Those who have followed the discussion regarding Industrie 4.0 and the Internet of Things in recent years have not always had an easy time separating the wheat from the chaff. What is talk only and what is actually feasible? What exactly will intelligent industrial value creation look like? Siemens does not have all the answers. But now the company is offering solutions that address central challenges facing industry during its digital transformation – solutions that allow customers to start the implementation step by step, with quickly noticeable results.
One of the greatest challenges – as all experts agree – is overcoming the format discontinuities between the main areas of the technical value chain: between the engineering of products, the associated planning of production systems and processes and the production execution itself. All this supported by an efficient coupling of the technical value chain with the relevant commercial processes. This challenge calls for a solution so urgently because Industrie 4.0 simply does not work with the isolated IT solutions that are customary today. At its core, this vision counts on the future development and manufacture of even highly complex and smart products, customized to individual customer wishes, at almost the price of mass production. How is that supposed to work if it takes weeks to find out where the requested product can be manufactured with what adaptations?
However, this is the level of technology today: With CAx – at Siemens with NX – product models are developed whose data ultimately lead to a parts list, known as a bill of materials. Then machines, equipment, and plants are developed for the production (all the way to the simulation of production and of the material flow) with systems for digital manufacturing – at Siemens with Tecnomatix. The result is a digital process description, called a bill of process. With product lifecycle management (PLM) software – at Siemens with Teamcenter – these data can be linked and the connections kept up to date. However, the data regarding the product structure and the operating machinery and equipment describe only the theoretical process. The actual control of a certain machine or production line requires more.
Starting with the order planning, the specific requirements for an individual order now need to be linked with the technical data. And they need to be supplemented by vendor parts and plant-specific data, including the layout of the plant. This is the job of the manufacturing execution system (MES), which speaks a different language from the technical systems of engineering. In many cases, it is necessary to reenter data and program processing steps.