Siemens PLM Software Sharpens Focus on Digital Factory21 Sep, 2017 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson
At its annual Industry Analyst Conference, the company talked up its strategy of providing comprehensive automation and digitalization for progressive product development.
Siemens PLM Software, developers of product-development applications including NX and Solid Edge for 3D modeling and Teamcenter for product lifecycle management (PLM), has marched to a steady drumbeat of technological developments and acquisitions over the past half-decade, moving ever closer to its goal of delivering a full-fledged portfolio of software that supports the Digital Factory, a combination of automation and digitalization technologies for progressive manufacturing enterprises.
Jan Mrosik, CEO, Digital Factory Division, detailed the company’s journey at its Industry Analyst Conference 2017 in Boston this month, where it hosted dozens of industry analysts and media representatives. Attendees of this annual event get a look at recent Siemens PLM Software developments, perspective on the latest manufacturing market developments, and an overview of the company’s vision and strategy for the future.
“We’ve been in this business of automation and digitalization for a very long time,” Mrosik told attendees in his opening keynote, emphasizing that for Siemens, this focus is not “trendy” or something “nice to talk about.” “We’ve been expanding this business step by step by step. This is the solid basis for our business.”
Siemens is the leading company in automation, according to Mrosik, boosted by its expertise in digitalization and a variety of industries, including aerospace and defense, automotive and transportation, electronics, semiconductors, consumer products, energy, industrial equipment, marine, and medical.
Siemens PLM Software has been expanding its portfolio of product development applications since the acquisition of UGS ten years ago.
Digitalization is affecting a great number of large markets today, Mrosik explained, including medical, infrastructure, public transportation, and autonomous vehicles, and it’s a driving force behind artificial intelligence.
Why would a customer invest in automation technology? Mrosik answered his own question, detailing the following benefits:
- speed: increasingly faster product development and time to market.
- flexibility: products today are offered in many configurations — vehicles, for example, can have millions of potential configurations, and Adidas is setting up to deliver shoes in a bespoke manner, based on the customer’s preference for physical properties and style — and automation allows companies to deliver efficiently and economically.
- quality: automation can help reduce human error and free time for engineers to focus on design optimization and innovation.
- efficiency: automation enables wiser use of time, resources, and money to help a company stay competitive.
- security: today’s products must be set up to deliver benefits without exposing companies to the security risks that come with digitalization.
The intelligent model, also known as a digital twin, represents the systems within a complex, modern product, which can comprise mechanical parts, software, electronic and electrical systems, sensors, communications/networking, and other components, as well as the unique environmental conditions in which it operates. “We need intelligent solutions to model these complexities,” Mrosik said, not only to capture all aspect of the design and how they interrelate, but also to enable design simulation and to collect data from real-world use to help inform future design decisions.
Layer upon layer of data and processes define today’s products — but the pieces are not enough, Siemens believes; they must be tied together. The company is working to pull together all aspects of a product into one place and make sure all systems work together seamlessly so users can clearly define, plan, and document the overall system, and alongside that, the capabilities that need to exist to bring everything together.
Siemens PLM Software is working to deliver the software tools necessary to support today’s complex product design.
A digital twin is an unambiguous definition of the product, according to Siemens, including how systems and subsystems interact and how processes are integrated throughout the product lifecycle, in a way that every stakeholder can understand. Closed-loop simulation enables an understanding of product operations before the product exists, allowing users to analyze problems and find solutions quickly in a virtual environment rather than a physical one.
Once a product or machine undergoes use in the real world, data collected during operations can help define new constraints for redesign and rework or to present opportunities to develop new features and products.
“We want to provide a holistic solution for customers,” Mrosik explained, by supporting these five benefits with software automation and services. “We are the only company in the market that can give such a holistic solution. ... Then we condense the timeline for this process to push efficiency so it’s all possible in less time. And we connect the entire process by collecting data from the end of the lifecycle and feeding it back to product design.” From design to services, he said, a continuous loop of data transfer and sharing continually optimizes products and processes.
“And we can create a digital twin of the entire value chain,” Mrosik continued, so “the hope that [a design] will work can be replaced by the certainty that it will work.” He noted that digital twin delivers the same benefits for machine builders as for product developers.
“We can run simulations on a design over and over and over until we’re satisfied. This was never possible using traditional prototyping of the past.” For example, engineers can use the digital twin to simulate:
- airflow and thermal dynamics;
- electronics (using the newly acquired Mentor Graphics software for designing embedded electronic systems and integrated circuitry) within Siemens design environment;
- factory production line operations; and
- complex traffic scenarios (to validate systems for autonomous driving).
“We are the only company that can simulate all these things and provide a digital twin that combines electronics, software, mechanics, and environmental conditions,” Mrosik concluded. All of this can be facilitated using Siemens’ Teamcenter PLM software. “We aim to condense the product lifecycle to such an extent to give our customers the advantage in the market.”