Take a small company in the area of sheet metal production. Depending on its specific needs, it might have a small number of bridge cutting machine and/or punching machines, (bending) presses and maybe some robotic (laser) welding stations. While there are manufacturers that could supply this entire machine fleet, there’s a big likelihood that the machines will be from different vendors. And considering the average lifespan of the more robust machine types (e. g. bending presses), a considerable amount will be from the pre-Industry-4.0 era. And there, the promised dream of an out-of-the-box vertical integration between factory floor and ERP starts to crumble…

A starting point might be to buy every manufacturers solution and then build interfaces between them and your ERP solution. But this adds a huge layer of complexity in your company, as such a solution will take a considerable amount of time to implement and to maintain. There’s also the fact that, judging from past experiences in this sector, the software products will reach their respective end-of-life much sooner than the machines themselves. And there’s of course the price tag attached to the software and its maintenance contract. Not to mention the fact that some vendors offer cloud-only solutions which – in my humble opinion – just opens an entirely different can of worms. The cloud and its IT security are outside your control. And what about protecting your own and your clients‘ intellectual property?