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A Smart Transport Robot at BMW Group’s Plant Regensburg. (Microsoft Photo)

A giant shift is underway in manufacturing as sensors and robotics make their impact on the factory floor, and Microsoft and BMW want to help other manufacturers take advantage.

The two companies announced the Open Manufacturing Platform Tuesday, building on years of collaboration between the two companies on cloud services for manufacturers. The OMP is soliciting other companies to join up and draw from an industrial IoT cloud services reference design drawn up by BMW on Microsoft Azure, while contributing their own ideas to future services.

“With pre-built industrial use cases and reference designs, community members will work together to address common industrial challenges while maintaining ownership over their own data,” wrote Sam George, director of Microsoft Azure Internet of Things, in a blog post Tuesday.

Like lots of other old-line conglomerates in retail or travel, manufacturers have dipped their toes cautiously into cloud computing and the industrial internet of things after investing billions in older tech strategies that more or less get the job done. More and more companies are starting to realize how adopting smart factory equipment and data analysis tools can save them time and money, but lack the technical expertise to make that happen on their own.

Microsoft has courted those types of companies for the last few years as part of its “intelligent edge” strategy, and the industrial internet of things has been a major part of that push. BMW has been a partner of Microsoft’s going back several years now, working together on technologies such as bringing Skype to BMW cars and other connected-car services.

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