Analysis: Why Siemens’ purchase of UGS is good for automation

Orlando, FL—Combining the digital world with the real world via the Siemens Automation and Drives (A&D) May 4 acquisition of UGS will enhance customer efficiency and success throughout the product life cycl

By Control Engineering Staff July 17, 2007

Orlando, FL —Combining the digital world with the real world—via the Siemens Automation and Drives (A&D) May 4 acquisition of UGS promises to do—will enhance customer efficiency and success throughout the product life cycle, said Dennis Sadlowski, president and CEO of Siemens Energy & Automation . Raj Batra, vice president of the automation and motion division of Siemens Energy & Automation, suggested that present and future capabilities with UGS onboard provides an intersection of design and manufacturing unprecedented in the industrial space, via planning development, execution, and support. Sadlowski outlined huge advantages in integration of design and production, calling UGS the leader in product lifecycle management (PLM) software.

Here’s a look at the advantages involved in a fully integrated digital enterprise, based on comments from Sadlowski, Batra, and others, along with a Control Engineering discussion with John Clendening, senior vice president, corporate marketing, of the UGS PLM Software Division of Siemens A&D, during the recent 2007 Siemens Automation Summit .

Information will flow from design, into the digital factory, through functional automation engineering and PLC programming, with incremental adjustments in real-time, in each stage, taking into account what happened previously and what happens next. In the old-school scenario, a part is designed, then thrown “over the wall” to manufacturing, where engineers re-enter, re-create, re-draw, and perhaps prototype a piece before discovering that a minor design change would have saved significant manufacturing costs. Or worse, after several months of making parts, maintenance discovers some chronic tooling or machine-related malfunction could have been avoided with another minor change earlier in the process. And worse still, jobs are quoted and accepted based on months-old production or design estimates, rather than on real-time costs of materials and labor, unknowingly wasting dollars. Inter-connections in a fully digitally connected enterprise and supply chain avoids these inefficiencies, speeding time from design to shipping, allowing easier customization, by incorporating, preserving, and augmenting knowledge rapidly among and across various stages of the product life cycle and back again.

You might say it’s the energy efficiency equivalent of moving electrons back and forth in ac power, versus losses involved with one-way flow of dc power transmission. With acquisition of UGS, Siemens moves closer to the high-voltage ac ideal. Furthermore, that greater interconnectedness will require other automation and software firms to form alliances and use standards to ensure that they too offer a seamless digital stream of real-time information to enhance customer efficiency.

Sadlowski noted that “even prior to the UGS acquisition, we had developments in digital manufacturing and virtual manufacturing in the automation space,” with a significant team working to remove complexity from automation design, modeling, and factory production. UGS will be operated as another operating company and a global division within automation and drives. Sadlowski suggested that integration would include greater exchanges of information, tighter integration of products, customer lead sharing, and other workflow synergies. “We’ll continue to look at how to build bridges, easing the tension between IT and manufacturing operations. It’s an optimistic time for us and for our customers.”

Ralf Sonnefeld, business unit manager, Simatic IT, added, “We’re all very excited about UGS. MES [manufacturing execution systems], cPDM [collaborative product data management], and PLM all fit together, from product and process design to production workflow.” His unit includes prior Siemens software acquisitions IndX and Orsi.

Four points favoring UGS’ integration with Siemens are customer focus, technology and engineering focus, global resources, and openness to the acquisition, Clendening said. People within UGS have come to understand how acquisitions should happen from the inside out, he observed, since UGS bought six companies in the three years as a private equity firm prior to its purchase by Siemens. The largest of the UGS acquisitions, Tecnomatix, itself had previously acquired USDATA, among others. And UGS had more than passing knowledge of Siemens, which is among the top 20 UGS customers globally. UGS claims to create or manage 40% of the world’s 3D data.

“There’s an appreciation at Siemens for engineering mindset,” Clendening told Control Engineering, touting what he called the very powerful single source virtual advantages of software with physical advantages of a full range of hardware. “It’s really a step change in manufacturing, a seamless integration of product design and production, the melding of the virtual and physical worlds,” he adds.

Chris Colyer, worldwide industry director of manufacturing operations strategy, Microsoft , at the Siemens meeting described more integrated processes, where a customer could order a custom automobile that’s designed and shipped days later. He noted that after a Microsoft meeting with Siemens, “they got the brilliant idea to buy UGS.” Enterprise business processes are supported by pillars of integration, analytics, and collaboration, built upon security, infrastructure and plant operations, Colyer explained. These enabling technologies from Microsoft can improve software applications, giving strategy and context to information, creating plant-floor visibility, enabling people to do their jobs better, and optimizing profitability, Colyer noted.

Related Control Engineering stories include: Product lifecycle: Siemens moves to acquire UGS Corp. RFID: Tower system integrated, scalable; counts badges for Siemens, CSIA New CEO: Siemens Automation & Drives seeks larger presence in U.S.

— Mark T. Hoske , editor in chief Control Engineering Daily News