Transparent data exchange between manufacturers and users is an almost limitless topic, also in the process industry. To make progress in this area, many individual solutions, including some proprietary ones, have to be brought together under one roof. The Digital Data Chain Consortium, with VEGA as a founding member, wants to make documents and data accessible to all by means of a digital type label.

What looks like a complete system out on the factory floor rarely turns out to be a unified whole when viewed up close: In every production system there are mechanical, electrical, electronic and software components from many different manufacturers. A complex multiplicity that makes itself felt particularly when things are not running smoothly. For example when a sensor needs to be re-parameterised, a valve sealed or a fuse replaced.  How efficiently a machine or even an entire system can be repaired or serviced depends largely on how quickly the necessary data is available. Do the relevant documents first have to be laboriously searched for in a folder buried under stacks of papers, is the manual locked away in a dusty cabinet somewhere, or is there a PC database where information on the component in question is stored – hopefully up-to-date – and readily retrievable? 

Unambiguous and immediate

According to the Digital Data Chain Consortium, a data solution that promises greater productivity looks quite different.  The consortium’s goal is to make all system components clearly identifiable. “It's all about having secure and accessible data in the cloud instead of in individual databases", says Florian Burgert, product manager at VEGA, summing up the urgent task. In his opinion, significant savings are possible if this is realised. “The situation today," explains Burgert, “is that companies often have to integrate legacy data into existing applications. Searching for and collecting data can be time-consuming, as it may be scattered around the country or even around the world, or stored on the computers of different manufacturers.”

One goal, all companies°

As a manufacturer of level and pressure instrumentation and founding member of the consortium (or DDCC for short), VEGA developed the new “DIN SPEC 91406” standard together with well-known process automation companies. The aim of the proposed standards is to make equipment management easier by using distinct and unambiguous digital type labels. Users should benefit just as much as manufacturers, who can thus perform faster updates with far less printed material.  The new labelling, which is only recognisable as a QR code on the housing of the device, has everything needed: namely all manufacturer information relating to the product. When required, the data can be called up with any mobile device at any time. In practical terms, traceability thus extends from production to ordering and delivery, and from installation to the end of the service life of the device. The traditional barriers between manufacturers, i.e. time, place, format and the type of device used to retrieve the data, are thus overcome. All data can flow freely between the partners involved in the supply chain. 

If the consortium has its way, the traditional nameplate will soon be done away with. After the changeover, every employee in a company will have the same up-to-date information at their disposal at all times and thus be able to make correct, well-founded decisions.  This method of data access includes other options: for example, order management can be optimised, and the stocking of spare parts better planned. And last but not least, the required compliance documents would always be available in good time.°