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Faculty of mechanical engineering


Digital Cooperation Platform for Agile, Distributed Development of Production Systems (AgileKMU)

(Project duration: September 2020 to November 2022)


Increasing cost pressure in global competition, combined with constantly growing product and process complexity as well as shorter product life cycles, have made the parallelisation and synchronisation of processes within the framework of the cross-company design of production systems an essential success factor for manufacturing companies. At the same time, the application of agile procedures within the design processes promises significant time and cost advantages compared to traditional methods. Analogously, digital tools and distributed data storage have become indispensable in the global engineering process. 

Established IT systems focus on continuous data management and distribution (PDM & PLM systems) as well as the operational handling of projects for the design of production systems, including the control of the necessary planning processes (project management, workflows, quality gates, control loops, etc.). Many SMEs shy away from investing in costly total solutions and often do not have sufficient resources and IT structures to deploy complex systems in a targeted manner, which leads to a need for lightweight IT solutions that are currently not available on the market.

There are currently still significant media discontinuities between the data-holding systems of product creation and the process-oriented project management solutions, e.g. to support an agile approach in the planning area, which leads to technical and organisational challenges. For the efficient, cross-company use of agile procedures, the short-cycle provision and visualisation of digital development statuses are necessary, which current planning solutions are not able to do, or only with disproportionately high effort. Unstructured data sources are another problem frequently encountered by SMEs, which greatly complicates the provision and processing of this partially success-critical information. 


The aim of the research project is to develop a digital platform for cross-company cooperation in the agile design of production systems. The division of planning tasks into sprint meetings will be extended beyond previous boundaries to enable these short-cycle and integrated methods in distributed engineering as well. The platform to be developed should enable the provision of planning data and processes and integrate digital workflow management, which can be used to support the company's internal process organisation. Agile collaboration is supported by the targeted provision of planning data and a flexible visualisation concept. 

The early mastery of agile procedures, which enable more efficient process planning and are therefore already increasingly used by large companies and taken for granted as standard, will generate a significant competitive advantage for participating SMEs. However, since no lightweight solution is available today that can be intuitively mastered by SMEs, the development of the platform addresses precisely the requirements of resource-limited SMEs.

Procedure and Division of Labour

The project is designed to run for two years. Using agile methods, the four central building blocks of the platform are to be developed during this period:

  • Agile cooperation concept
  • Digital workflow management
  • Company-independent data provision
  • Scalable visualisation and planning data enrichment
Das Diagramm zeigt eine digitale Kooperationsplattform zur agilen, verteilten Entwicklung von Produktionssystemen. Im Zentrum des Diagramms ist ein Computerbildschirm, auf dem verschiedene Softwareanwendungen zur Visualisierung und Steuerung von Produktionsprozessen laufen. Der Bildschirm zeigt unter anderem ein Modell eines Industrieroboters und Videokonferenzfenster. Um den Bildschirm herum sind vier Bereiche angeordnet: Links oben ist der Bereich "Workflowmanagement" mit einem Flussdiagramm und Software zur Prozesssteuerung. Links unten ist der Bereich "Datenbereitstellung" mit Geometriedaten (CAD) und Prozessdaten (Excel). Rechts oben ist der Bereich "Visualisierung und Anreicherung" mit einem 3D-Modell eines Industrieroboters. Rechts unten ist der Bereich "Kooperation" mit einer Grafik von Menschen aus verschiedenen Disziplinen (Management, Planung, Mechanik, Elektrotechnik, Informationstechnik), die zusammenarbeiten. Das Diagramm veranschaulicht, wie verschiedene Daten und Disziplinen auf einer digitalen Plattform integriert werden, um die Entwicklung von Produktionssystemen zu unterstützen. Der Titel des Diagramms lautet: "Digitale Kooperationsplattform zur agilen, verteilten Entwicklung von Produktionssystemen". © IPS​/​TU Dortmund

The agile cooperation concept is based on an IT cooperation platform to be developed that integrates technical as well as unstructured process data and enables a representation via diverse visualisation techniques. Many required modules already exist on the market, but are not linked to each other. Therefore, a lightweight platform solution is to be developed that combines existing, cost-effective solutions for the individual modules.

For this purpose, the four core components will be developed in parallel in an agile manner. After analysing the existing solutions for the individual sub-modules, a catalogue of requirements will be developed in cooperation with the project committee, from which the respective modules will then be specifically developed. In parallel, the requirements for the individual modules will be summarised in a requirements specification and then in a functional specification to record the requirements for the cooperation platform and its design. Based on these specifications, the cooperation platform will be designed by customising existing solutions and, if necessary, new developments. Finally, the technical functionality will be validated using suitable use cases. In parallel, the results will be continuously transferred to user companies and software developers as well as planning and IT service providers.

Funding Reference

The project "AgileKMU" of the research association Gesellschaft für Verkehrsbetriebswirtschaft und Logistik e. V. - GVB, Wiesenweg 2, 93352 Rohr is funded by the German Federation of Industrial Research Associations (AiF) within the framework of the programme for the promotion of joint industrial research and development (IGF).