Obama and Merkel at HannoverEchos of Industrie 4.0 were present around the Hannover Messe 2016, but times have moved on since 2013. The word of the week was digital–in many forms, such as digitalization, digital enterprise, digital factory.

Chancellor Merkel and President Obama (two friends says the headline) were not digital, however, as they made a grand tour through parts of the trade fair highlighting the latest manufacturing technologies. And when the US President appears, the rest of the world stops. There were a reported 10,000 police in Hannover. The building I was in during the tour was surrounded by police, we could see snipers on the buildings around us, and we were locked in from 9 am until 1 pm. Fortunately, we had food.

Fortunately also for Siemens, they had a “captive” audience for their press conference for an extra couple of hours.

Siemens captured a large chunk of my time in Hannover. (Disclaimer, two divisions of the company paid some of my expenses.) Because I had some good contacts, I was able to get many interviews and looks behind the scenes. But the main reason I spent much time there was that Siemens had much to show.

Digital Manufacturing Vision

The digital manufacturing vision that Anton Huber laid out for me at the ARC Forum in Orlando in 2006 has progressed considerably. With a backbone of Internet of Things technologies and adding in digital everywhere, Siemens revealed the benefits of bringing everything together.

Take a tour through automobile production, for example. Sebastian Israel took me through the process from designing in Siemens CAD solution (NX), to production planning and engineering (TeamCenter, both from Siemens (PLM). The process continues through designing and engineering the line–digitally of course. Because it is digital first, engineers can simulate the line removing constraints and interferences before any steel is cut.

Integrating the automation and controls to the process is the hardest part of the system. Siemens has begun this process. It does acknowledge much work remains in this area. Mechatronics integration is well along. Things do not stop here, though. TeamCenter helps with change management. TiA Portal enables control engineering collaboration. The process feed the execution level (MES) for production scheduling and other functions including feeding the resource manager of CNC tools to help select the proper next tool to use. This integrates into services–data is usable for such analyses as predictive maintenance.

So far as I can tell, no other company comes close to the ability to do all this within its own umbrella. Although remarkable for what I’d call the “old” Siemens, the “new” Siemens actually uses partnerships to fill the gaps in the system. This is not the same company I met 15 years ago.

I congratulate Mr. Huber for the vision and seeing it through to its current state.

Other Siemens News

Rihab Ehms led a personal tour on TIA Portal Engineering Software. This product continues to develop and flesh out gaps. The first glimpse from a few years ago was pretty much that of an Integrated Development Environment for programming control. Slowly, the Siemens team added drives, HMI, and now motion control and motor management. Also included is energy management. It is a multiuser environment enabling broad collaboration among engineers using a “smart library” concept and common data management.

Ulli Klenk, next on my list, discussed Industrial Additive Manufacturing. I mentioned some interviews I’ve had on additive manufacturing research at North Carolina State. A Duke grad, he was a bit disappointed. His passion showed on the ways Siemens is helping customers with additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing). Leveraging expertise from Siemens PLM and working with partner machine builders, the company has systems working in a number of application.

Not part of this exhibit but thoroughly fascinating as well, Local Motors sent an engineer to participate in the Siemens booth showing how the company is building a complete car (and now a minibus) using additive manufacturing methods.

The paper industry faces challenges as we all reduce the amount of paper we use. It is searching for alternatives to its product lines. Therefore the broadening of the industry term to “fiber.” Siemens is there, of course, to  blend its process control, drive systems, simulation, and predictive maintenance capabilities. Dr. Hermann Schwarz explained the technologies and then said these technologies will help the paper industry broaden into the fiber industry.

One last technology that I didn’t tour but heard much about is MindSphere. Partnering with SAP HANA, this is an industrial cloud providing data driven services and eventually an App Store so that customers can wring the most value possible from their own data.

Not a Chance

When this vision was explained in 2006 and 2007, I didn’t think there was any chance Siemens could pull it off. The pieces are coming together well. They still have much work to do, but customers can certainly benefit right now with increased manufacturing flexibility, product quality, and efficiency.


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