Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)

'Digitalization,' Systems-Level Design Are Keys to Manufacturing Success

10 Sep, 2014 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

At its annual media event, Siemens PLM Software executives share industry perspective, company strategy, and software updates.

Today’s products and machines are becoming increasingly complex, with operations that depend on internal software that’s typically more complicated than the design itself, not to mention the push to connect products to the Internet (a trend dubbed the “Internet of Things”). Siemens PLM Software executives last week told a group of invited industry writers and analysts that the key to success in this manufacturing environment is to embrace “digitalization,” a concept that extends beyond merely creating digital pictures to adopting digital as a fundamental approach to innovation. That, according to Siemens PLM, requires a system-level approach to design as well as the ability to merge real and virtual design to optimize innovation.

Siemens PLM Software hosts its annual Analyst & Media Conference to share company strategy updates, software developments, and customer success stories. At this year’s event in Boston on September 3–4 (#SPLM14), Vice-President Bill Carrelli said, “Our theme will be the role of virtual in the innovation process and how the merging of virtual and real will become the essences of innovation in the future,” and how companies can achieve real innovation while managing the risks associated with it. And the concept is extending beyond product design to the entire factory.

Chuck Grindstaff, president and CEO, explained that intelligent, Internet-connected products can gather extensive information from their working environments, be automated, and even work autonomously. “Those capabilities are now extending to the factory [and] how we make things.”

Learning, Then Doing

In this new world of intelligent, connected products, data collected about a product’s operating environment and about how customers use the product (utilization) can be tapped by product designers as they consider improvements for the next generation (ideation). But the value of that information is optimized, Grindstaff said, when designers apply intelligence and action to this data to improve product automation and production (realization). “This is where Siemens PLM is focused.”

Digitalization is transforming the manufacturing industry, Grindstaff continued, capitalizing on powerful digital concepts including:                                                                                                           

  • smart models, wherein the product definition establishes the objectives necessary to manufacture it;
  • thedigital twin, a full digital product definition that simulates reality — for example, giving a robot instructions that are akin to how we would operate as a human; and
  • optimized, distributed production, which enables autonomous production with embedded intelligence — for example, a smart coffee maker that recognizes the type of coffee pod and automatically adjusts the brewing process to optimize flavor.

Grindstaff cited an August 2014 study of industrial automation by J.P. Morgan that claims smart technologies will have the greatest impact on the manufacturing industry — in fact, more than twice as much impact (27%) as the second-most affected market, retail (11%).

As this forecast relates to the Internet of Things (IoT), Grindstaff said the company believes that the clear value in connecting products to the Internet — “the low-hanging fruit, if you will” — is to manage the connection of the [product] operations world and production world to optimize innovation.

Start at the System Level

Siemens PLM's strategy is that developing next-generation smart products and making the digital enterprise a reality starts with system-level thinking — defining those requirements that extend across product and software development and that are housed in and managed by the Siemens product lifecycle management (PLM) solution, Teamcenter. (In contrast, more specific, detailed product requirements are managed in solutions such as CAD and application lifecycle management, or ALM).

Grindstaff described the key elements of system-level thinking:

  • Set targets, build models, predict performance.
  • Aggregate, filter, and transform information.
  • Understand the impact of change, make better decisions — “not a new concept but one that is ready for realization today.”
  • Work in context of what you sell, how you build and support.

“If everyone optimized these,” Grindstaff said, “they would have the best systems and products.”

Role of Siemens PLM Software

How is Siemens PLM Software supporting digitalization? Grindstaff gave the answer in the form of the Smart Innovation Platform, which extends beyond Teamcenter to integrate the company’s portfolio of product-development software. It encompasses four key design principles:

  • Engaged users. Active Workspace, a role-based, intuitive user interface that is rolling out across the Siemens PLM product portfolio, delivers “the right information at the right time in the right context,” even before users know they need it, Grindstaff said.
  • Intelligent models represent reality, understand product connectedness, are always up to date, and are always building throughout the product lifecycle — from design to production to service. “They accurately represent what is real and simulate what is possible,” Grindstaff said.
  • Realized products close the loop between product design and production to optimize delivery and support, “doing so in a very open way,” Grindstaff explained — “that is, allowing customers to choose the best of our products and others’ products to solve their problems.”
  • Open systems support easy software deployment today and have the flexibility to adapt to changing needs and growth in the future, facilitating end-to-end process flow.

Grindstaff concluded his presentation by pointing out that the company is leading the way in the digital factory realm. Siemens PLM Software is the first company worldwide to bundle all the capabilities for the digital factory — e-car powertrain systems, customer services, motion control, PLM, and factory automation — under one roof.


About the Author: Nancy Spurling Johnson

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