Siemens steering users through digital transformation

Solution portfolio spans the asset and product lifecycle needs of discrete manufacturers and processors alike.

By Jim Montague

There's little doubt that digitalization, software, Internet networking and smart manufacturing are radically altering industry. The only question is how huge will the changes be, and who can help you survive and take advantage of them?

"Advanced manufacturing is driving the discrete and process industries, though there are some differences between them,” said Klaus Helmrich, member of the managing board at, Siemens AG. “What Siemens has is a clear concept about how to take that transformation into the digital arena." Helmrich delivered the keynote address, "Advanced Manufacturing—Driving the Digital Enterprise," at the opening of Siemens Automation Summit 2016 the week June 28 at the Aria hotel and resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.

"Digitization is changing business, and software is changing everything,” Helmrich said. “Where we used to have book and music stores, we now have e-books and services that can connect users to every album no matter where they are. We're all enjoying these mainstream technologies, but they're also knocking on the doors of our discrete and process industries, and helping make manufacturing faster and more efficient."

Real and virtual worlds synch up

One of the most startling aspects of digitalization is that it's creating full consistency between virtual and real worlds, eliminating traditional hurdles, and shortening the path, for example, between digital design and models and physical production of the items and products they represent.

"This is digital enterprise production," said Helmrich. "If you've developed a new beverage innovation, for example, digitalization means you can scale it up much faster from product design to process and plant design to engineering and commissioning and onward to operations and servicing. This quick cycle from design through to engineering, operations and service is happening on both the process and discrete sides of industry. However, whether it's called Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or Industrie 4.0, it's all digital enterprise production, and Siemens is present along the whole value chain with our industrial software and automation portfolio, industrial communications, industrial security and industrial services."

Helmrich added that Industrie 4.0's two core elements are horizontal, with end-to-end integration that extends from supplier to customer as they interact with each product design, and vertical as those designs are integrated along every step in the production process and supply chain.

"For instance, on an Optima machine filling perfume bottles, users can now accept orders for individually inscribed bottles, but still run like a mass production process," explained Helmrich. "This involves receiving individual customer orders from the Internet; running a 'digital twin' of the filling machine and digitally integrating the engineering train;  linking to Siemens' cloud-based service for industry, MindSphere, which analyzes customer data; and completely synchronizing transport and motion control of the filling machine's multi-carrier system."

Helmrich added that another Siemens customer, Callaway Golf, is using digitalization across its design, analysis and production areas. "Callaway is simulating golf club performance before building physical prototypes, and this has enabled it to reduce product cycle times from two to three years to 10-16 months, grow its market share by 50% and expand its gross margin by 40% since 2012," he reported. "On the process side, DuPont is minimizing production risk with virtual plant functions, such as running simulations with our Simit software, and then automating with our Simatic PCS 7 control system. This application communicates via Profibus to electrical equipment from Siemens including fixed- and variable-speed motors. All of this gives DuPont a single point of contact for automation, electrical and fire-detection systems."

Extending expertise and know-how

Likewise, even Siemens' embedded computer boards factory in Hamburg, Germany, is getting in on Industrie 4.0 and the digital enterprise production act. "Our pick-and-place application for the boards makes one product per second, and is now changing 350 times per day in response to customer demands, but it's still been able to increase quality from 99.9% to 99.998%," added Helmrich. "Operators at the plant can immediately see any drift in production, which enables the supply chain to respond faster."

Moving beyond the capabilities of its regular simulations, Siemens reported that its Comos Walkinside software and 3D visualization of process facilities can help users maximize plant availability and increase profitability. "3D engineering data can be used throughout the entire asset lifecycle, give users direct access to current plant information in virtual reality graphics, and increase operational safety for all stakeholders," explained Helmrich. "These software solutions are for efficient data exchange as well as real-time, distributed collaboration. We're heavily developing roadmaps for both Comos and PCS 7.

"Digitalization is knocking on our doors, and it’s giving U.S. firms a chance to be even more competitive by further extending their expertise and domain know-how,” Helmrich continued. “It's transforming companies in this digital age, and they are partnering with Siemens for success in both the discrete and process industries.”

"In fact, KPIs from our computer board plant in Hamburg show that over the past 10 years, digital enterprise production has allowed it to increase output eight times with the same number of staff. With digitalization, the only questions are what products do you want to offer to customers, and what is your ingenious model?"