Future-proof Industrie 4.0 value networks

01 June 2021

They are expected to implement automation solutions that transform rigid production environments into highly flexible value creation networks, thus ensuring the competitiveness of industrial companies. Prerequisite for the realization of such solutions are platform-independent development environments like the Open Automation Architecture from logi.cals.

Platform-independent environments revolutionize application engineering

They are expected to implement automation solutions that transform rigid production environments into highly flexible value creation networks, thus ensuring the competitiveness of industrial companies. Prerequisite for the realization of such solutions are platform-independent development environments like the Open Automation Architecture from logi.cals.

The digital transformation is making application engineering a key industrial discipline more than ever before. Whereas in the past the development of automation software for plants, machines and machine components was often limited to clearly defined areas such as individual machines or machine groups, the trend towards Industry 4.0 is now forcing application engineers to keep an eye on the big picture, even in the smallest details. Because in the smart factory of the future, there will no longer be any unconnected islands of automation - rather, all devices, machines and systems will be comprehensively networked and will communicate intelligently with each other through a continuous exchange of information.

Machines and systems must be able to be combined as flexibly as possible in order to meet the ever faster changing requirements and the trend toward individualized production. In the end, this also goes beyond the boundaries of individual companies. Value chains are becoming cross-company value networks. Those who are not able to connect here risk their place in the supply chain and thus their competitiveness. Many companies today are not prepared for this task: On the contrary, in many places there is a lack of software experts with the appropriate qualifications to implement the factory of tomorrow.

Application engineering under high pressure of expectations

The development outlined above ultimately makes application engineering a holistic discipline on which the long-term viability of a company depends. This puts application engineers under high pressure of expectations. They must create highly flexible and extremely adaptable industrial ecosystems - sometimes in cross-company collaboration - where today rigid, proprietary and centralized control islands often still dominate. And they must do so while taking into account ever-increasing safety requirements in order to protect people, machines and the environment. Starting points for the development of such ecosystems are on the one hand the control units and safety functions of machines and devices and on the other hand the higher-level automation solutions.

Depending on whether the application engineer - from whatever position - works for a component manufacturer, a machine builder or a plant or factory operator, this constellation naturally results in different tasks with different levels of complexity. In the component sector as well as in equipment and machine manufacturing, interfaces, control elements and complete programmable logic controllers (PLCs) should always be designed in such a way that they support uncomplicated integration of the systems in a wide variety of IIoT environments. Analogously, open automation platforms should then be implemented on the plant or factory side that support the realization of distributed applications in addition to the cross-manufacturer integration of all trades. The keyword here is interoperability: the originally heterogeneous machines and devices, whose control levels are characterized by divergent operating systems and programming languages, should ultimately work together seamlessly and enable a process that is precisely coordinated down to the last detail.

Interoperability as a challenge - innovation as a solution

But the path to interoperability is complex and requires modularization and interface compatibility. To master this complexity, innovative solutions are needed that provide more functionality - and thus flexibility - in application engineering. The ideal prerequisite for application engineering that can meet these requirements is the use of open, platform-independent engineering environments that integrate different operating systems and proprietary control systems in order to rule out vendor lock-in. Through the additional integration of corresponding simple engineering tools, even users without extensive developer know-how can develop high-quality, functionally safe automation solutions.

One example of such an open and platform-independent environment is the Open Automation Architecture solution from engineering specialist logi.cals. With it, the medium-sized company from St. Pölten, the capital of Lower Austria, has presented a cloud-based multi-language development environment that enables future-proof application engineering 4.0 at all levels of a smart factory - from the sensor to the distributed controller. The engineering environment supports all PLC programming languages standardized in IEC-61131-3 as well as high-level languages (C, C++). Due to its open architecture, the engineering environment can be easily integrated into existing client- or cloud-based automation platforms and IOT ecosystems. Both ODMs and OEMs can focus more on their core competencies by integrating logi.cals technologies into their own platforms. A clear competitive advantage in the face of increasingly scarce development resources.

Platforms based on the Open Automation Architecture provide application engineers with a complete engineering ecosystem of infrastructure and interfaces into which different tools can be integrated. The integration of the existing logi.cals solution logi.CAD 3 also provides an efficient, platform-independent software engineering toolkit for the realization of automation applications. The engineering tool runs on all common operating systems (Windows, Linux, Mac OS) and can be flexibly extended due to its modular structure. Features such as the integrated safety toolchain enable the efficient and cost-effective implementation of functional safety solutions. In addition to the client version, it is also available as a cloud version (logi.CLOUD), which enables cross-system collaboration in global development teams. By using the object-oriented, platform-independent programming language Java as well as the open source programming tool Eclipse or Eclipse-enabled components, the open engineering solution is also securely available in the long term. The results or partial results of the programming work can be archived in central libraries and can thus be reused at any time for further programming tasks or low-code projects. In addition, there is the option of virtualizing runtime systems and PLCs and thus initially testing the application of the programmed solutions in the cloud - a function that is particularly interesting for the simulation of still completely untested distributed applications and offers programmers the possibility of being able to implement a quality-assured solution even under the time pressure of ever shorter development cycles.

For programmers with limited programming knowledge, the browser-based logi.WEB/SAFE tool is available within the Open Automation Architecture. The desired applications as well as suitable solutions for functional machine and device safety can be programmed here via a graphical user interface. For the applications, automation engineers can make use of the growing number of standard libraries, which already contain many logical blocks for creating applications "out of the box". Similarly, application modules developed by in-house specialists can also be used. For functional safety solutions, an integrated PLCopen TC5 library is available, which, like the logi.SAFE tool, is certified according to the international safety function standard ISO 61508 SIL3.


In view of the enormous challenges currently facing application engineers, platform-independent engineering environments such as logi.cals Open Automation Architecture ultimately offer the best conditions for implementing their compulsorily ambitious automation projects. Broad scaling options and risk-free testing possibilities in the cloud allow a step-by-step approach to the required solution approaches and provide room for creative experimentation. At the same time, all the tools required for the binding development of high-quality and future-oriented automation solutions are available. It also ensures that even those who are unable to carry out full-fledged development work due to limited personnel or financial capacities can keep pace. With the help of modular systems and graphical editors, they can put together standardized automation solutions "in time and budget" that meet many requirements and pave the way to digitization - a path to which there is absolutely no alternative today.

logi.cals GmbH
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3100 St. Pölten
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