Designing the Digital Factory

While an increasing number of manufacturers are keen to digitalize their factories to remain competitive, many lack the knowledge and expertise to effectively achieve this. That is the broad rationale behind Siemens’ decision to set up its ZerOne.Design, Digital Factory Manufacturing Design Consultancy. The term ZerOne, by the way, is derived from the two digital states of either zero or one.

Interestingly, this initiative was born not in the corporate headquarters in Germany, as might be expected, but in the regional office in Singapore. And according to the company, with ZerOne.Design, Siemens becomes the first automation technology company globally to offer a technical consultancy service to help  manufacturers achieve their Industry 4.0 vision. While the consultancy is based in Singapore and received support from the city-state’s government, which is anxious to get local manufacturers to enhance productivity levels and upgrade capabilities, its remit also extends to the rest of Southeast Asia.

So what can ZerOne.Design, Digital Factory Manufacturing Design Consultancy offer companies that no doubt have heard much about digitalization and Industry 4.0 and all the purported benefits but remain somewhat hesitant of taking the plunge all by themselves? At the recent Manufacturing Technology Asia exhibition in Singapore, where ZerOne Design got its first public outing as part of the Siemens booth, ARC spent some time with Shalabh Bakshi, who heads up the consultancy, to clarify the objectives of this new initiative and understand the workings of a typical consulting engagement.

The major consulting activity involves analyzing the customer’s business – understanding the manufacturing process, the problem areas, what he’s looking to achieve, etc. What the customer receives in terms of deliverables includes a bill of digitalization – functional specifications of the necessary digital packages; a customized roadmap – how these packages should be implemented, the interactions between them, the investment required, the time required; and verification – a comprehensive return on investment (ROI) calculation based on the recommended solution versus the as-is state and detailing improvements in areas such as productivity, quality, and resource management.

On show in Singapore: Zer.One Design represents an important addition to the Siemens portfolio for the digital enterprise.  

A key aspect of ZerOne.Design is that the client need not be a Siemens user i.e. have manufacturing technology infrastructure based on Siemens products, and the consultancy does not get involved in any implementation activity itself. Rather, the service is targeted at any manufacturer that requires and can benefit from digitalization. Both discrete and process manufacturing environments are catered for, with each having its own specific value chain.

Perhaps not surprisingly, ZerOne.Design clients are far more likely to be large MNCs with Singapore or Southeast Asian production sites, rather than the SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises.) Siemens rightly believes that companies taking on such a service need somewhat of an evolved mindset to want to spend time and money to investigate the possibilities afforded by enterprise-wide digitalization. Should it be apparent that a company’s requirement could be satisfied by a point solution from the Siemens portfolio, then the client is directed towards the relevant Siemens product team. Conversely, should a conventional sales discussion reveal an extent of digitalization enthusiasm on the part of a prospective client, the consultancy team is alerted to get involved.

For Siemens, ZerOne.Design, Digital Factory Manufacturing Design Consultancy undoubtedly complements its broad spectrum of design-to-production industrial software and industrial automation offerings. And it is upstream design and planning tools like NX, Teamcenter and COMOS that gives the company more “skin in the game” in terms of digitalization opportunities as compared to other automation suppliers.

What I certainly look forward to now is seeing the first case studies describing ZerOne.Design, Digital Factory Manufacturing Design Consultancy experiences – how and why companies used the service and, especially, what sort of benefits they obtained through engaging with Siemens in this manner. Articulating customer successes would not only serve to enhance Siemens’ position beyond that of a software and automation product supplier but likely attract other companies looking for trusted expertise along their digital journey to take an interest in the new ZerOne.Design offering.