The Asset Administration Shell – a universal tool for data exchange in industry

Companies are increasingly required to exchange data about their products and processes. There have been a few showstoppers so far: data silos, incompatible interfaces, and expensive exchange formats. The new Asset Administration Shell (AAS) standard breaks the Gordian knot. Even better – it’s free of charge.

Die Asset Administration Shell als Universalwerkzeug für Interoperabiliät in der Industrie.

Here we go again, it’s all about data. Of course, having data is a good thing. But exchanging it as efficiently as possible is even better – and becoming increasingly crucial. This is especially true when it comes to managing information on products, production facilities, and processes in the industry, independent of the manufacturer. Let’s not forget: the upcoming flood of regulatory requirements, like the EU Data Act, ESG standards, supply chain laws, etc., that companies must comply with, has led to a plethora of data management solutions in the market. And that’s precisely the problem. Too many different offerings imply data interfaces that don’t match, create data silos, and necessitate the use of expensive commercial exchange formats. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel: The Asset Administration Shell (AAS), which enables data exchange in compliance with standards.

The Asset Administration Shell – like a zip file for interoperability

In simple terms, the AAS can be understood as an implementation of the Digital Twin concept. This “Administration Shell,” virtually represents the entire lifecycle of products, devices, machinery, and facilities. Its most significant promise is manufacturer-independent interoperability, which for the first time facilitates collaboration between companies that previously could hardly interact due to highly diverse systems with proprietary formats.

Die Asset Administration Shell ermöglicht für die Industrie eine herstellerübergreifende Interoperabilität.

Tidy over complex: Figure 1 shows the challenge of maintaning the overview in the Industrial Internet of Things due to diverse IT/OT data, communication protocols, etc. Figure 2 presents the solution with a Digital Twin. (Source: Open Industry 4.0 Alliance)


Here’s how it works: Every product (or component) produced or processed by a company is assigned an AAS file, which compiles all relevant information in a standardized format. Think of it as a special zip file containing all pertinent details. Anyone using the product can access the data without needing to create a separate interface.

Technically speaking, the AAS enhances interoperability by providing clear standards for data models and interfaces. Different assets can communicate and exchange data, regardless of their physical or virtual nature. Interaction occurs through standardized protocols that enable seamless integration into Industry 4.0 systems. And the best part: the software for processing the AAS format is open source, making it freely available.

What happens to data in the Asset Administration Shell?

Data within the Asset Administration Shell is structured into submodels. These submodels contain the specific properties of an asset or part of an asset. For example, one submodel may represent the electrical properties of a machine, while another describes its mechanical properties. Submodels are defined for each application area, allowing manufacturers to select the appropriate modules for their product. If there is no suitable model, the standard also allows for the creation of custom submodels. Moreover, an asset can be represented in multiple AASs, as detailed in the current OI4 paper on “Common misunderstandings about the Asset Administration Shell”.

Jedes produzierte oder verarbeitete Produktteil erhält eine AAS-Datei mit allen Informationen.
The data within the Asset Administration Shell are arranged in submodels. Each submodel represents specific attributes of an asset.

Here’s a current example: The CO2 consumption incurred during the production of a product can also be stored in the AAS as a submodel, making it accessible to anyone who further processes or uses the product. In short: Submodels enable a structured and modular representation of asset information. This allows information to be processed, searched, modeled, queried, and shared in a standardized manner.

Typical applications of the Asset Administration Shell

The Asset Administration Shell showcases its capabilities in industrial production settings. The most common applications include:

  • Predictive Maintenance: By predicting maintenance needs based on condition data, companies can more accurately plan maintenance work and minimize unplanned downtime.
  • Quality Management: AAS facilitates the monitoring and improvement of production processes, leading to continuous optimization of product quality.
  • Supply Chain Management: AAS enables efficient control and coordination of supply chains, for example, by facilitating transparent collaboration between suppliers and manufacturers, leading to improved supply chain efficiency.
  • Production Optimization: AAS supports the improvement of production processes based on real-time data, allowing companies to respond more flexibly to changing requirements.

And this is how Asset Administration Shells really appear. Image 1: Overview with Demo examples from various manufacturers. Image 2: When you zoom in, all information stored on a component opens up, here, for example, the servo motor component from Festo.

From efficiency gains to cost optimization – the benefits of the Asset Administration Shell

The benefits of the Asset Administration Shell go beyond mere standardization and interoperability, manifesting in several key areas of industrial process optimization:

  • Efficiency Enhancement: The AAS allows for more precise monitoring and control of production processes. Through the comprehensive availability of standardized data, companies can optimize their operations, thereby achieving a significant increase in overall efficiency.
  • Interoperability: The Asset Administration Shell promotes seamless collaboration between different assets and systems, regardless of their manufacturer or type. This aspect of interoperability helps break down silo structures and enables integrated, efficient resource utilization.
  • Lifecycle Management: The comprehensive representation of the asset lifecycle by the AAS enables companies to make informed decisions throughout the entire lifecycle of their assets. This spans from design and production to maintenance and ultimately disposal, allowing for optimal resource use and sustainable decision-making.
  • Costs: A major advantage is that the Asset Administration Shell is accessible for free. This makes it an even more attractive option compared to expensive commercial exchange formats.

The most crucial question, of course, is: How practical is the Asset Administration Shell? In our projects, we are testing the concept with a focus on assets and fleets of devices in production environments as well as specifically on energy consumption and CO2 emissions per workpiece.

Are you also looking for a way to achieve more efficient, standardized data communication for your products and processes? We are happy to support you in a practicality check and collaborate with you to build suitable Asset Administration Shells for your devices, machinery, and plants. Feel free to reach out to us.

Recommended posts

Process Optimization with Foresight: Digital Product Passport

Why the digital product passport is already a relevant tool today for making data available along th...

From M2M to IoT & AI: 20 years of moving to a digital industry

The journey from M2M communications to IoT and AI-enabled systems. A look back.
Press releases

Device Insight develops intelligent software for KUKA platform iiQoT

One platform for all KUKA robots: iiQoT maximizes the uptime of KUKA's robot fleet.