From Virtual to Real-World Manufacturing

  • September 15, 2014
  • Siemens
  • Feature

By Bill Lydon, Editor

Siemens continues to make large investments in software for manufacturing industries aimed at increasing the productivity of design, engineering, commissioning, operations, and maintenance in discrete and process industries. Siemens COMOS is targeted at process industries and is analogous to Siemens PLM for the discrete industries. At the Siemens Automation Summit, Anton S. Huber, Chief Executive Officer of Siemens AG, Industry Sector, Automation Division, presented the Siemens vision of the digital enterprise and digital manufacturing, its implications, and Siemens' developments in this area.

Huber has practical industry experience with a broad view starting at the Siemens Semiconductor Group. Subsequently he was President and CEO of Siemens Automotive LP, Head of the Process Automation and Instrumentation Division, and Vice President of the A&D Group responsible for product development and production. Since January of 2008, Huber has held his current role for the 8-billion-Euro organization, which employs 42,000 people worldwide.

Huber discussed the challenges driving industry. These include competitive pressures with accelerated time to market, relentless need to reduce costs, higher quality demands, and pressure to reduce consumption of natural resources, including energy and materials.  In addition, legal requirements such as health, safety, security, and regulatory are demanding more recourse from industry to comply.

Virtual to Real-World

Huber discussed how the adoption of Internet technology creates the need for more efficient and agile manufacturing. This can be achieved using a digital enterprise platform, which includes model-based development and simulation. Such a platform will enable manufacturers to accelerate product development and dramatically decrease time to production and market. 

He described the process of digital representation of the physical world when designing and manufacturing a product. Manufacturers could create designs, simulate, test, and run your part virtually to see how it all fits together. When everything is correct, manufacturers will invest the money to deploy. In a virtual environment, there is more room for creativity - to do things better by trying more ideas. More creativity leads to more innovation. It is much more efficient to use integrated design tools that can interact in a virtual environment for all the involved disciplines. This eliminates problems created by using traditional methods when each design group does their part and “throws” it over the wall to the other groups. Expensive real-world changes are avoided.  Simulated prototypes reduce cost and time without compromising product quality.

This virtual concept requires a great deal of data and collaboration between product design, machine and production line design, quality, automation design, and suppliers. Collaboration in this context means suppliers will participate in the creative design process first in a virtual environment. This art-to-part concept and vision is illustrated by the Siemens Mechatronics Concept Designer (MCD) software. MCD provides tools to enable the entire development team to collaborate on design, simulate, and build a complete virtual machine including Mechatronics. When the design is correct, MCD creates the automation code for the real-world control system. The extreme possibility is enabling buyers to configure and or customize truly make-to-order products. Huber explained that additive manufacturing and 3D printing have a role in low-volume production, customized medical transplants, and other applications.

Digital Manufacturing Enterprise

Huber noted that companies spend a lot of money for ERP-related functions like transaction software for finance, purchasing, etc.  Now, digital manufacturing enterprise software can offer greater value for manufacturing companies. He made the case that the major purpose of industrial enterprises is the creation and production of products. Manufacturers have not leveraged software (by far) to yield higher productivity and optimization of their processes.

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