Market moves of Siemens, Rockwell quicken digital manufacturing drum beat
Industry watchers didn’t have to wait long to see what market moves the Siemens Automation & Drives (A&D) acquisition of UGS in the spring might engender among leading competitors in the automation and the product life-cycle management (PLM) space.
Dassault’s Delmia division announcement in early December that it was partnering with Rockwell is being seen as a smart move for both companies, giving the duo an interesting competitive distinction for its bidirectional synchronization capability—at least for the short term.
Together, the Siemens and the Delmia/Rockwell announcements do significantly advance the emergence of digital manufacturing—all to the good of end users.
“Delmia is doing what Siemens did in acquiring UGS, only they’re not buying—they’re partnering to offer concurrent engineering,” says Gisela Wilson, analyst at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. Both seek to enable “work with product data in development and commissioning of production lines, before the product is available, greatly reducing product delivery life cycles,” she says.
Dick Slansky, senior analyst with Dedham, Mass.-based ARC Advisory Group, deemed the Siemens/UGS acquisition at the time “a real game changer.”
“There’s basically two main players now,” says Slansky. “There are a few twists that are different with what Delmia is doing in terms of tighter integration with Rockwell RS5000, but overall it’s a lot like what Tecnomatix can do in terms of outputting control code for the Siemens S7 control system.”
|Digital manufacturing supports the virtual commissioning of production equipment based on information from design systems, accelerating the concept-to-market process cycle.|
Delmia and Rockwell share a common object-oriented, model-based approach they position as a key differentiator in mapping bidirectional information exchange between platforms. “Both companies independently developed compatible technologies… that enable either to develop an object and pass it to be synchronized in the other’s object library,” says Delmia VP Patrick Michel “Bidirectional information flow shrinks development time between the engineering and the control systems.”
Wilson says Siemens is likely to respond with improvements of its own. “The distinction that Delmia and Rockwell cite may be true, but it’s not likely to be that way for long,” says Wilson.
“Siemens is in a class by itself,” Delmia’s Michel concedes. “It acquired UGS to get digital manufacturing capability. Delmia, however, is partnering with all automation players.”
In addition to Rockwell, Delmia has partnerships with Omron and Schneider, among others.
“Delmia is more agnostic,” Slansky states. “The question is will Siemens [with its UGS capability] want to become more agnostic to be able to work with more PLC vendors.”
Perhaps as important, will other automation vendors want to partner with a direct competitor such as Siemens? The challenge to both Siemens and Delmia/Rockwell, Slansky says, will be building market awareness. “Once you get past the big automotive OEMs, there’s not yet a lot of understanding about the value of digital manufacturing.”