Interview: Sino-German cooperation on Functional Safety in Industrie 4.0

From left to right: Xiong Wenze und Peter Sieber.

More than 100 experts coming from German and Chinese standardisation institutions, companies and trade associations are working together in the Sub-Working Group Industrie 4.0 of the Sino-German Standardization Cooperation Commission. Together, they develop proposals for the standardisation of Industrie 4.0 - the digitisation of industrial production. What is their approach to the important concept of Functional Safety? We asked Xiong Wenze, Director of the product test and certification department at the Instrumentation Technology Economy Institute (ITEI) and Peter Sieber, Vice President Norms & Standards and China region at HIMA Group – both are leading experts in the Technical Expert Group Functional Safety.


Mr Xiong, why is Functional Safety particularly important for the Sub-Working Group Industrie 4.0/Intelligent Manufacturing of the Sino-German Standardization Cooperation Commission?


Xiong Wenze: Functional Safety is one of the most important standards in industry safety. The concept is recognised all over the world. It is well applied in different domains such as process industry, automotive industry and machine application. Functional Safety helps to design and operate complex safety-related systems and could be quantitatively assessed. Both China and Germany have specified Functional Safety requirements in their respective standardisation roadmaps and I4.0/IM standards systems. Moreover, Functional Safety touches upon other Sino-German collaboration topics such as Artificial Intelligence, so the research results of the Technical Expert Group Functional Safety can be applied to different domains.


What is the new challenge for Functional Safety and Industrie 4.0/Intelligent Manufacturing?


Xiong Wenze: The concept of Functional Safety came up with the international standard IEC 61508 on Functional Safety, which was published at the beginning of the 20th century by the technical committee of the international standardisation body International Electrotechnical Commission IEC/TC65. Now, in manufacturing, we are increasingly working with Industrie 4.0 systems. When building up Intelligent Manufacturing, safety is a fundamental issue. It must be considered from the start. In I4.0/IM E/E/PE (electrical/electronic/programmable electronic) technologies are widely used. However, in the Industrie 4.0 realm, safety may be more difficult to ensure than in a traditional factory as a lot of new technologies, new production modes and new factory structures are brought into the manufacturing process. Increasingly complex electronic hardware, software and networking-based systems are used. As technologies have changed in Intelligent Manufacturing, we cannot just use the current standard on processes, such as IEC61508/IEC61511 as it may not be suitable for IM safety. That is why we published a paper to explain the potential trends and solutions to achieve Functional Safety in Industrie 4.0 and potentially turn them into international standards in the future.


Mr Sieber, what are the most interesting findings of your research paper?


Peter Sieber: We want to emphasise that Functional Safety and Industrie 4.0 are not contradictory but can be aligned. Our Reference Architecture Model Industry 4.0 (RAMI 4.0) is a three-dimensional map that describes a structured approach to Industrie 4.0. The existing definitions of RAMI 4.0 are allowing coverage of Functional Safety aspects, too. However, at least three important aspects require specific attention: Firstly, the functional integrity of integrated safety functions, secondly the protection of the safety functions from security threats and, thirdly, the maintainability of effective security counter measures throughout the lifecycle of the installations.


What makes it so special to work in the Sino-German technical expert group?


Xiong Wenze: The Sino-German collaboration is very important for both countries. It is an honour for me to have the opportunity to work within this group of experts. In fact, many experts in the Sino-German collaboration are also working in the IEC/ISO technical committees. Based on the discussions in the expert group, we can ensure a common voice at global level in the international standards work group. This makes a great difference for both countries’ industry and technology developments.


Why is your work important?


Peter Sieber: One important goal is to reach an acceptable level of quality for applications. These shall reduce the operational risks of industrial installations to a minimum. For the users it is crucial to get a predictive plant behaviour and for the suppliers it is important to have commonly agreed rules on what is required. Finally, society benefits from making sure industrial risks are sufficiently low. Whether we manufacture products or use them, we need standards that maintain safe, reliable production in an effective way.


Thank you very much for this interview!



Xiong Wenze is Director of the product test and certification department at the Instrumentation Technology Economy Institute (ITEI). He also acts as expert in different international standardisation committees, including IEC/TC65/WG20, IEC/TC65/MT61508. With more than 10 years of research experience in the areas of Functional Safety and security, he has implemented more than 20 functional safety and security certification programs, including SIS/F&GS/PLC, transmitter, relay. He is currently leading to draft and publish more than 10 Chinese national standards.


Peter Sieber is Vice President Norms and Standards and China region at HIMA Group and General Manager of HIMA (Shanghai) Industrial Automation Co. Ltd. Previously, he held various positions at Pepperl + Fuchs. He has been active in the area of Functional Safety since 1988. During the last three decades he implemented 200+ larger safety solutions in the chemical, oil and gas and petrochemical industry. He also acts as expert in different international standardisation committees, including IEC/TC65/WG20, IEC/TC65/WG22, IEC/CAB.


The Sub-Working Group Industrie 4.0/Intelligent Manufacturing (UAG Industrie 4.0) of the Sino-German Standardization Cooperation Commission (SGSCC) is the main platform for bilateral exchange on standardisation for Industrie 4.0 and Intelligent Manufacturing. Founded in May 2015, it promotes the development of joint positions, working papers and standardisation proposals for international standardisation in international bodies such as IEC and ISO. By means of technical exchange, experts identify existing standardisation gaps and potential deviations and promote the harmonisation of standards. At the technical level, the work is led by the German Standardisation Council Industrie 4.0 and the Chinese National Intelligent Manufacturing Standardization Administration Group (IMSG).

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