Towards Standardisation in Digital Manufacturing

The DIGICOR was represented in the AFNeT Standardisation conference in Paris on 17th-18th May 2018 ( AFNeT is contributing towards the digital transformation of the European industries and supports standardization synergies between different industries including Aerospace, Robotics, Automotive, Rail and Shipbuilding.

The attendants of the conference came from multiple sectors representing large organisations (e.g. Airbus, AirFrance, Thales, Siemens), military organisations (e.g. NATO), transport organisations (e.g. SNCF) and software companies (e.g. PTC, ICE). The conference served as a forum for discussing the changing needs of industry, the overlaps between different sectors, and the future of existing standards. From DIGICOR’s perspective, the following discussions were of interest.

TRILATERAL is a European task force for driving standards to support Industry 4.0. It is formed by three industry-driven groups: Platform Industrie 4.0 in Germany (, Alliance Industrie Du Futur in France ( and Piano Industria 4.0 in Italy ( ). So far, Trilateral has released their first document giving an overview of the Administration Shell (see, which in essence is a software wrapper for manufacturing assets (machines, sensors, systems, etc). The idea is that different manufacturing assets can interact with each other through the Administration Shell API. This will consequently contribute towards interoperability across manufacturing systems, which can be extended to higher level systems for vertical integration and also across supply chains for horizontal integration. The existing specification of the Trilateral Administrative Shell provides a general description and the next document (planned October 2018) will specify the user information. Thereafter the technical specification of the Administration Shell APIs will be released towards the end of the year. The overall objective of Trilateral is to make plug-and-play of manufacturing assets and systems a reality, covering sensors, machines and systems in all levels.


A very interesting discussion focused on standard modelling languages for systems engineering. It was noted that UML is popular in practice but its user base is not growing. There are other standards based on UML that are being used more and more, like SysML. The popularity of other system engineering approaches and standards has sidelined UML as virtually nobody is currently working on evolving/updating it. If this trend continues, UML will be a thing of the past.


Digital Twins (also called Digital Designs) are indeed a well desired feature of manufacturing systems and supply chains in many if not all sectors. The evolution of digital twins is leading to the development of shareable digital twins that can be used throughout a product lifecycle. For example, supplier A produces a Digital Twin of product Ap and supplier B produces a digital twin of product Bp. Then a manufacturer can use those digital twins to assemble or create a new product that is also a digital twin of the physical one. This in turn is passed to the next actor in the supply chain. The expectation is that a Digital Twin can be used to simulate the physical object under simulated physical conditions in order to test the product or put it to operate for a long (simulated) time and see when it would fail. This could help with maintenance predictions. The expected lifetime of a Digital Twin goes throughout the product real lifetime, not just during manufacturing. That is, the Digital Twin should help for decommissioning and recycling of products. However, there is very little (if anything) in this area regarding standards.

AutomationML ( ) is a standard that uses XML to exchange engineering data and describe physical objects. But it is not sufficient to support the expectation of a Digital Twin. That does not mean AutomationML does not work. Digital twins simply represent a new need that is yet to be fulfilled. DIGICOR uses OPC-UA standard for communication which can be used to seamlessly exchange engineering data represented in AutomationML.


For aerospace the accepted specification (not standard) is the ILS S-series ( Conference participants were keen to discuss the S5000F specification ( because it supports data feedback.

DIGICOR project officer Rositsa Georgieva was one of the speakers in the AFNeT conference. Rositsa presented the EC view on standardisation and how the feedback from the industry groups is being used to create and promote standards. As a highlight, she specifically mentioned DIGICOR project as a successful running project in FoF. The knowledge gained from participating in the conference will be channelled into the ongoing standardisation activities in the DIGICOR project. These activities are primarily focusing on highlighting the existing standards that are being used in the DIGICOR project and promoting the use of relevant standards within the DIGICOR platform development activities.

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