Integrating PLM, ERP, MES behind the scenes

The wall is coming down between IT and manufacturing, and the result is more and better help from people who know both sides. Siemens IT Solutions & Services talks trends from the IT perspective.

By Control Engineering Staff February 14, 2008

With so much going on in shopfloor to top floor integration and product lifecycle management ( PLM ) software stretching down to interact with automation layer systems, it’s not a surprise that manufacturing companies are being courted by traditional IT services firms. The wall is coming down between IT and manufacturing, and the result is more and better help from people who know both sides.

Siemens, for example, is more than just its automation division. Siemens IT Solutions & Services is a $6.5 billion high-tech services company with 43,000 employees worldwide. And the impact of PLM on the IT business overall is “very significant,” according to managing director Scott McGurl.

Formed in 1995 to implement SAP across 200 internal IT organizations, Siemens IT Solutions & Services is now a full-blown horizontal services firm with about 4,300 employees at work in the U.S. McGurl spoke to Control Engineering in early January 2008 to discuss how IT services, and SAP applications at the enterprise level, are being integrated with manufacturing execution systems (MES).

“Siemens is a technology company. We [Siemens IT Solutions & Services] are a separate independent business unit with a strategic priority to integrate technologies from other Siemens technology departments,” McGurl explained. “I will help organizations with other MES solutions outside the scope of [Siemens’] Simatic. We go from ERP [enterprise resource planning] to shopfloor level. SAP is our focus; we don’t do any other enterprise-level systems.”

Manufacturing companies make up 38% of McGurl’s customers overall, but the company also has teams covering utilities, airports, medical facilities and other vertical markets. Within manufacturing, Siemens IT Solutions & Services teams are divided into four areas of expertise: automotive, chemicals/pharmaceuticals, general discrete industries, and general process industries.

“In the process environment, integration between shop floor and top floor is there,” McGurl said. “In discrete industries, it’s newer, but I’ve found a huge swell in demand.” Tooling systems and machines had disparate systems, but those standards are available now, he added: “The technologies are there to support integration.”

What McGurl calls “standard software”— in the form of SAP modules, MES modules and other tools—is being combined to cover a wide range of shop floor critical functions Using a best-practice automotive process as an example, he illustrated a range of functions and what solution elements were available for each (see illustration).

In general, the impact of PLM on the business overall has been “very significant,” McGurl said. “As the process market becomes more interested in the PLM market, we’ll be in the right place,” he added. “There’s not an integrated PLM, ERP, MES solution architecture out there now.” And that’s where the fact that his company is so closely aligned with Siemens technology divisions is going to benefit customers, he said.

“We have done integration between SAP and Simatic; there’s a strong solution footprint around that that we’ve implemented at other organizations,” McGurl said. And, since his corporate parent’s acquisition of UGS, “we are integrating PLM with MES.”

“I’m down in Orlando this week at Siemens PLM conference,” he said. “There’s active work going on, in excess of more than 100 people involved, and we’re linking it within ERP. We’re starting with discrete manufacturing and moving then into process manufacturing.”

–Renee Robbins, Control Engineering News Desk