by Peter Thorne
Siemens is a global giant with 377 thousand employees and 82.9 billion euro turnover. Yet it can describe its strategy in three words: Electrification, Automation, Digitalization.
Of these, digitalization is the new kid on the block. Electrification started in 1847 when Werner von Siemens invented the pointer telegraph in a garage in Berlin and founded the Siemens company. Automation’s roots are deep but the delivery of the first Siemens programmable logic controller 50 years ago provides the baseline for its modern automation business. Similarly, Siemens has had software activity since computers were invented, but the current digitalization strategy started with the $3.5 billion acquisition of UGS in 2007.
Since then, Siemens has spent a further $8 billion or so on companies to fill-out its vision for industry software, a major part of its digital factory unit. In an August 2018 press conference, CEO Joe Kaiser detailed Vision 2020+, positioning digital factory in a new digital industries organization of about 78 thousand employees with expected revenues of about 14 billion euro.
At its analyst conference in Boston, Massachusetts, 28-30 August 2018, Siemens reported double digit (indeed, “…mid-teens…”) organic software growth. The scope covered by its industry software is very large, and understood by many people as CAD, CAM, CAE, PLM, ALM, EDA, MOM, IoT, HMI. However, early in his presentation, Tony Hemmelgarn, President and CEO of the Siemens PLM software unit, pointed out that the boundaries around these old labels are dissolving, and these engineering software capabilities are merging into “…new, more transformational solutions.”
Emphasizing this solutions point, Siemens chose to replace a structure used in many prior analyst conference agendas – review by product line and industry – with presentations focused on the way in which Siemens software interoperates to handle real examples of initiatives and opportunities found in industry.
These sessions can be grouped into nine topic areas:
- Closed loop digital twin, using Tronrud as an example of planning, engineering, automation and machinery
- Generative engineering, using Hackrod as an example of additive manufacting and a set of new concepts for automotive business in addition to generative design
- Electrical-electronic integration, describing advanced systems engineering concepts applied to electrical design, with references and examples such as ASML, Bell Helicopter, Boeing and Visteon
- Autonomous driving and automotive electrification, covering the necessary range of simulation, the need for virtual validation of tens of thousands of traffic scenarios, the role of combinations of virtual and real development with ‘x-in-the-loop’ simulation environments, as well as handling the rapid complexity growth of electrical and electronic installations with the growth of sensors and driver-assist functions, with references from Tesla and GM
- Additive manufacturing, including design and simulation, turbine part examples from Siemens Power and Gas, and also acquisition by Siemens of Material Solutions and the planned December 2018 opening of a new Material Solutions factory with 60 AM machines as a stepping stone to serial production.
- Digital Factory, using digital twin examples from W.L. Gore and KUKA
- Industrial IoT/Edge, showing Ham-let’s experience designing, producing and delivering Industrial IoT connected versions of its precision valve product line
- Electronics manufacturing, reporting Computrol’s experience of new product introduction
- Cloud, reporting 100% solution coverage, and certifications on AWS and Azure and referencing Edwards Life Sciences.
The delegates at this conference, industry analysts, are by profession required to be cold, analytical, there’s-doubt-until-you-show-me-the-evidence type of people. But I suspect that the presentation from Siemens eAircraft unit broke through this veneer to uncover an underlying level of enthusiasm for engineering achievement. In just over nine months, the Siemens eAircraft team, using Siemens PLM software, was able to develop a new variant of their SP260D electric motor delivering a new power density for a motor of this size of 5.9 kW per kg. This power-to-weight metric means little until you look at comparable industrial motors (1 kW per kg) or production electric car motors (2 kW per kg). The SP260D is used in the Extra 330LE demonstrator aircraft, which has set electric aircraft speed and climbing records. The charts showing the close match between simulation forecasts, and measured results for temperature, voltage, current and torque for this motor helped justify some of the visions for the new engineering development workflows which will emerge as new software tools, especially holistic simulation, become available.
Siemens industry software deserves more than a few words to summarize its scope and directions, but my take-aways from this conference pick out five points:
- The value of ‘old’ simulation disciplines such as structural, thermal, fluid being brought together in one place.
- The extent to which the value of a digital-twin is enhanced when it is possible to use the twin to handle ‘what-if’ questions. This has always been the case for digital twins in design, it’s intrinsic to CAD. However, an Industrial IoT digital twin could handle, for example, only connected sensor data, and still do a good job supporting condition monitoring and predictive maintenance applications. But a more complete digital twin opens up new possibilities of operational optimization.
- The appearance of some relatively small companies on stage to explain their experiences of Siemens industry software helped confirm Siemens is able to reach these companies as well as compete for business at giant corporations
- With its planned acquisition of Mendix, Siemens aims to transform the creation of Industrial IoT apps written for its Mindsphere Industrial IoT operating system. Initial goals are to improve time and cost. But the vision is to enable business people to create the apps they need without help from software people. Can the sort of capabilities established in end-user BI systems for database reporting (drag-and-drop, select, set options,…) work for data from a fleet of connected products?
- The fact that leaders whose roots are in acquired companies (e.g. UGS, LMS, Mentor) appear to be cooperating and driving new integrated concepts in model based systems engineering across the domains and disciplines they cover.
All of which allows me to suggest a three word summary of what Siemens is offering the industry software world: momentum and energy.