Press release #Industry 4.0

Automotive industry to give manufacturing a facelift

A research project is developing the underlying software

  • Software-defined manufacturing enables rapid retooling of factories and ensures faster model and product changes as well as more variants.
  • Uniform software framework ensures continuous optimization of products and manufacturing processes.
  • German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is funding the research project led by Bosch, the University of Stuttgart, and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.
Dennis Christmann

Dennis Christmann >


Stuttgart, Germany – Faster, more flexible, and more efficient: these characteristics are the automotive industry’s main demands when it comes to developing its own production systems. To achieve this, today’s manufacturing operations need to be put on a new technological footing. This is exactly what the participants in the SDM4FZI research project (Software-Defined Manufacturing for the Vehicle and Supplier Industry) have set out to do. Led by Bosch, the University of Stuttgart, and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), a total of thirty companies will define the foundations for software-defined manufacturing over the next three years. Their goal is to design software that can flexibly plan, manage, and modify everything from individual components to entire factories. In the automotive industry, this will pave the way for more variants and faster model and product changes. It will also improve competitiveness. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is funding the research project to the tune of some 35 million euros.

Rigid systems hold vehicle production back

Today, it often takes months, and sometimes years, for the technical elements of the manufacturing chain for a new model to be put in place, from supplier to final assembly. Together with the considerable economic cost involved, this stymies rapid market launches. The root cause of this is that many machines are designed and built specifically for one single new product. The software is usually inextricably coupled to particular machinery and products and is not transferable to other processes. SDM4FZI now aims to create a uniform framework for factories that will enable new products to be manufactured in existing operating environments without major retooling times. “By linking various Industry 4.0 approaches, we are getting one step closer to adaptable manufacturing,” says the Bosch project manager Matthias Meier. “An ecosystem for software-defined manufacturing allows us to bring the benefits of cloud technology to production. Software makes it possible to use automation technology and IT systems for individual, specific applications without having to build the hardware from scratch.”

Uniform framework enables flexible manufacturing

The project partners are developing prototypes for machinery and production lines that are largely defined by software. Such prototypes are based on digital twins, which make it possible to plan, build, and test production systems virtually. This conserves resources and saves on energy and costs. During production, moreover, it also makes the individual manufacturing stages more versatile, so they can be adapted more quickly to new market conditions. Thanks to the digital twins, companies can prepare and implement improvements, and also use AI to analyze them, without having to interrupt the production process. The main focus of the research alliance’s project is on making automation technology, machinery, and systems more flexible in order to boost efficiency in the production of supplier components and vehicles.

New opportunities for the vehicle industry

By pooling expertise from automation, mechanical engineering, IT, and the automotive industry, the consortium aims to create a common understanding of the requirements and to develop interoperable solutions. “The large number of project partners demonstrates how substantial a role software plays in the manufacturing of tomorrow,” says Michael Neubauer, chief technology officer for ISW at the University of Stuttgart. “We are working on pioneering approaches that will improve German companies’ competitiveness.” For example, the project partners are drafting a guide for the selection and use of suitable technologies, as well as standards for building software-defined factories.

Further information on the project

List of project partners

Mobility is the largest Bosch Group business sector. It generated sales of 52.6 billion euros in 2022, and thus contributed almost 60 percent of total sales. This makes the Bosch Group one of the leading automotive suppliers. The Mobility business sector pursues a vision of mobility that is safe, sustainable, and exciting. For its customers, the outcome is integrated mobility solutions. The business sector’s main areas of activity are injection technology and powertrain peripherals for internal-combustion engines, diverse solutions for powertrain electrification, vehicle safety systems, driver-assistance and automated functions, technology for user-friendly infotainment as well as vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, repair-shop concepts, and technology and services for the automotive aftermarket. Bosch is synonymous with important automotive innovations, such as electronic engine management, the ESP anti-skid system, and common-rail diesel technology.

The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs roughly 421,000 associates worldwide (as of December 31, 2022). The company generated sales of 88.2 billion euros in 2022. Its operations are divided into four business sectors: Mobility, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology. As a leading IoT provider, Bosch offers innovative solutions for smart homes, Industry 4.0, and connected mobility. Bosch is pursuing a vision of mobility that is sustainable, safe, and exciting. It uses its expertise in sensor technology, software, and services, as well as its own IoT cloud, to offer its customers connected, cross-domain solutions from a single source. The Bosch Group’s strategic objective is to facilitate connected living with products and solutions that either contain artificial intelligence (AI) or have been developed or manufactured with its help. Bosch improves quality of life worldwide with products and services that are innovative and spark enthusiasm. In short, Bosch creates technology that is “Invented for life.” The Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 470 subsidiary and regional companies in over 60 countries. Including sales and service partners, Bosch’s global manufacturing, engineering, and sales network covers nearly every country in the world. The basis for the company’s future growth is its innovative strength. At 136 locations across the globe, Bosch employs some 85,500 associates in research and development, of which nearly 44,000 are software engineers.

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