Human language thrives on overtones and interpretation, ambiguity and pointedness, imagery and playfulness. Therein lies its charm, that is what makes it so appealing. But when machine talks to machine and software system talks to software system, misunderstandings and semantic discrepancies are not charming and exhilarating, but rather business obstacles and cost drivers. With “eCl@ss”, a standard has been established that provides a remedy here – and at the same time represents an important enabler for Industry 4.0.

“As a native of Baden-Württemberg, I experience the different understanding of language and designation anew every time I visit Cologne,” explains Artur Bondza, alluding to the very different German dialects. As Head of Product Information & Content Management at Pepperl+Fuchs and a member of the leadership circle of eCl@ss e. V., Bondza regularly spends time in the Cathedral City at the headquarters of the eCl@ss association. Here, he and his association colleagues are engaged in the task of further developing a standard that leaves no room for ambiguity – at least not when it comes to language and terminology in an industrial context.


It is hardly surprising that the nucleus of this venture is in Germany of all places: “Standardization is, of course, an area for which we Germans are said to have a certain affinity. eCl@ss, however, has been a cross-national issue from the very beginning, thanks to its globally active founding members. These include, for example, major corporations such as BASF, SAP, VW/AUDI, Renault and Siemens,” reports Thorsten Kroke, head of the eCl@ss head office in Cologne. In fact, more than 3500 companies worldwide of various origins, sizes, and industries now use the data standard to classify and uniquely describe products and services.

The spectrum of users ranges from multinationals and public sector organizations to market-leading medium-sized companies such as Pepperl+Fuchs and online retailers. “The 150 full members alone generate annual sales of around one trillion euros. That’s equivalent to the GDP of a country like Mexico,” says Kroke, quantifying the economic power behind the association. All 3,500 user companies, whether full members or only licensees, are united by a central goal: By using the ISO-compliant eCl@ss standard for master data, media breaks are to be avoided and the comparability of data ensured.

Read the full article here.