Software platforms that provide specific “apps” for industrial applications was the theme of the week for me. I received a better look at Siemens’ Mindsphere along with a competitor’s app that I’ll discuss in a later post. Tuesday and Wednesday this week found me in Las Vegas at the 2016 Automation Summit—Siemens US users group. There were many sessions and quite a lot of training for customers.

The keynote was given by Klaus Helmrich, a member of the managing board of Siemens. He continued the theme repeated during Hannover Messe—digitalization. His point was that digitalization enhances competitiveness, time to market, flexibility, quality, efficiency. You design in the virtual world; take it to real world; receive feedback from real world to the virtual world to assure design is current to reality.

Although I’ve been told that Europeans are not fond of the term “ecosystem” in this context, Helmrich uttered the “e-word”. The Digital Enterprise Ecosystem enables customers toe realize their wish to interact with the production process making their product.

Memorable quote—“using software is key to realization of Industry 4.0.”

Maintenance and Reliability

Terry O’Hanlon CEO of and Uptime magazine invited me to a panel presentation he was on. From the description in the program, I’d probably have never looked a second time. Plus, I’m not fond of panels. Usually each one talks for 10-15 minutes and then there is 10-15 minutes at the end for questions.

This one went against that grain. Each panelist gave about 2 minutes of their interest in the topic, then moderator Bob Vavra, editor of Plant Engineering magazine, proceeded directly to asking questions of the panel. The panel did not just sit back but each chimed in appropriately.

They did hope to hold questions to the final 15-20 minutes of the 105-minute session, but the audience would have none of that and started waving hands to ask follow up questions soon after the beginning.

The other panelists were Jagannath Rao, President of Siemens Industry Services; Brian Clemons, process automation manager at Dow Chemical; and, Keith Jones, of Prism Systems—an integrator.

It was a wide-ranging discussion. So, here are some quotes that capture some of the flavor of the discussion.

O’Hanlon, “What maintenance delivers is capacity.”

Clemons, “We bring a new process into the plant, but we’re still dealing with the same people.”

Clemons, Reliability usually talks MTBF, but what is really important is MTTR (repair or recover).

Rao, “Technology Suppliers more than component sellers, but look at larger solution.”

Jones, “Big data going to analytics is a difficult proposition—both doing and defining.”

O’Hanlon, “You need sensors that are appropriate to the health of the asset. That’s why you need predictive analytics.”

Jones, “IoT increasing traffic on network is a burden and sometimes affects production.”

O’Hanlon, “Reliability as a function of the business case.”

Data Analytics — Mindsphere

MindSphere is Siemens Cloud for Industry built on SAP HANA. It is a platform, which Siemens, customers, and OEMs can build software apps (App Store) on top of.

Speakers acknowledged that some customers are still uncertain about the cloud, but the cloud is where analytics run.

One app already developed is control loops. Customers can connect selected control loops, send data to cloud, analytics check for status of tuning and other things. The customer gets a dashboard. The analytics can even see stiction in valves.

This solution (like many) moves the software expenditure from CapEx to OpEx (note: look for this as a theme for how technology suppliers are beginning to price software).

This formula:
Domain Knowhow + Context Knowhow + Analytics Knowhow = Customer Value
is the foundation of app development.

Siemens has a product “MindConnect” secure data acquisition box. This is a similar idea to the Dell IoT Gateway or Advantech. These edge computing and communicating engines are the current IoT trend.

Current apps include:
Drivetrains (gearboxes)
Machine Tools
Control Loops

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