A review of reference architectures for digital manufacturing: Classification, applicability and open issues

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McFarlane, D 
Hawkridge, G 
André, P 
Leitão, P 

The industrial application of digital technologies in manufacturing can result in an increased efficiency of processes and an opportunity to integrate production, logistics and maintenance functions. However, increasingly interconnected manufacturing information means progressively more complex systems. Therefore, there is an ever growing need to provide structure in the design and development of such information systems which is the role of a system architecture. So called ‘reference architectures’ guide the design of system architectures used in particular applications. Reference architectures are models of information functions and their connections that provide a structured template with common terminology. Over the last decades, various reference architectures relevant to digital systems in manufacturing have been proposed. However, industrial applications of these reference architectures are scarce and it is difficult to compare and analyse them due to their various levels of application and different uses. In this study, we review and classify reference architectures used to support digital systems in manufacturing. Contributions of the paper include proposing criteria for a model to be referred to as a ‘reference architecture’, an overview and classification of the different perspectives on reference architectures in the literature, and a guideline to support practitioners, developers and academics in selecting a reference architecture.

Reference architecture, Digital manufacturing, Applicability, Industry 4, 0, Internet of things, Cyber-physical systems
Journal Title
Computers in Industry
Conference Name
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Elsevier BV
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/R032777/1)

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