CHICAGO, Illinois—With projections of about 25% of the world’s economy being digitally driven by 2020 and 1 trillion connected devices in operation by 2030, the need to digitalize is critical for business value, says Raj Batra, president of Siemens USA’s Digital Factory Division.
According to Batra, simulation is one of the greatest advantages that digitalization brings thanks to the efficiency and transparency it provides.
“We want to make manufacturing a competitive weapon,” Batra says, pointing to all the Fortune 500 companies that have disappeared since 2000 because they did not embrace digitalization. The global tech powerhouse has invested more than $10 billion in automation and software acquisitions since 2007 to create an integrated value chain for machine tool and manufacturing companies—from design to services—including software and hardware. Siemens says products can be designed, simulated, planned and validated virtually, saving up to 50% of engineering time.
Siemens hopes the MindSphere, its cloud-based, open Internet-of-Things operating system platform, will create a collaborative virtual “ecosystem” that will help companies derive actionable insights from the heaps of digital data they get from machines. The platform can run Siemens’ own apps, like Manage MyMachines, as well as apps created by OEMs and third party developers.
Sascha Fischer, business manager for Siemens Machine Tool Systems, believes innovations like this can help solve the problem of finding new professionals interested in businesses like engineering manufacturing. “Digitalization is making machines catchy again,” Fischer says.
To entice a new talent pool, Siemens recently expanded its Technical Application Center in Elk Grove, Illinois. The center features a machine lab for hands-on learning, a Kuka robotic center, and two classrooms for instructor-led, hands-on training for the company’s technology systems. Siemens also offers virtual training in the form of free professional-series webinars available to anyone, which are presented monthly and archived in an online library.
Siemens’ Lifelong Educational Advantage Program (LEAP) is also working with schools across the country to train instructors on Siemens systems at no cost. The goal is to help students obtain a competitive advantage within the manufacturing industry after graduation. Siemens is currently working with more than 450 academic institutions in the U.S. at all levels, from high school to large universities.
For the MRO space, Siemens already works with many of the big players in aerospace, including Boeing, Airbus, Lockheed Martin and Safran—and Fischer says being on top of innovation is mandatory with these companies.
“If we don’t work with these end customers at a very early stage, we’re losing time. If we wait for them to tell us a new technology is needed, we’re losing one or two years. Every second is important,” Fischer says.
As an example, engine makers like Rolls-Royce, Pratt & Whitney and GE Aviation simulate the engine building process on Siemens’ NX product lifecycle management (PLM) software and verify materials used—including additive materials, which are becoming common within aerospace. To take advantage of this, Siemens recently partnered with Stratasys to integrate its Digital Factory Suite with Stratasys’ additive manufacturing systems.
According to Siemens, digitalization can unlock previously unavailable potential—both in terms of business productivity and competitiveness, as well as bringing an interest back to manufacturing. Batra says the gap with people leaving the workforce can be an opportunity to bring in new, young talent with an interest in digitalization.
“The gap can be a positive if you make it a positive,” Batra says.