Big achievements

Digital Reference – lingua franca for digitalising semiconductor supply chains

by Ralf Hartmann on behalf of the Productive4.0 consortium

Inspired by the term Industry 4.0, Productive4.0’s goal was to create a user platform across value chains and industries to promote the digital networking of manufacturing companies, production machines and products. At that point, shedding light on the specific meaning of terms like Semantic Web, Semantic Web Stack and ontology should be helpful to better understand the following description of the achievement within the project.

Semantic Web and ontology

As an extension of the World Wide Web, the Semantic Web aims at making Internet data machine-readable. It is an effective infrastructure to enhance visibility of knowledge on the Web. To illustrate its multidimensional structure, the Semantic Web is depicted as a Technology Stack – a composition of building blocks. One of the core blocks is ontology which is used to describe concepts, relationships between entities, and categories of things. These embedded semantics offer significant advantages such as reasoning over data and operating with heterogeneous data sources. In short, the Semantic Web shows how things are organised while ontology illustrates it.

All in all, the Semantic Web provides a common framework that allows data to be shared and reused across application, enterprise, and community boundaries. In work package (WP)7 it is titled  “Productive4.0 Framework as a cross-domain platform for the Digital Industry”. WP7 co-leader Hans Ehm from Infineon explains the achievement of this objective:

“As a result, the Digital Reference ontology introduced to Productive4.0 reflects the supply chain-related Semantic Web of the semiconductor industry and the corresponding supply chains. It combines different supply chain structures and semiconductor production concepts and entities, like Supply Chain Networks, Digital Production and Product Lifecycle Management.”

Brain work

The Digital Reference consists of thematic clusters, covering all stages of the supply chain and providing both human and machine with a concise knowledge base. It contains approximately 800 classes, which enable to define several concepts in different domains. We summarise the Digital Reference as a whole divided into several lobes. Based on the structure of the human brain, we describe individual things or parts as lobes which originally stands for separate parts of the brain”.

Lobes, i.e. taxonomies for classes and properties clusters, e.g. Product, Sensor, Semiconductor Operatioins and Wired and Wireless communication, describe interlinked hierarchies and refer to the other Work Packages like the later on to the Arrowhead Cloud of WP 1 and enable use cases. Supporting concepts are also included, as shown in the top-down approach, which are used to ensure that all the definitions of these concepts across the supply chain are contained by the concepts included in the lobes. In conclusion, the Digital Reference is a Semantic Web model of semiconductor supply chains and corresponding supply chains. Various organisations can use it as a standard to represent their supply chain, in part or in full. This ontology can be used as a base to connect different data sources for semiconductor companies and connected supply chains.

Semantic Web can be seen as an enabler for industry digitalisation. In the Semantic Web, the well-defined and structured information enables computers and people to work in cooperation and to automate industrial, collaborative B2B processes, e.g. in supply chain management and product development.

Data from various sources in unified view

Semantic Web technologies are applied to enable digitalisation in the industry in particular for the domain of semiconductors and corresponding supply chains. Semantic Web is a lingua franca to handle data, which varies in systems, structure, quality, and security. In Semantic Web, data from various sources is integrated and presented in a unified view. Namely, a common understanding of concepts across different data sources is defined. The well-defined data structure empowers computers and people to work in collaboration. The Semantic Web Stack shows different aspects where each layer utilises and uses the capabilities of the layers below.

The potential of Semantic Web technologies has not yet been fully explored regarding the business to business (B2B) domain and in industrial applications. Business companies, involved in B2B, do not just trade merchandise, but additionally and increasingly, exchange information. On the other side, B2C (business to customer) interactions already use semantic web concepts. However, the interaction is between a business company and generally a single customer and the knowledge domains at much less complex exchange of product information;. The importance of powerful knowledge domains can be seen in the race between B2B and B2C, where domains like the hotel industry lost influence and sovereignty and B2C companies benefited (e.g. The digital reference is a cornerstone to keep this sovereignty in the B2B domain semiconductor and supply chains containing semiconductors.

Big achievement

The Big achievement is that the Digital Reference will act as a framework for the data structure for intelligent and efficient communication between the entities involved in the domain of semiconductors and corresponding supply chains, but also in other industrial domains. To gain some experience, a first experimental trial was conducted to generate a top-level ontology taking into account IEC 61508 and the derived daughter standard IEC 61511 in the currently valid version. An initial set of key properties (concepts and terms) was identified and brought into a structured ontology as shown in Figure 5. Building the DR for a group of standards will allow an analysis and give insight into the compliance issue and the need of trust in the overarching Digital Reference.

This work is continued between WP6 (Standardisation) and WP7 (Exploitation, which has included the task of developing a trustworthy DR) of the Productive4.0 project to come to holistic but flexible standard in the CSA SC³ – Semantically Connected Semiconductor Supply Chains. The DR will also allow us to analyse the Standardisation Landscape and help users and system developers to find the necessary standards for their needs

After this concrete example and the generalisation, let us explain the Supply Chain Management (SCM) in our domain and the Digital Reference. Supply Chain Management is the approach for enhancing the competitiveness of an enterprise, and enabling an efficient supply chain. One of the main concerns is to ensure the semantic consistency of shared information among the supply chain members, which calls for a common semantic model with agreed, defined and explicitly explained terms and vocabularies within the SCM domain.

Common language

Thus, a proposed methodology is to be developed. It will allow the creation of the Enterprise Knowledge Graph of supply chains using and manufacturing semiconductors. All concepts and relations between pillar constituents of the semiconductor supply chain are included. Two approaches are designed to create the Digital Reference: bottom-up and top-down.

The needed lingua franca is available as a foundation with the digital reference.  It enables to talk to each other, humans and computer, in an always up to date common “language”. The Semantic web as a proven technology in the B2C environment was transferred to the more complex B2B sector, where higher precision is needed for our domain semiconductor and connected supply chains.



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