High-level co-innovation: T-Systems and Fujitsu realize new ideas for a smart factory. Together.
Interview

Just keep thinking

Dr. Stephan Verclas, Director of T-Systems’ Innovation Center, on the joint co-innovation partnership with Fujitsu.
Copy: Thomas van Zütphen
Photo: Dominik Pietsch, Michael Löwa

Dr. Verclas: What is behind the idea of co-innovation?

Nothing other than a strategy for implementing new ideas in collaboration with our customers and partners from business and research. “Collaboration” in this sense also means including our innovation network within the Deutsche Telekom Group as well as the operating units of T-Systems. We take our customers’ requirements and develop the most economical solutions with innovative technologies.
The “Head Mounted Display” project in the logistics department at Fujitsu is a great example for this. Our customers, in this case Fujitsu, are at the heart of every digitization process: Will future applications and services run on-site on a device or will they use the cloud, for example, as the infrastructure for service management? Can I map services as micro-services, use them multiple times, and then, if applicable, develop additional added value by establishing a systemic link with Smart Analytics? At this point, customers do not want a long-term project with an uncertain end, but short, clear sub-projects (sprints) that help adjust the project focus and minimize failure risks.

And you are starting today?

Correct. ‘Co-innovation,’ as we understand it, requires trust, courage, and motivation. After all, the creative process does not just end by putting together technologies for which one or the other partner has the better competence and expertise, and then the product is finished. It is simply about thinking ahead, maintaining balance from the first step onward, and keeping the actual and much more valuable development goal in mind: to be able to offer shared solutions to shared customers in the future.
Point-by-point cooperation leads to a continuous process that starts with joint development and production, and concludes with consulting, sales, and integration. To accomplish this, we first see who can bring added value to the co-innovation. With HMD, for example, Fujitsu is delivering today the device, the use case, and the process flow that needs to be supported. We designed the solution, developed the application, and integrated the first micro-services, like “Pick-to-Voice”. Additional micro services, for example, from the 5G environment and edge cloud computing can be supplemented by other partners during the project or later on.

What is the next step?

We are testing a software solution with Fujitsu from our subsidiary Multimedia Solutions (MMS), which can visualize machine data and thus create a virtual image of an analog factory. An entire plant or, depending on the target group, individual and real manufacturing processes can be visualized. This so-called ‘digital twin’ becomes the basis of a dashboard where every customer receives a needs-based presentation, for example, using algorithms for predictive maintenance. Essentially, an avatar of the factory provides concrete recommendations for necessary process steps up to the integration of suppliers. We want to use this project to show how additional assets from a pure software product can become a real solution.