Digitalization benefits for the machine tool industry

Machine tool users and manufacturers can benefit from digitalization. Ramona Schindler and Chris Pollack, Siemens Machine Tool Business, answer questions related to digitalization, related hardware and software, and how the machine tool industry can augment productivity.


MindSphere by Siemens is an open operating system for IoT, allowing a customized platform for recording and analyzing large volumes of plantwide production data. Courtesy: SiemensRamona Schindler and Chris Pollack, Siemens Machine Tool Business, talked to CFE Media and answered questions related to machine tool digitalization, related hardware and software, and how the machine tool industry can augment productivity.

Question: What kinds of products fall into a digitalization portfolio, and how do those products differ from prior generations of machine tool hardware and software?

Answer: From the machine builder perspective, the digitalization portfolio includes all products from the machine concept up to additional services. From the end-customer perspective, digitalization can entail everything from product design all the way through the services one can offer with their products. The new generation of products differs in the seamless cooperation and joint usage of data that enable the user to work more efficiently without doubling the work.

Q: How can digitalization help machine tool builders boost production flexibility and efficiency? Do you have any quantifications related to engineering hours, time-to-market, or other measures of competitiveness?

A: Machine tool builders profit from the easy adaption of a digital twin of their machines to customer requirements. The more an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) can create, test, and quantify in the virtual world, the less time the OEM needs to build the actual machine. By knowing all about the machine, the OEM can support the end-customer by finding the best way to operate the machine tool, while helping the end-customer gain more productivity.

Q: By linking the digital and real worlds, we will be able to open up new, significant possibilities to boost productivity and develop totally new business models?

A: Simulating production before sending the order to the shop floor helps the shop floor manager make smart, better choices regarding machine uptime, downtime, and overall production costs. New business models can be created by selling machine uptime (instead of machines) or by being a producer without owning a single machine.

Q: Do digitalization opportunities impact small, medium, or larger businesses differently? How?

A: Digitalization impacts every business. Small companies can certainly benefit from the intelligence of the cloud. Medium businesses can use digitalization to differentiate themselves from their competitors; while for large enterprises, digitalization is the needed boost to get their production even one step closer to perfection.

Q: What role does software integration have in digitalization?

A: Digitalization is not a single concept, one company, or one brand. Digitalization is the cooperation of existing programs, big players, and small startups working together to do the best for the customer.

Q: How do digitalization opportunities differ for machine tool builders and machine operators?

A: The focus of the OEM is on building the machine tool that best fits customer requirements as fast as possible and with fewer resources. The goal of the machine operator is to produce as many parts as quickly as possible and with the highest quality. For that reason, it's important for an OEM to know more about the entire machine tool, whereas a machine operator needs to have more insight into the production process.

Q: Do cloud-based services fit into digitalization and, if so, how?

A: Cloud-based services are becoming the backbone for mainstream digitalization. Such services allow OEMs the ability to reach out to customers without the need for creating complex infrastructure themselves. We see all kinds of new preventative maintenance services that machine builders can now provide to their customers that work in real-time; for example, the ability to detect the potential of a problem before it actually occurs.

Q: Since few machine shops have one vendor's hardware or software, will the proliferation of cloud services help ease integration or create another level of interoperability?

A: The only way for cloud services to truly be successful is if they need to transcend the machine tool controls manufacturer. This is why we have developed tools that will not only work with our controls, but also our competitors. These are universal applications where customers will certainly benefit across the entire production line.

Q: Machine shops have been well aware of Big Data and data analytics for years, by other names. Are next-generation analytics different and how, specifically?

A: Next-generation analytics use the rising power of calculation and the knowledge of the community. They do not focus on single points of production; they see the production process as a whole topic to analyze.

Q: Does artificial intelligence (AI) software fit into digitalization and, if so, how?

A: More data results in higher complexity that can only be analyzed with the help of intelligent networks and intelligent machines. For that reason, AI helps to minimize the human effort by letting the machines talk to each other on their own level, and with that, reducing the amount of mistakes.

Q: As everything is more integrated, how is cybersecurity protecting intellectual property (IP)?

A: IP will always be a very important topic when talking about digitalization. With the awareness of the customer and the standards of the industry, security will be expected.

Q: What can digitalization do for machine tool users and manufacturers?

A: Digitalization is a journey that cannot be done tomorrow. You have to have courage to explore new paths-to fail fast and to start even faster with new ideas. Digitalization helps manufacturers on these paths because, when everything speaks to each other, problems are visible even faster and new, great ideas can be verified within seconds.

Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media,


KEYWORDS: Digitalization, OEM


  • Digitalization can entail everything from product design all the way through the services one can offer with their products.
  • Cloud-based services allow original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) the ability to reach out to customers without the need for creating complex infrastructure.
  • Digitalization helps manufacturers and OEMs find potential problems quickly.

Consider this

What additional benefits can digitalization provide for manufacturers not covered in the Q&A?

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