Digital Manufacturing Does It Need PLM

Digital Manufacturing Does It Need PLM

Zvi Feuer SiemensDuring my continuous research for topics such as Industry 4.0, digital manufacturing, smart manufacturing and the industrial Internet of things, I came across this Siemens PLM software blog.

In it, Zvi Feuer, Siemens PLM Software’s Senior Vice President, Digital Factory, Manufacturing Engineering Software, shares his perspective on “how Siemens helps companies worldwide to realize innovation in manufacturing.”

Feuer says, “I want to be able to offer our customers industry solutions which provide the means to turn any manufacturing operation into a high tech manufacturer. In order for us to sell not only the software but also usage methodologies And, in fact, to increase productivity with the customer and to help the customer deliver to his customers in a better and faster shape. This will obviously create opportunities for people, opportunities for jobs.”

Siemens executives have explained its digital manufacturing strategy to me for more than 10 years. And the vision has been remarkably consistent. The first conversations were even before the UGS acquisition that led to the Siemens PLM business.

PLM As ERP for Manufacturing

The blog refers to a white paper, PLM For Manufacturing, “If you are looking for ways to connect all domains of the design/build lifecycle, consider a manufacturing process management (MPM) solution. This provides an enterprise-scalable foundation that allows you to perform product design, while simultaneously optimizing manufacturing processes. This means that you can better manage lifecycle cost, meet launch dates and maintain product quality targets.”

That statement reflects Siemens thinking even before the acquisition. Is it possible to design not only the product but the manufacturing digitally, and then proof it all out digitally before even cutting the first steel.

“We believe that an MPM system that is part of an enterprise PLM system is the best way to move
forward. This will provide an environment that supports a flexible process plan capable of reflecting any changes to the product design or requirements. This might be called a single window for enterprise data management – a single application that supports the complete lifecyle of product data in an enterprise environment. The main idea is to provide users with one platform for all their data management needs. Teamcenter PLM software is the only comprehensive system that provides a platform in which users can conduct all their data management needs from engineering to manufacturing to execution.”

Is it sustainable?

This is a grand vision. It reads like Goldratt’s “The Goal” coming to life totally automated. But, there are inherent problems to the grand scheme. I have witnessed and otherwise seen the benefits of more and better information informing production/maintenance teams enabling better decisions and improvements. But to think that this could eventually happen without human intervention–I doubt that ever happens effectively.

The white paper also talks about complexities of manufacturing and software, then it argues that it would be better to put everything into one overarching software application. I would argue, along with my Lean friends, that this would just make for one very complex software application.

Any of us who have actually done automation know that when the application gets too complex, then it doesn’t work. It is not maintained. It is not understood. People begin developing their more simplified (and understandable) workarounds.

The vision is like most things I have witnessed over the past 40 years of applying technology. We develop something. We get benefits. We get over ambitious and build something cumbersome. People stop using it. We develop something simpler. People use it. And so on.

Digital manufacturing and Industrie 4.0? Interesting. The jury is still deliberating as to whether it is giving Germany the desired competitive edge in manufacturing.