Systems link product design, purchasing, sales, and service inside the intelligent factory

In a high-profile speech at the Hannover Trade Fair in Germany in April, Klaus Wucherer, a member of Siemens' senior executive board, said the company is finally poised to deliver on the promise of a digital factory, which it first envisioned two decades ago. Wucherer also said that vision has been enhanced somewhat thanks to recent technological advances.

07/01/2007


In a high-profile speech at the Hannover Trade Fair in Germany in April, Klaus Wucherer, a member of Siemens' senior executive board, said the company is finally poised to deliver on the promise of a digital factory, which it first envisioned two decades ago. Wucherer also said that vision has been enhanced somewhat thanks to recent technological advances.

“What is affordable today with PCs used to be unprofitable with mainframe computers,” said Wucherer, who heads up Siemens' industrial solutions and services division, as well as its automation and drives division. “Moreover, database technology for the joint management of individual programs has reached a much higher performance level, enabling today what we could only have dreamt of in the 1980s.”

Siemens based its digital factory vision on insider knowledge of what manufacturers needed to improve productivity, according to Wucherer. As a company that makes equipment ranging from motors, pumps, and drives to household appliances and railway locomotives, Siemens reckoned it was closer than most vendors to understanding the needs of manufacturers. Wucherer says this insight fueled the success of Siemens industrial automation solutions such as the SIMATIC IT manufacturing execution package, industrial controllers, and other devices.

When Siemens launched its Totally Integrated Automation architecture back in 1996, the company felt it was poised to leverage its understanding of manufacturers' needs to deliver on its digital factory vision. By then, new technologies—specifically in the realm of systems integration—had emerged, replacing the idea of a digital factory with the “intelligent factory.”

“In contrast to the digital factory, the intelligent factory covers the entire life cycle of a production plant, linking product design, purchasing, sales, and service,” says Wucherer. “All the relevant information that different user groups need throughout the entire product life cycle will be available to them, and updated when required.”

The desire to continue that vision underpinned Siemens' $3.5-billion acquisition of leading product life-cycle management (PLM) vendor UGS earlier this year—itself bolstered by the capabilities of digital manufacturing specialist Tecnomatix Technologies, acquired in 2005. “By integrating PLM software with our product portfolio, we are providing our customers with the decisive benefit of making both the design and the production of their products more efficient—creating the basis for the intelligent factory,” says Wucherer.

More recently, at the UGS PLM Software analyst and media day held in New York City, management of Siemens Automation and Drives Group discussed the first iteration of its road map to combine UGS' capabilities with those of its Simatic IT line of supervisory control and manufacturing execution systems for combined “product and production life-cycle management based on a single data model.”





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