Data Management

Siemens Builds Out Industrial Digitalization Support Network

29 Dec, 2017 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin

At Innovation Day 2017, Siemens showcases progress toward its goal of equipping enterprises with applications powered by its MindShare Internet of Things technology.

Siemens is charging ahead with its plans for world domination — of the digitalized world, that is. The company announced on December 15 the opening of a new MindSphere Application Center in Berlin, Germany, bringing the total to 20 such centers — and 50 locations, counting “daughter” sites — in 17 countries around the globe.

MindSphere is Siemens’s open, cloud-based Internet of Things (IoT) operating system. The platform enables users to connect their smart devices and infrastructure to the IoT, manage digital twins — virtual replicas of real-world machines or systems — and exploit the massive amount of data collected. MindSphere Application Centers, in turn, are collaborative sites where Siemens software developers, data specialists, and engineers team up with client companies to develop business models, applications, and digital use cases using MindSphere. Each focuses on a particular market vertical, such as Buildings, Automotive & Electronics, or Road Mobility & Infrastructure. “Basically, it’s agile development teams close to customers, understanding the customer use cases, and then providing solutions to them,” said Gerhard Kress, head of the MindSphere Application Center for Rail.

And with locations continuing to proliferate, from Hong Kong to Dubai to Pittsburgh, the Centers also help reinforce Siemens’ desired image as the leading industrial solution provider in a technology revolution with global impact. “The Internet, which we’ve known for a long time in a virtual environment, is now coming into the industrial sector and is going to create the single biggest transformation which has ever happened to mankind,” said Joe Kaeser, President and CEO of Siemens AG. “We have a choice … either we shape it ourselves, and we show people the way, and we work together with our customers and help them to have a better business, a better life, and a better society, or we just wait and see till someone else is going to transform us.”

Jan Mrosik, CEO of the Digital Factory Division at Siemens, commented, “I think we all agree: digitalization — and maybe more precisely, digital twins — change everything. But nobody in the industry would digitalize just because the word is great and because it sounds fancy.” He stressed that benefits such as getting products to market more quickly, product quality, and efficiency in a competitive environment must drive this change.

Innovation for Industry

December 15 was also the date of Siemens’s Innovation Day 2017 in Munich, with a theme of “Unlock the Potential with Digitalization.” The event is part press conference, part analyst briefing, and part promotion, showcasing the company’s capabilities and customers while providing progress reports. “We believe it’s been paying off, what we have done in the last two years [since the first Innovation Day],” said Kaeser, citing revenues of €5.2 billion from digital technologies (software and digital services) in fiscal year 2017 — a 20% increase over the previous year.

“We’ve been investing a lot of resources,” Kaeser continued, including attention, money, and time helping customers improve their companies. Of the billions that Siemens spent on R&D last year, “the digital factory has gotten the lion’s share of the R&D investment, and it pays off — with outgrowing competition, with increasing margins — and we continue to heavily invest,” Kaeser said.

Kaeser announced that MindSphere will soon be available on three of “the big cloud service platforms”: the current SAP option will be joined by Amazon Web Services in January and, around April 2018, Microsoft Azure as well. This development is important to MindSphere’s operation and to Siemens customers’ confidence in the platform, the company believes. Kaeser explained as follows: “This [MindSphere] platform, it starts with connecting devices, which is complex as can be; you really have to maintain and update your devices in the field, cybersecurity is a big issue ... The next thing is, once you are sitting on the data, you want to store them, and this is about big data storage and a massive amount of number crunching … you need massive processing power, so we need to run on the best cloud services.”

IoT to Feed Design Improvements

The promise for CAD users is that data collected from machines, buildings, and other creations during use will become a gold mine of accurate, real-time performance feedback, quickly providing insights into how designs can be improved. As the image below illustrates, development is not the only phase of creation where this information can be leveraged.

Siemens CTO Roland Busch lauded the power of this data in a comment about his company’s minority equity investment in Bentley Systems: “Bentley helps us, really, in the space of the digital twin for infrastructure … it’s building a digital twin of the product, a digital twin of the manufacturing site where you are going to run it, bring that in the real world together, monitor it, run it with MindSphere, analyze the data, and all of what you learn you can bring back into your product and make it better, bring back to the manufacturing line and make it better, so that you are improving at a much, much faster speed — driving productivity much, much faster. We can do that for manufacturing, as you know; we are expanding that now into the infrastructure.”

Promised benefits don’t necessarily entice users to embrace change, however. Hagen Gehringer of Bausch+Ströbel, which designs filling and packaging systems for the pharmaceutical industry, recommended that companies trying to digitalize their processes start with a select few employees. “We have chosen [engineers] who are willing and enthused about the new technology … we test in the pilot group, and we make the other people interested in what they are doing, and then we transfer it back,” he explained. “The most important thing is we have to change the mindset, because in the past, we were always designing in the real world, and from time to time we were thinking of the virtual world; what we have to do in the future [is] we have to design in the virtual world, and then if necessary, dig back in the real world.”

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