Siemens Industry Automation
Foreword (Ulrich Sendler)
What do we expect the manufacturing industry of the future to look like? How far will the process of digitization advance in design and planning offices, factory halls and production lines? What will be left at the end? Or at least within the foreseeable medium-term future?
With its many acquisitions and copious new developments over recent years, the Siemens Industry Automation Division has made indelible marks on this process of transformation. Interpreting their impact is not as straightforward as it might seem. Even internally within Siemens, there is undoubtedly a need to take stock.
This article is penned by a marketing specialist, and represents the current viewpoint of decision makers at Siemens.
The special role played by Siemens as a supplier of systems for product development, product planning and production automation, and as a provider of PLM, MES and SCM lends this article a special relevance also to the PLM community at large. It is designed to promote better understanding of the long-term objectives of Siemens’s drive towards integration.
From vision to reality
Author: Josef Schindler, Marketing, Industrial Automation Systems
Around 30 years ago, the concept of Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) was envisaged with the aim of establishing integral digitally networked and supported production processes. The strategy behind it has evolved into what is more loosely known today as the “digital factory”. Although some ground has been covered on the road towards this goal, we are still far from reaching complete, seamless information technology integration and data harmonization from the top floor to the shop floor – an achievement which is expected to produce a quantum leap in productivity through the enormous acceleration of corporate processes. For some years already, the strategy pursued by the Siemens Industry Automation Division has been aimed towards facilitating just this kind of extensive integration. Under the heading “Digital Enterprise”, work has been ongoing to achieve the seamless integration of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) with Supply Chain Management (SCM) and already established Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems.
Correct information – represented in the technology world by data – forms the most important basis for correct decisions or functioning processes. At the end of the value chain, we encounter terms such as economy, quality, sustainability. These concepts too can be portrayed in terms of data but are also influenced by data. Something that may sound perfectly plausible at first emerges in practice as a highly complex data network. The supplier who finds a homogenous way to link this network stands the best chance of prevailing against the competition. But in the tough day-to-day world of industrial practice, this type of abstract clarity is rarely found. In reality, different aspects of production are connected by interfaces – data transfer points or language barriers if you will – which first have to be overcome.
To achieve integral, efficient processes and drive operational economy to its most extreme limits, a number of obstacles have to be overcome. Siemens is up among the visionary corporations which decided to embrace the goal of integrated product and production life cycles right from an early stage. The age of data integration on the automation level was heralded as long ago as 1996 with Totally Integrated Automation (TIA). In the meanwhile, control technology processes on the field level, the operations control level and the management level have been perfected and harmonized to a degree which users have come to appreciate enormously. Because their systems – from the sensor through the controller to the central control console – all talk a common language. Programming is based on Step7, communication works through Profinet, Profibus and AS-Interface, and characteristics such as diagnostic capability, safety and sturdiness are seamlessly integrated in the system. The success enjoyed by the TIA (engineering) portal launched a good year ago is the direct result of this highly broad-based TIA strategy and its consistent implementation.
Cohesive integration as the basis for success
The TIA success story has now permeated the whole of industry. Siemens is working at full steam to harmonize the remaining interfaces in turn and to integrate them into a unified, seamless and open-ended system. Like a modern bridge-builder, the electrical corporation is working from both ends at once – and also from the middle – to close the gaps in this “digital bridge” which still exist between the field level and the highest development / planning level within industrial manufacturing corporations.
What this means in practice is that already today, the entire spectrum of automation hardware can be programmed on a common data basis. This ability is key to the achievement of efficient processes and has since become a USP (unique selling proposition) for Siemens. This applies equally to position sensors, contactors, frequency converters, electrical drives, distributed peripherals, I/O devices, HMI (Human Machine Interface) and controls: Within this type of Siemens system, they all speak a common language.
On the visualization level with the SCADA system Simatic WinCC and through the Simatic PCS7 process control system, all the necessary information flows to the management level – seamlessly without media breaks. This allows users to achieve optimum processes, unambiguous diagnoses and rapid process optimization.
MES solutions for sustainable product improvement
Siemens took its next key step towards integrated product and production life cycles in the year 2001 with the acquisition of SPA in Genoa, Italy. By acquiring the Cube manufacturing engineering system (MES), Siemens began work to process so-called level three production data and to prepare it for management decisions. This entails using automation systems to forward data generated from production processes, including also transaction-relevant data, via the MES to the ERP system. The considerable resources since invested by Siemens into driving forward this product portfolio are reflected in the continuous further expansion of its own in-house software developments alongside further acquisitions. The Siemens MES software suite has since been rebranded Simatic IT, and developed to a point where it allows company-wide access in real time to all production process information. This finely scalable software system conforms with the ISA S95 standard. In this context, meticulous care is taken at Siemens to ensure that in-house products feature open standard interfaces, thus enabling customers to integrate so-called “legacy components” as well as software components from competitors at any time. More than ever before, today the key is to ensure data consistency from the concept through to the finished product. If this can be achieved, many processes no longer need to run in series but can be performed largely in parallel, opening up scope for faster optimization. This not only saves time, it also enhances quality and sustainably improves economy. One essential prerequisite is the ability to transmit data to the MES systems without loss of time or information. Needless to say, the same applies in the opposite direction, in other words from the MES back down to the industrial TIA world described above.
On this decision-making level, companies like Siemens already have the ability to transfer production data from the factory floor to MES systems, proving that system integration today has evolved far beyond the confines of the hardware. With its software integration strategy, the corporation is responsible for enabling substantial gains in the value adding process which are already being enjoyed by users the world over. Programs such as “Comos Plant Engineering” and the Simatic IT Suite referred to above form the central bridge pillar between the automation level and the areas of planning and production.
Linking product development and production - or PLM and SCM
Another key step towards the achievement of product and production life cycle integration was taken by Siemens in 2007. By taking over the UGS Corporation, Siemens made the momentous step of becoming one of the leading suppliers of Product Lifecycle Management Software (PLM). Managed as an independent globally active business unit, the company continues to expand and develop PLM software solutions with a tremendously driven and consistent approach. As part of the Siemens group, it now benefits from additional software functionality and software products for integration over the entire life cycle, from product creation and manufacture through to maintenance.
Today, products from the ‘Siemens PLM Software’ business unit are used by over 70,000 customers, benefitting some seven million users. Concrete products include Teamcenter, NX, Solid Edge, PLM Components, Velocity Series, Tecnomatix. Within NX, for instance, CAD, CAM and CAE systems allow the rapid transformation of product ideas into concrete product designs.
As the data backbone for all PLM tools, Teamcenter provides the necessary connection data, including also such elements as the bill of material, bill of process and bill of people.
Having since taken over the American corporation “Vistagy”, Siemens has now become one of the leading names in the field of design and simulation of composite material parts. Carbon fiber-reinforced materials play a key role today in fields such as aviation, wind turbine construction and ship building, and in the near future will also feature largely in the construction of electric vehicles.
Simple detection of error sources
Siemens cherishes the long-term objective of networking the data worlds of product design and production seamlessly and homogenously across their entire breadth through the bridging function of MES. This will provide the capability to realize the “Digital Enterprise Platform” vision. In this context, particular importance is attached to what is known as “closed-loop data integration”. What this means in practice is that information generated during production can be analyzed in real time and the results used to improve upstream process steps and so optimize both the product and the production process. If for instance quality problems were detected at certain points, this capability would mean that not only the production process development, but also product development and even design processes could respond immediately. This type of ability for immediate cause-specific intervention could bring substantial economic benefits for a company.
The degree to which this type of data integration is able to function already today is demonstrated by Siemens in its Amberg electronic factory, where a workforce of around 2,4000 produces industrial controls and control systems to the most stringent of standards. Here, as the result of many years of painstaking integration work, PLM, MES and naturally TIA have already been successfully networked down to the field level.
Cooperation with suppliers can also be substantially improved by the homogenous networking of data on the PLM and SCM levels. By creating a common data base, all development partners and suppliers are drawing on the same information, allowing them to develop the best possible solutions working in parallel. Materials management systems such as SAP naturally also need to be capable of seamless integration in order to support transactions relating to all corporate processes.
Comprehensive integration from automation through MES to PLM
With its comprehensive Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) product offering, Siemens has created the technical foundation for consistent data management and communication within the industrial automation environment. By adding on a Manufacturing Execution System (MES), the company has also created a link through to the management level of the office world. Interlocking with PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) systems will now be the next stage in a seamlessly integrated solution which includes also the top management level. Under the bottom line, all those involved in a production chain– right down to the subcontractors - will benefit from a seamless database, which will help reduce costs and errors, save time and so enhance the economy across all processes. Users are paying close attention to the gradual implementation of this vision of integrated product and production life cycles, as they are already able to envisage the benefits and the potential which can be leveraged as a result of completely digitized process flows. The coming years will see the further expansion of data integration and communication between systems. This will mean that data – where necessary and useful – will be seamlessly available from the lowest field level on the factory floor through MES to PLM right up to the top management level at any time. The control of processes will be faster, more transparent and more flexible. With its takeover offer to IBS AG, a small German quality software company, Siemens has further reinforced its position in the field of MES.
Anyone who keeps an interested eye on the developments in ERP software will have an idea of the enormity of the task Siemens has undertaken. The time scales we are looking at here range somewhere between 20 and 30 years. Not only does this call for a sustainable long-term strategy which must be maintained even times are tough, but in addition establishing this type of business demands the input of enormous financial resources.