider of industrial robots and robot software, equipment and application solutions, said the VW partnership is vital to ensuring its industrial cloud solutions fulfill and exceed customer expectations.

“We will combine our domain expertise and advanced analytics with the industrial cloud to enhance system overall equipment effectiveness,” said Michael Larsson, managing director of automotive original equipment manufacturing for ABB Robotics. “By predicting micro-stops, for example, we can help VW improve their productivity, quality and flexibility.”

Miguel Milano, co-owner and chief revenue officer at Celonis, called his company’s AI-enhanced process mining and process excellence software a “game-changer” that drives significant bottom-line value for the automotive industry across key processes in production, sales and marketing, finance, and supply chain and logistics.

“We can‘t wait to deliver this value to all of Volkswagen’s lines of business,” Milano said. Celonis is based in Munich and has U.S. headquarters in New York.

Since unveiling the industrial cloud project in March 2019, VW and AWS have put together use cases to find solutions to problems or challenges affecting VW’s production system.

“We were able to take AWS tools sets, configure them towards our VW requirements and then launch them into about three to four plants at the end of last year,” Patel said. “This year, we have a goal of going all the way across almost five times those numbers of use cases across five times the number of plants.”

One use case was a digital shop floor management application, deployed in multiple VW plants, that helps plant operators and managers measure their equipment’s effectiveness.

“That‘s one of the key KPIs (key performance indicators) that you really want to understand in your manufacturing lines,” Didascalou said.

AWS also developed an application for VW press shops, where steel is processed for vehicle body components, aimed at improving quality and throughput.

“That was one of the most important agreements that we made -- that we don‘t first have a few years of platform development, that immediately we needed to create these use cases that deliver value for VW,” Didascalou said. ‘That’s the only way that you can prove what we build together delivers the actual business results, both for the factories themselves, but VW overall.”

Other partners who join the industrial cloud effort – whether it’s independent software vendors, hardware vendors or system integrators – also can benefit from the applications created for the industrial cloud project. Development is under way for a marketplace for their industrial applications for use outside of Volkswagen.

“They can make their capabilities available first for VW to get their digital production running, but then they could use the very same applications and use cases (so) their own manufacturing and their own supply chain is also getting the same benefits and improvements,” Didascalou said.