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Collaboration Network for Industry, Manufacturing, Business and Logistics in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NIMBLE (Collaboration Network for Industry, Manufacturing, Business and Logistics in Europe)

Reporting period: 2018-04-01 to 2020-03-31

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will cause disruptive changes in many sectors of the global economy and IoT in manufacturing will be one of the largest segments in this emerging global market. This means companies will have to invest to make their future products IoT-aware, and to make their own processes capable of utilising IoT. Businesses must be able to communicate and do transactions on and via such platforms. However, the World Economic also states that: “The big winners will be platform owners and partners who can harness the network effect inherent in these new digital business models to create new kinds of value.”

If platforms are going to be the winners, then there should be more platform owners in Europe, and this is what the collaboration Network for Industry, Manufacturing, Business and Logistics (NIMBLE) project is about. NIMBLE has developed a federated, multi-sided and cloud services-based business ecosystem that supports:
a. B2B collaboration for industry, manufacturers, business and logistics;
b. ICT-based innovation of products and evolution of traditional business models;
c. federated, competitive yet interoperable instances of the platform

NIMBLE needed to achieve the following objectives:
1. create a platform ecosystem to attract early adopters;
2. ensure ease of entry and initial ease of use with quick rewards;
3. grow platform usage in a viral manner
4. master the usage of the platform step-by-step to evolve business cooperation;
5. from the earliest steps to master-level, ensure trust, security and privacy.

The project platform was validated in 4 distinct use cases that involved 4 relevant EU industries: Whirlpool Europe srl (Italy), focusing on White Goods industry, Lindbäcks (Sweden), focusing on ready-made wooden buildings, Piacenza (Italy), focusing on high-value textile manufacturing, Micuna, s.l. (Spain), focusing on High-quality childcare furniture.

The project's most prominent success story is the development of a Furniture Manufacturing Platform run by AIDIMME and FEVAMA that has to date, attracted 260 companies engaging in B2B transactions via the NIMBLE platform technology stack.
Project Progress

We had the first project review in M10 (July 2017) and apart from presenting use case requirements and architecture, we were able to show an initial prototype of the platform with some basic functionality working, albeit not fully integrated and with relatively poor usability.
At the second review in M22 (July 2018), it became apparent that the project had suffered a significant delay despite being on a promising trajectory in terms of technical development. It became also apparent that a refocusing of the project was necessary. Following reviewers’ recommendations, the project was extended by six months and emphasis was put on the Funiture Manufacturing Platform (FMP) where AIDIMME and FEVAMA had decided to adopt NIMBLE as their future platform technology, to be piloted initially in Spain, with a target of up to 250 companies joining by the end of the project.

At a site visit in M33 (June 2019), the reviewers were satisfied to see progress having been made not only in the FMP adoption, but also in the technical capabilities of the platform, now offering significant functionality and potential for extension. It should be noted that despite this being a site visit for the future FMP, the full consortium was present and the other three use cases also presented their respective states of play.

Software Development Procedures
In order to ensure a structured development process we introduced a quarterly release cycle starting in M15, with Release 1. The validation and experimentation – done primarily by use case partners in WP4 – was very useful and highlighted issues related to the design of user workflows, user interface and data management of R1. Based on these findings, we captured all open issues and at first, managed them on Github and with the help of Zenhub ( Soon after, we moved to a central issue management via JIRA, and hosted by the coordinator. We also introduced a professional plan of Slack which helped in fostering faster communication between the various groups. We also set up a CI-chain (continuous integration), connected to a Slack channel to inform the whole team whenever the system got recompiled. These automations made it possible to organise development in shorter sprints which meant that by the end of the project we had achieved 17 Releases, typically at monthly intervals.
NIMBLE has progressed the state-of-the-art in the following fields related to web-based collaboration platforms:

(1) Architecture: provides a federated business-to-business ecosystem which is being commercialised in at least one case
(2) Interoperability: Provides semantic interoperability to enable cross-platform and cross-sector business transactions.
(3) Business Processes: makes B2B business processes easy to handle for smaller enterprises that currently lack support for sophisticated supply chain management.
(4) Optimisation: enhance the functionality of the collaboration platform with value added services e.g. prefabricated business process templates and tools for layered trust models that allow different degrees of cross-company information sharing.
(5) Trusted Infrastructure: we implemented security, privacy and reputation as defining elements of trust in web-based business environments.
(6) Life-Cycle Data Management: third party tools were proven to support platform life cycle cost calculations across supply chains and other applications for lifecycle data management, e.g. for the circular economy

The concept and availability of federated agile business collaboration platforms for manufacturing is a European answer to the common difficulties created by the “platform monopolies” that appear to dominate current thinking about global commerce. The enhanced business connectivity and innovative IoT and Cloud services available at low cost via a federated system will help to sustain the manufacturing sector worldwide, and particularly the SME ecosystems characteristic of the European sector.

NIMBLE has contributed to a “European federated ecosystem for Digital Automation” with many players that each take a smaller share of profits, but contribute to a sustainable, resilient digital infrastructure that supports more people in better paid jobs. The federation model creates a decentralised ecosystem of smaller, but interoperable, B2B platforms with more people able to participate in wealth creation across the entire federation.

There is currently not a single market in Europe. Therefore, due to legal, cultural, financial and social restrictions and political strategies, Europe's strength will continue to lie, for the foreseeable future, in the economic flexibility and diversity provided by its ~300 regions. This regional diversification also takes advantage of local commercial and economic expertise, and the proximity of stakeholders, suppliers and markets. Connecting these regions and maximising their strengths can best be achieved through federated platforms based the conceptual and technical infrastructure proposed by the NIMBLE project.