Siemens: The digital twin of the expanded value chain

The digital twin of the expanded value chain

Munich, June 5, 2017

Siemens PLM Software is now probably the largest provider of industrial software, including an IoT cloud platform. The offer includes almost everything the industry needs to digitalize its products and processes - also in the direction of the Internet of Things. At the same time, Siemens no longer sees itself as a pure software provider for the digital enterprise.

Siemens Digital Enterprise Software Suite

Picture 1: Consistent Siemens industrial software portfolio for the digital enterprise (all pictures Siemens)

In the context of the various discussions on Industrie 4.0, it is often said that we have to take the people with us. At Siemens, this statement is not a lip-confession. It is based on the realization that digitalization needs more than digitalizing subprocesses in silos. A major role is also played by the horizontal integration of all sectors involved in the value chain. The transformation to a digital enterprise is ensured by a holistic approach that addresses all aspects: employees and organization, products and production. The change in the processes and increasingly also the business models of the customers is becoming increasingly important. Siemens has developed its own method of process consulting.

Andreas Schäfer Mathias Mond Matthias Schmich

The article was based on a discussion with the Siemens PLM specialists (from the left, photos Sendler) Andreas Schäfer, Senior Director Marketing Germany, Mathias Mond, Vice President Enterprise Integration, and Matthias Schmich, Vice President Strategic Business. The article represents the position of Siemens PLM Software and has been approved by Siemens PLM Software.

Industrie 4.0 and Internet of Things (IoT) did not come as a surprise

For several years now, everyone has been talking about the digitalization of industry and the transformation that is triggered by the increasing connection and autonomization of the products and the growing importance of the data. Siemens was not really surprised by this current trend. For a number of years, the manufacturer has been on this road with customers. Even before the name Industrie 4.0 existed. Industrial software and its meaningful use are one of the central themes.

Since 2007, Siemens has invested around EUR 10 billion in company acquisitions, all of which had the same objective: to enable customers in the manufacturing industry to digitalize and integrate horizontally their entire value-added chain. From the first product idea to the analysis of the data from the use, which are reproduced over the Internet, the product, its production and the services provided with the product are to get digital twins. These twins are to represent the entire product and production life cycle. Only in this way will industrial companies be fast enough in the market. This is the only way to sell the products individually, but still as bulk goods. And this is the only way to generate additional value from the connecting of smart products and systems.

Smart Engineering bis Smart Service

Picture 2: Siemens Digitalization - Added value by connecting the virtual and the real world

System-driven product development

The more important the data gathered and analyzed by actuators, sensors, cameras and other digital components during product operation, the better is a focus that Siemens has been pursuing for a long time: systems engineering. In the future, there are hardly any products that are not software-controlled and connected. For this reason, the leading motto under which Siemens PLM supports smart engineering is: system driven product development. From the management of the requirements and the design of the system architecture through the design and the validation up to the physical realization, the entire system has to be the focus. It is, of course, the reversal of conventional engineering, in which a product was considered as an assembly of its individual assemblies and components, which were first to be developed and manufactured.

And it is the logical further development of a mechatronic product model, which is widespread among Siemens customers.

Virtuelle Planung

Picture 3: Virtual planning and protection of mechatronic product models

Of course, the management of data from software development is of central importance for system development. Here, Siemens has taken over the renowned provider Polarion Software, which focuses on application lifecycle management (ALM).

At present, the researchers – and large industry groups – are working on the method of model-based systems engineering (MBSE) in the area of ​​virtual product development. Recently, Prof. Dr. Martin Eigner, Institute for Virtual Product Development at the TU Kaiserslautern, and Urban August and Matthias Schmich from Siemens, published a whitepaper addressing this issue: "Smart products require a rethinking of product structures and processes – digitalization, integration, interdisciplinarity and federation". In other words, it is not even done with mastering systems engineering and a V-model that is as always extended. Especially since system development in the rarest cases can begin on the green field. The system model must rather support the product, its production and the operation. Siemens PLM Software is concentrating on the further development of its portfolio.

The PLM system Teamcenter is the centerpiece for multidisciplinary cooperation. It ensures the management of all data related to a product or system and arranges their relationships among each other. The comprehensive management of product data and their relationships is also the prerequisite for companies to successfully integrate the data of partners and suppliers into the system model. And it is a prerequisite for operation data from the Internet to flow back into the business processes in order to build holistic, continuous process chains. Regardless of which authoring system the involved parties are using in detail. Openness is therefore one of the most important principles for Siemens PLM.

From virtual to real product

At the same time, company acquisitions as well as the further development of the portfolio aim at a continuous expansion of the functionality in each individual application area. Andreas Schäfer: "Some believe that CAD is now a commodity, a standard that you do not have to worry about anymore. We see that quite differently. If Additive Manufacturing is to reach its full potential in the company, it depends on a CAD modeling that supports the rapidly evolving manufacturing process for plastics, metal and composites in a consistent process chain to Shopfloor in the best way. STL files were already available 25 years ago, but now, our customers with NX and the new Convergent Modeling are able to rethink the whole product creation: Seamless processing of scan data in CAD, integrated topology optimization and use of bionics for the design of new shapes and functions, as well as the automatic creation of support structures for 3D printing – these are examples that show, we continue to innovate in the CAx area." A study by the Fraunhofer Society recently confirmed that additive manufacturing processes and Industrie 4.0 have high synergy potentials in implementation.

Additive Manufacturing

Picture 4: Additive Manufacturing - rethinking the product design

It was not until mid-April 2017 that it was announced that the technology of Materialise is fully integrated into NX. These are comprehensive possibilities that prepare a product design for 3D printing. Instead of in two separate systems as before, users can now do this without data translation in a single one. In addition to Materialise, there is a wide range of strategic partnerships with machine manufacturers such as DMG MORI, Trumpf, EOS, Stratasys and HP, all of which use Siemens's additive manufacturing technology – some of them even exclusively – in their 3D printing systems.

The smarter the products and systems, the more important is the integrated electronics. The acquisition of Mentor Graphics by Siemens in March 2017 was therefore a major step towards the completion of the digital product model. Mechanics, electronics, software, the core disciplines of mechatronics, are also the core disciplines for connected and smart product systems. Keeping discipline-specific data in a common model is a decisive competitive advantage for users. For this model serves not only for geometrical representation.

It must also be tested virtually for its function before cost-intensive hardware comes into play. Simulation and calculation of all kinds – in addition to its own further developments, Siemens invested in LMS and CD-adapco in recent years. Multiphysics simulation, flow calculation, thermal analysis, magnetic field analysis, nonlinear calculation – from the results, product optimizations can be derived immediately, before and perhaps even without real prototypes. Of course, these simulation solutions can be supplemented by integrated test, analysis and documentation tools, in order to further accelerate the product development process.

The same methods described here for the product and its digital image can also be applied to production plants and their engineering. Siemens is also a provider of software for manufacturing execution system (MES) and manufacturing operation management (MOM). And with Tecnomatix, the portfolio for the digital factory, Siemens enables the planning, simulation and also the virtual commissioning of a machine or system, even on the basis of virtual machine controls.

Siemens PLM Software is a division of the Siemens division "Digital Factory". The division's offer complements the software for product development and production engineering with the software for the real control of automation. For several years, production engineering has also been integrated under the TIA portal via a single interface. The value chain of a company can thus be imaged through the digital twins for the product and the production. If a factory is re-established, a start-up is established or a cross-company project is re-established, this can be accompanied and protected from the start by complete digital twins.

Durchgängige Prozesse

Picture 5: Consistent digital processes from requirements to service

But the vast majority of Siemens customers have optimized their processes in long years and implemented a versatile and mostly heterogeneous IT landscape. The products with which they make their sales are developed and manufactured with these processes and tools. For these companies the ideal of digital twins in their innovation is helpful. However, they want to have very concrete starting points, next steps, helpful tools and methods, which help them on their way to the digital future.


This is the reason why customer consulting plays an increasingly important role for Siemens PLM software. Complexity in companies, in their processes, and in their IT infrastructure, has reached a degree where companies are looking for two things: examples of successful companies, whose "best practices" they can orient themselves to; and support for the definition and implementation of a strategy that opens the way to the future.

In a big number of projects, Siemens has developed its own method for answering these industrial requirements over the years. The focus is not on the IT systems, but on the strategic objectives and the processes of the companies. Mathias Mond explains proudly that the name of this method already indicates that it is not simply a question of advice: With "AdvantEdge", the customer is to be helped precisely to the advantage with which they are able to be ahead of the competition in the future, with which they position themselves at the very front at the extreme "edge", which makes the difference.

Methode Advantedge

Picture 6: The AdvantEdge method (source Siemens PLM Software)

Mathias Mond: "At the beginning of a project you have the consideration of the goals of the customer, its processes and its IT. Usually, then, the best practice processes developed by Siemens from the many years of experience of their employees in the companies of the respective industry are shown. A proposal will be submitted, which will then be coordinated up to the statement of work (SOW)." The processes are at the top of the agenda, to shape them according to the strategic objectives is seen as a priority task.

Only then does the question arise how these processes are best supported by IT systems. Finally, the company's organizational structure should also be considered in order to make the most of the potential of the digital twins in practice. While Siemens sees itself as the main contact partner for the processes and the IT architecture, the company is also looking for a close partnership with leading consultancy and system integrators, which have their strengths in this regard.

Matthias Schmich adds: "It is always the combination of process, organization and IT that wants to be controlled. If a large company, which has developed and manufactured a certain system for space travel for more than ten years, suddenly faces the challenge of reducing costs by 40 percent and reducing system weight by 20 percent, this is not feasible with the usual improvement approaches. It is more and more about these major changes that the industry has to deal with, which is why the CEO is more and more our first point of contact, also the CDO, the Chief Digital Officer. Not just as much the development manager or IT manager as in the past."

The projects are rather set up long-term and often extend over several months and even years. Once the objectives have been agreed, a roadmap for implementation will be drawn up. As soon as the future key users of the new processes and tools are instructed and familiar with the solution and have found the solution to be good, the orderly transfer to the users of the company is on the agenda.

Smart Service

The digitalization of the industry is most visible for customers and end-users in the partial rather dramatic change of the service. What used to mean customer service and essentially meant maintenance, spare parts service and repair, is now becoming an area where new business models are emerging from product and service data. Predictive maintenance, product usage optimization, and software updates on devices or equipment during operation are increasingly becoming the smart service the customer expects.

This is the part of the internet of things that directly affects the industry. Platforms are being built on which producers, partners and service providers connect to an eco-system that provides end-users with industrial apps. Similar to an app store on the smartphone, apps are available, ranging from the analysis of the individual device, to the comparative analysis of high numbers of connected systems, to specific services for operation, maintenance and optimization. Siemens has set up its own platform with MindSphere.

Today, Accenture, Atos, evosoft, IBM, Microsoft and SAP are among the partners that provide the infrastructure and first MindApps for the industry. The acquisition of Omneo was an important basic building block, which can be used as an approach for data analytics to analyze data of any size according to any "dimensions" and has been successfully used by numerous customers for several years.

MindConnect is the connector for devices and products to MindSphere to enable the use of the data and its analysis. With new Siemens automation devices MindConnect is already integrated. But the customer can also retrofit his machines using the connector, and without much effort.

This type of cloud usage, where data from end devices can be massively analyzed, is welcomed by many customers as added value. Siemens does not compete here with its customers, such as machine and plant builders or plant operators. This allows the customer to develop his own apps and, through MindSphere, offer his services to his end customers. The protection of the networked devices and the data involved from unauthorized access is a highly prioritized task of Siemens and its partners. Cybersecurity, Siemens regards as one of the most important tasks in this new field of activity.

"If a lawn mower, controlled via app and the Internet, stops for a while in the home garden, because the connection is interrupted, that may be acceptable. But for a production plant you have completely different availability and security requirements," says Andreas Schäfer. "However, recent cyber attacks such as" Wanna Cry "show that all networked devices allow criminal attacks that can endanger not only the device in question, but entire corporations as well. Therefore, the high priority of cybersecurity is true without restriction for all types of products."

For the use of PLM in a public cloud, the specialists from Siemens do not see any great future in the foreseeable timeframe, as opposed to data analysis or extensive calculation tasks. The operational data of products, systems and processes, which are stored and managed by the companies with Teamcenter, are too important to be placed in a public cloud. Their complexity, the complexity of the interrelated data, and their relationship to the source systems, make it still an incalculable risk for most companies to refrain from direct access.

MinSpherePicture 7: MindSphere - the cloud-based open IoT operating system from Siemens

From IT and production automation to the digital twin

Siemens has come a long way of digitalization. The beginning was the use of the programmable logic controller for the automation of production, even today the most recent products from this range of controls are the world's leading standard in the industry, whether Simatic, Simotion or Sinumerik. After the takeover of the platform Teamcenter for multidisciplinary collaboration, additional software modules were gradually added through acquisitions. Today, Siemens is able to digitalize the entire value chain of its customers. Now the circle closes.

By integrating the digital models of all parts of the process chain the product model becomes a system model which is fusing with the production engineering data and the plant's real equipment into the digital twins of the entire value chain, thus enabling closed loop control circuits. And it is these digital twins who, in turn, help companies to expand value creation: involving partners and suppliers in an IoT ecosystem, leveraging data from product, production and service for new services and business models.

If possible, complete digital twins, fed with the data of their real counterparts and equipped with learning algorithms will enable completely new smart products and product creation processes. PLM, ALM, MOM and SLM (Service Lifecycle Management) therefore provide the necessary basis for a successful use of IoT.

Horinzontale und vertikale Prozessintegration

Picture 8: Horizontal and vertical process integration through digitization

Today, Siemens is still the largest supplier of hardware and software for automation for its customers. Just as the company has the largest portfolio of industrial software on offer. But the most important difference to the competition is that Siemens helps its customers to become Digital Enterprises with the digital twins.

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