Digitaler Produktpass

Digitaler Produktpass

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2022-07-28 expert contribution

Digital Product Passport: Promoting Digitalisation and the Circular Economy Through Standardised Data

Digitalisation is not a hype topic that is on everyone's lips for a short time and then disappears again. Digitalisation is here to stay. And even if we think that digitalisation has already arrived everywhere, we could hardly be more wrong.

In the world of industrial production, this was recognised early on, so that numerous developments have been driven forward, also at the normative level. One manifestation of this is the Digital Product Passport, which takes the next step via digital and standardised information and supports the industrial circular economy in the long term.


Dr. Michael Rudschuck

Transparency of product data is important not only for consumers, but for all actors within the value chain.

In addition to the typical product information, certificates and instructions for use, the focus is increasingly on information that provides information on reparability, remanufacturing and recycling. Although these specific product data are already available today, a cross-sectoral data exchange is often not guaranteed due to the different actors involved.

The Digital Product Passport (DPP) addresses this point precisely and enables, for example, manufacturers, users and disposal companies to ensure a uniform exchange of data throughout the entire product life cycle. The vision behind the Digital Product Passport is as simple as it is ingenious, because with a mobile end device, e.g. a smartphone or tablet, users can find out a great deal about a particular product with just a few clicks:

  • Manufacturers benefit by being able to provide operating instructions and user manuals in the current national version.
  • Operators have the chance to access the current versions of the operating instructions online.
  • Disposal companies can carry out environmentally friendly and resource-saving recycling.
  • Public authorities can check whether the local, current legal framework conditions are being complied with.
  • Mechanics can obtain information on how a product is installed or repaired.
  • Consumers can understand under which social and ecological conditions a product was manufactured.

Of course, these information is already publicly available today. However, the problem arises that each of the actors involved has different exchange formats. A uniform sector- or industry-specific transfer of data is not possible in this way. The Digital Product Passport solves this problem by using a standardised data exchange.

Our society and economy are in a state of change, which is characterised by two essential and large complexes of topics: on the one hand, digitalisation and, on the other hand, the transformation towards more sustainability and climate neutrality.

Requirements for the Digital Product Passport

It is obvious that the Digital Product Passport will affect a wide range of products and industries:

  • The automotive industry will be able to optimise supply and process chains.
  • Small and medium-sized enterprises will have simplified access to smart industry concepts in the future.
  • Specialists in electrical engineering will be able to set up and maintain complex electrotechnical systems more easily.

Due to the diversity and heterogeneity of the products, a wide variety of requirements must be met therefore.

Industry specifics must be taken into account

Products from different industries, but also products for consumers, have a lot of individual requirements. The requirements for a Digital Product Passport therefore depend on the respective framework conditions in which the Digital Product Passport is to be used:

  • In the case of a product used in industry, this can be, for example, assembly instructions, interface technology or a spare parts list.
  • In the case of consumer devices, in addition to general information on the device, this could be operating instructions, software instructions, etc.
  • In the case of devices and components which are installed in safety-critical areas, certificates and proof of authenticity, among other things, should be mentioned for the digital product passport.

Information collection and dissemination will therefore have to be sector- and product-specific in order to take into account differences in products and the relevant information. An example of an industry-specific solution is the Digital Nameplate, which was initially developed for explosion-protected components and is now generally standardised for product identification in industry in the IEC 61406 project and is being used in initial applications.

The standardisation of the Digital Nameplate is carried out in coordination with associations such as ZVEI, ZVEH, VDMA and others. Right from the start, care is being taken to design the concept of the Digital Product Passport to be most flexible so that it can be transferred to new applications and use cases and can be expanded for this purpose.

Data must be available and consistent

Today, the consistent availability of data within many (and global) supply and value chains is not given due to isolated solutions of the individual actors, even if the assumption of a matter of course often prevails here. With a Digital Product Passport, product-related data can be made available to all actors involved in an easily understandable, purpose-oriented and standardised way.

However, there are still open points in the Digital Product Passport that require fundamental assessment. In all activities, both national and European legislation must be considered. One example in this context is that user information often still have to be available in paper form. This circumstance will probably lead to a transitional coexistence of conventional paperwork and documentation by means of a Digital Product Passport. However, this should not be seen as an obstacle to the development and standardisation of the innovative and universal concept of the Digital Product Passport in an interoperable manner across directives.

Analoges Typenschild

Analoges Typenschild

| Michael Rudschuck

Digital nameplate: Foundation for "Industrie 4.0"

Analogue nameplates will soon be a thing of the past. Gone will be the days when technicians had to struggle to decipher illegible nameplates. Digital nameplates are on the advance.

At the international standardisation level, two standardisation proposals have already been submitted to the IEC and are currently being worked on.

Read more

Recycling, Preparation and Reuse Through High-Quality Provided Data

The Digital Product Passport is basically intended for a wide range of applications. A special focus here is on applications in the industrial sector when products are evolved which are characterised by their longevity. This inevitably touches on issues of the circular economy:

  • What different materials are actually in use?
  • Which of these materials can be recycled at the end of their product life cycle?
  • And which of these materials must be disposed of at the end of their product life cycle?

This can be illustrated using the example of an automatic circuit breaker: Plastics are needed for the individual components of the circuit breaker, which must meet certain requirements. However, some required properties cannot be obtained with recycled materials. At the same time, the materials used can be fed into a recycling process at the end of the product life cycle, but cannot be used again for high-quality and durable products due to the requirements.

Here the Digital Product Passport enters the stage, for example by providing information about the material composition of the circuit breaker. It is also conceivable that the Digital Product Passport contains information about the carbon footprint of the individual components or also provides information about which normative requirements the circuit breaker fulfils.

Another example are long-life batteries (accumulators). Here, too, it seems sensible to include the Digital Product Passport. A sub-model of the Digital Product Passport could be the Battery Passport, which provides information on where and how long the battery was used, what remaining service life it has, what materials were used and what of it could be fed into the process of recycling, reprocessing and reuse.

Standardisation activities for worldwide acceptance and long-term success

Experts of the DKE/K 931 committee have developed a decentralised solution approach for a Digital Product Passport for industrial applications based on the "Asset Administration Shell” (IEC 63278-1). This solution approach enables access to both user-friendly web pages of the manufacturer and standardised machine-readable information of the product via a product identification according to the IEC 61406 "Unique Identifier". Each sub-model represents a standardised data set for a specific use case, for example for the delivery of technical data or product documentation.

In further sub-models, regulatory requirements, service information or even environmental information can be stored and retrieved in a standardised and digital manner. By this way, the structure of the Digital Product Passport can also be used to develop new digital business models.

A very large part of today's supply and value chains are distributed around the globe. The Digital Product Passport and the concept behind it must therefore be internationally applicable. For this reason, international standardisation is an important prerequisite for success. Especially for the European economic territory, dovetailing with European regulation is necessary. Work at the European level is therefore equally central to worldwide acceptance and long-term success.

The CEN-CENELEC-ETSI Coordination Group Smart Manufacturing, which is chaired by Germany (Dr. Jens Gayko, Managing Director SCI 4.0), is a central instrument for introducing the concept of the Digital Product Passport at European level.

Companies should prepare for the Digital Product Passport

Currently, important product information are lost during production, sale and operation - generally with regard to sustainability and specifically with regard to recyclability and disposal. For this reason, there are legislative initiatives at both national and European level with the aim of introducing corresponding product passports. The requirements for the provision of Digital Product Passports will be imposed on all sectors in industry in the medium term.

For companies, now is therefore an ideal time to become actively involved in the standardisation of the Digital Product Passport, as the exchange and uniform provision of data can only function if all sectors of industry agree on uniform, standardised standards. For this reason, the activities on the Digital Product Passport were bundled in a separate working group at the Standardisation Council 4.0 (SCI 4.0).

The working group STD 1941.0.2 - DPP at the SCI 4.0 deals with the task of recording and controlling the demand with regard to national and international standardisation on the Digital Product Passport. With the digital product passport, the committee addresses a broad cross-sectional topic, initiates new standardisation projects via the responsible standardisation committees and will accompany these in close cooperation with the system committees at DKE and DIN. In addition, the committee will coordinate activities with other national and international standard setters and partners.

Representatives from the electrical industry, mechanical engineering, information and communication technology, the chemical industry, the electric trade and representatives from the German Federal Environment Agency and various universities work closely together in the STD 1941.0.2 DPP committee.

Editorial note:

The standards and specifications listed in the text can be purchased from VDE VERLAG.


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