Software-defined Manufacturing for the vehicle and supplier industry

The challenge in the vehicle and supplier industry today is to produce economically despite highly volatile markets and under dynamic conditions. The decisive competitive factor here is the adaptability of production systems. In order to achieve maximum adaptability, a strict separation must be created between the hardware of the production systems and the controlling software. The SDM4FZI project therefore deals with the new method: software-defined manufacturing (SDM). Analogous to solutions from information and communication technology, non-predefined functions are also to be realised by automatically generated software. The basic prerequisite is the abstraction of the existing hardware through digital twins with the help of which the software can be automatically derived and distributed. For this purpose, the existing production OT (Operational Technology) must be rethought in order to make the control and communication infrastructure SDM-capable. SDM creates the basis for innovative applications and business models that use digital twins as their core to optimise adaptable production systems.

Fundamental research

SDM Reference architecture model

Digital twins are the key element for the SDM concept. They describe products, processes and production systems by means of data, information and behavioural models that arise and accrue over the entire machine or product life cycle. A uniform blueprint (reference architecture) ensures interoperability between the digital twins across the entire supply chain. They enable a multitude of applications and innovative business models, e.g. automatic software generation.

SDM Production-OT

The second essential building block for implementing SDM is a production OT that makes it possible to distribute automatically generated software in real time and interoperably to the production systems (real-time deployment). For this, the method of virtualisation is used to separate software and hardware through an abstraction layer. This requires a completely new infrastructure with open control architectures and continuous communication from sensor to cloud.


By marrying the reference architecture model with the SDM-capable production OT, enormous potentials arise with regard to the mutability of production. In order to exploit these in the best possible way, strategies are being researched to optimally and dynamically adapt the adaptable SDM factory to the uncertain developments on the market and in the entire corporate environment.

Application scenarios

Simulation-based optimisation

With the help of the developed digital twins (products, processes and production systems), production scenarios are automatically created, virtually analysed and optimised. After successful testing in the simulation, the optimisations flow into further production system planning (optimised design) or are automatically imported into real production systems (optimised operation).

Continuous engineering

In addition to the commissioning process, which is already strongly supported by simulations, further engineering processes can be simplified with digital twins. End-to-end engineering also includes the planning phase with design and project planning data, construction with cross-site and cross-company information, release (auditing and acceptance) and subsequent operation (service and maintenance).

Software generation

SDM not only enables automated software development, but also automated testing of the generated software against digital twins. In this way, correct functionality is ensured before software components are assembled into applications or distributed to the target systems and executed.

Data-based services

Due to the continuous availability of relevant quality, process and machine data, a multitude of data-based services and business models (servification of manufacturing) are conceivable. Condition monitoring, service and maintenance management for production systems and virtual end-of-line quality control for products are just a few examples.

Questions and answers

What is SDM4FZI?

The goal of SDM4FZI is to make the factories of the vehicle and supplier industry more adaptable. The solution approach is to define production purely via software and thus make it dynamically adaptable.

For which target group is SDM4FZI interesting?

SDM4FZI is specially tailored to the vehicle and supplier industry, but is basically interesting for all industries that manufacture in production facilities. There are no restrictions with regard to the size of the company. SDM increases the adaptability of the productions of small companies, medium-sized businesses up to large corporations.

What is meant by reference architecture model?

A core element of the SDM method are digital twins for products, processes and production systems. These are not per se compatible with each other. To ensure interoperability, a standardised blueprint is required: the reference architecture model.