Digital advantages for design, automation

Digitalization benefits include speed to market, flexibility, efficiency, consistent quality, cybersecurity, and lower lifecycle costs.

By Mark T. Hoske September 14, 2018

Digital technologies are helping companies in industrial sectors to gain wider edge over competitors, explained Raj Batra, president of the digital factory division of Siemens USA, at the Siemens Automation Summit event in June. Batra, speaking to attendees from discrete and process industries, recognized Ann Cooney, head of the process automation division of Siemens USA, early in his comments. He also noted the generational diversity among attendees, there to evolve and do better at their jobs, and thanked end-users for guiding more than 50 user conference sessions.

The focus on digitalization in this decade follows attention to automation and design and engineering over the prior two decades, Batra explained. Creating a digital twin in the value chain drives flexibility, expands efficiency and quality, and lowers time to market across process, discrete, and hybrid industries.

Combining the real world with the virtual world, through seamless integration of automation and software is complex, Batra said, but there’s a lot to gain by putting design and manufacturing environments on a common digital model.

While the automotive industry is leading, others also are improving products, production, and performance. Benefits include shorter times to market, fewer prototypes with simulation, end-to-end data management, programming of automation systems, simulation of production processes offline prior to start of construction, analysis of process data, and preemptive fault detection in product lines. 

Digitalization examples

Examples of digitalization providing competitive advantages include:

Hendrick Motorsports has 36 product launches a year, one for each NASCAR race. Expediting the innovation process is key because with an open garage policy, new ideas only remain new for a couple of weeks. Data mining and information sharing across the shop produces answers, beyond data, with nearly every component subject to finite element analysis.

Food and beverage applications need a higher level of flexibility to address greater demands for wider product variant diversity, while maintaining a consistently high standard of quality. Holistic plant simulations enable faster commissioning and new data transparency enables consistently high-quality products. When brewing and packaging 240-million cases of Corona and Modelo beer per year (part of Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch InBev), consistency is key.

Chemical industry applications need more flexibility and smaller batches. Merck, the oldest pharmaceutical company, dating to 1668, wants to be first in organic light-emitting diode (OLED) materials for displays. In a smart automation test lab, modules dock like a space station to quickly enable plug-and-produce applications.

Think again about how digitalization benefits can be applied: Speed to market, flexibility, efficiency, consistent quality, cybersecurity, and lower lifecycle costs.

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media,

ONLINE extra

Raj Batra, president of the digital factory division of Siemens USA, was among the speakers at the 2018 Global Automation and Manufacturing Summit (GAMS) on Sept. 12 in Chicago. The 2018 GAMS event is co-presented by CFE Media and Hannover Messe USA and is part of the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), which is Sept. 10-15 at McCormick Place in Chicago.