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Flexible and cost-efficient filling of cosmetic products at the production of Dr. Kurt Wolff GmbH & Co. KG. A multi-carrier system plays an important role, and the Mechatronic Concept Designer has been implemented to aid its development.

The digital enterprise

Industrie 4.0 is becoming a reality

In recent years, Siemens has invested a great deal in the integration of software that companies can use to digitalize their value chains. The results are the focus of Siemens’ presence at this year’s Hannover Messe. Three topics will draw visitors’ attention above all: Closed Loop Manufacturing, Integrated Mechatronics Engineering, and MindSphere – Siemens Cloud for Industry.

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.

Interplay of software integration and production

Closing the value chain 

With Closed Loop Manufacturing, Siemens is now offering a single data model that saves numerous processing steps and allows for a bidirectional flow of data. The data available from the PLM system can be used directly for controlling the specific production line. And the data from production are available to engineering.

It is precisely this data consistency that creates the preconditions for fulfilling the requirements of Industrie 4.0. Within minutes, it is possible to find out whether and where a product can be manufactured exactly as ordered and, if changes to previous products or processes are necessary for this, how quickly and at what price they can be made – because the data from production at all sites can be called up centrally to be matched with engineering. And once the order is placed, it can be executed with an automatic trigger from the enterprise resource planning (ERP) side in no time at all and at minimal cost. The NX, Tecnomatix, Teamcenter, and Simatic IT systems are all involved in the Closed Loop Manufacturing data model.

The cause of the second challenge faced by the digital transformation of industry is found in another format discontinuity: Today, all the specialist disciplines needed for the development and manufacture of smart manufacturing plants work with different systems and data models. The 3D model of the mechanics is not compatible with the logic schematic of the electrical systems. The behavior model of software development does not know any of the engineering details of the mechanics and electrical engineering. When a simulation model exists – created, for example, by Process Simulate – then its data are not usable for other models without additional processing. Siemens has now ensured that the software tools involved in Integrated Mechatronics Engineering understand each other. And the approach goes even beyond that.

Multidisciplinary items from the library

Whether in general machine building, machine tool manufacture, or a production facility, many components have been unnecessarily reinvented again and again. Now a mechatronics library of components and modules such as motors, drives, valves, pumps, and other parts can be developed that contains the detailed information from all the disciplines involved. The elements can now be easily imported as finished parts in the development of a machine because the data are centrally managed in Teamcenter. And since even automation with TIA Portal understands this language, engineering data can be used directly for the generation of PLC software and virtual commissioning. This integration eliminates data reentry, but more importantly it eliminates interfaces and their maintenance, which have historically cost a great deal of time and money. This is the automation of engineering in the literal sense.

Of course, the processes and procedures within the company and with suppliers also change with this simplification. The implementation of these new processes must therefore not be confused with the implementation of an IT project. But it is exactly these kinds of changes to operational processes that characterize the transformation into a Digital Enterprise. In the long run, it is precisely these changes that will distinguish a company from competitors that have shied away from the cost and effort of the transformation or that do not consider it necessary.

The situation is similar with regard to the third topic that Siemens is focusing on in its trade fair appearance in Hannover this year. Quite a few company executives, above all in Germany, are very cautious when it comes to the industrial use of cloud technology. This is surprising, because virtually everyone agrees that already in the medium term there will be no getting around it, if data from industrial processes are to be used for a wide variety of services via the Internet. Several companies are therefore working on implementing solutions such as predictive maintenance and intelligent logistics systems. With the consent of the customer, machines, mechanical equipment, and other products will be linked with the Internet and their data collected and analyzed.

Not every company can set up its own cloud for this, and not every cloud platform is suited for industrial applications. Security – of data, but above all of processes – is one of the challenges that differ significantly from those of clouds used for personal communication or e-commerce. In addition, the issue of real-time capability is defined completely differently in the industrial context as opposed to personal use of the Internet. In the control of a production facility, network interruptions lasting only a millisecond can result in damage worth millions. In using a browser, they do not matter.

This is why Siemens has decided to offer its customers a secure cloud infrastructure. Initially, this infrastructure is available as MindSphere – Siemens Cloud for Industry, based on SAP HANA. Additional platforms are to follow.

Siemens’ trade fair appearance in Hannover signifies a break this year. From the discussion of the future possibilities of a Digital Enterprise, a large step has been taken toward the merging of digital and real processes, with the Digital Enterprise Software Suite. The investment of a great deal of effort in the integration of crucial IT components now differentiates Siemens from other suppliers.

Picture credits: Siemens AG