Siemens PLM: Ready to Move Manufacturers to the Digital Enterprise and Beyond

Siemens PLM held its annual industry analyst event in Boston last week. We expected to hear a lot more about the Digital Enterprise and how Siemens PLM is going to provide its customers with the solutions and strategies to move manufacturers into the advanced manufacturing technology and processes of the future. They did not disappoint, and showcased a range of advanced manufacturing technologies from additive manufacturing to virtual simulation for product and production to cloud-based platforms that connect equipment and factories.

Siemens PLM kicked off the event with a short keynote given by the new CEO of the Siemens Digital Factory Division, Jan Mrosik, who is replacing the recently retired Anton Huber. Mrosik re-iterated the Siemens Digital Enterprise message which focused on the digital thread that runs across the product lifecycle from product design through production and the factory to the supply chain and service of equipment in the field.  Interestingly, the original vision of Anton Huber when Siemens acquired UGS PLM, was to have a digital thread that began with product design, and ran through the entire design/build/automate lifecycle, leveraging Siemens’ factory automation business. I think it is fair to say, that at this juncture, Anton Huber’s vision has been realized. With Siemens PLM as the centerpiece, Siemens Digital Factory business unit offers a portfolio of technologies and solutions that digitize the entire product, process, and production lifecycle, including advanced analytics and simulation for product performance, manufacturing processes, and supply chain collaboration.

Chuck Grindstaff, CEO of Siemens PLM continued with the digitalization message in his keynote. He put up some interesting statistics. 50 percent of the world’s data, in history, was created last year, with manufacturing and industry accounting for a very large portion of that data. Digitalization is the only way that manufacturers are going to be able to deal with the volume of data generated across the manufacturing industries today. 50 percent of those companies that attempt to implement a digitalization process will fail. Grindstaff pointed out that in order to successfully create a digital enterprise companies must model the system, that is, model the entire design/simulate/build/produce/maintain lifecycle up front, and create the digital twin which merges the virtual and the physical worlds across this lifecycle. In other words, a digital enterprise must be a model-driven enterprise. Simulation, at all stages of the lifecycle, is critical to creating the digital twin.  Simulating the system behavior in terms of product design, production systems, and the equipment in factory and in the field is one of the primary elements of implementing a digital twin strategy.

One topic that was front and center for this conference was analytics. Siemens PLM is coming at advanced analytics in multiple ways. When they acquired Camstar a few years back they also got an analytics application called Omneo. Omneo is an ML-based pattern matching engine that can analyze and unify very large amounts of disconnected big data. Siemens PLM is focusing Omneo on product performance management for a closed-loop performance analysis to improve product design. Omneo can also focus on the supply chain to analyze product component performance.  Omneo is automated analytics (always on) and performs both predictive and prescriptive analytics. Siemens PLM also has rolled out Mindsphere, a cloud-based platform that connects machines and equipment in the factories and production systems. Mindsphere accesses, collects, and aggregates all manner of manufacturing data for analysis, and can channel this data to analytics engines, including Omneo. The primary function of the Mindsphere Cloud for Manufacturing is to allow users to collect manufacturing data and to turn it into actionable information based on individual domain expertise.

Another form of analytics, targeted to product development and simulation is the recent Siemens PLM offering of Simcenter, a comprehensive product test and virtual simulation platform that combines two of Siemens acquisitions in the simulation space: LMS (a few years back) and the recent acquisition of CD-Adapco. The Simcenter simulation platform uses data analytics from equipment and products in the field to simulate real use scenarios and model the actual behavior of products before they are built. Simcenter focuses on product engineering analysis (PEA) to allow design engineers to validate product design at early stages in the design process.

In the area of digitalization for manufacturing, Siemens PLM offers its Tecnomatix digital manufacturing and process planning solution set. Tecnomatix allows users to build virtual 3D models of production systems (conveyance lines, robotic work cells, etc.) and to virtually simulate, validate, and commission the physical production system before it is built. These simulated production systems can automatically generate PLC code and other automation software. The process planning application can automatically generate execution instructions (MES) for the production system. Tecnomatix is integrated with the Teamcenter Manufacturing platform, Siemens Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) factory automation equipment and Siemens Simatic IT for the shop floor MES systems.

Two of Siemens PLM’s customer stories were both interesting and compelling.  The first was Ford Motor Company’s virtual ergonomics engineering group. They showed how they use Siemens PLM’s design applications like NX and specialized 3D ergonomic applications to model assembly line workers motions and working behaviors using bio mechanics, digital human models, and hand and reach access dynamic modeling.

The other was Local Motors, a startup automotive manufacturer that is introducing a radically disruptive approach to designing and building cars. They are using a micro-manufacturing factory model where a vehicle can be produced in matter of hours to days using technologies like 3D printing where the entire body and chassis is printed using materials like carbon fiber. The design of the vehicle is based on a design community approach where any number of independent designers are solicited to contribute to the design, and those designs accepted are compensated with royalties. The micro-factories can be set up relatively quickly and located directly where the market is. Each vehicle can be a customized for an individual buyer and delivered in a matter of days. Local Motors is calling this mass customization where scope (design, functionality) is scaled, rather than production scaled up to meet a mass market of the same model. Local Motors has about 7-8 micro factories in place and opening two more in a few months.

Advanced manufacturing is an area that Siemens is making some rather amazing strides, especially in additive manufacturing (3D printing). This is collaboration between Siemens PLM and Siemens Digital Factory for automation and controllers. They are literally taking 3D printing out of the box (many 3D printers are confined in small space) and using robotic end effectors to fabricate large and complex parts. Siemens has partnered with DMG Mori, who supplies hybrid machine tools that are capable of both additive and subtractive (milling) processes. Siemens PLM supplies its NX design for additive manufacturing software. Today, with advanced 3D printing technics being developed, multi-material (steel, tungsten, Inconel) parts are being produced for specialized applications like drilling heads for the oil & gas industry, large complex titanium landing gear fittings for the A&D sector, and very complex fittings for high-temperature chemical processes. Many of these parts can only be produced with these next generation 3D printing techniques. Siemens PLM is providing new convergent modeling technologies that combines facet, parametric, and solid modeling that can support these complex 3D printing techniques. The Siemens R&D labs have even developed a spider-bot: small autonomous multi-legged robots that can move to the location needed and perform 3D printing operations and repairs to structure and parts.

It appears that Siemens PLM has not only delivered on the concept of the Digital Enterprise, but is providing a set of next generation tools and software applications that will take manufacturers into the factory of the future.