Siemens PLM Europe 2019 – Demonstrating the Future of Design and Manufacturing Interview with Maurizio Pazzini, Vice President of Technical Enablement and Product Support, Siemens Digital Industries Software, S. r. l.
Siemens Digital Industries Software presented the latest innovations to its software platforms during Siemens PLM Europe 2019 held last month in Berlin. Siemens PLM Europe is a three-day conference where users and potential users of Siemens Digital Industries Software can come together and exchange ideas and learn about the future of manufacturing software. And what a future it is. I had the opportunity during the event to sit down with Maurizio Pazzini, Vice President of Technical Enablement and Product Support, Siemens Digital Industries Software Italy, a key management position in the Manufacturing Operations Management, or MOM, business segment of Siemens Digital Industries Software. This manufacturing systems support position puts Maurizio on the front lines of every new product launch and implementations and post-implementations for Siemens end users, integrators, and users of the platform within Siemens itself.
MM: Attending the presentations here at Siemens PLM Europe, my first impression was the level of complexity that exists in the systems that you are selling is quite high. And if I could use one term that would provide a sort of umbrella for all of the complex systems that you are providing, it would be the term “Digital Twin”. Is that correct?
MP: Yes, definitely, it is our motto so to speak.
MM: The term Digital Twin has come to be used by many companies and in many contexts. For example, it has been used and applied in factory maintenance applications. Where would you say the Digital Twin is being used the most today?
MP: To be honest, maintenance would be not the area where I would say this is the first priority focus for Digital Twin applications. There are areas of applications of Digital Twin technology that we still have room to exploit, however the most value from my point of view and from a manufacturing perspective is the area of manufacturing execution, and particularly in quality control.
In fact, as we speak, we have just delivered the second version of a specific quality module in Teamcenter (Teamcenter software is a modern, adaptable product lifecycle management (PLM) system that connects people and processes, across functional silos) called “Teamcenter Quality”. It’s important to point out here that one of the most important things and one of the most important values we provide is when our products are used in combination. We can sell our own MOM products standalone of course, but the full benefit of the Digital Twin can only be exploited if we have Teamcenter on top of the Siemens PLM system. We are collaborating a lot with our colleagues from the Teamcenter side and from the PLM side so that the offering and the configuration of the digital model fulfill the requirements of what is required on the shop floor.
The Teamcenter Quality Module will augment the already existing data model of the centers of your existing Digital Twin with quality specific information which will be part of the standard bill of processes. The vision is that we will try our best to break down the silo that is between the quality department and the manufacturing department. We will create a unique backbone, where both departments will be able to have their own information. So in the end and to summarize, we have created a specific module called Quality Execution which will work hand in hand with the Manufacturing Execution component. This will enforce the processes both from a point of view of manufacturing and quality control.
MM: A lot of talk recently around not only quality control but also supply chain management has been the application of Blockchain in these systems for better management of transactions and workflow. Are you looking at Blockchain in Teamcenter modules, and how important do you think this technology will be in your software in the future?
PM: Let me say we were doing a lot of investigations around Blockchain, and we will be making a decision shortly about if we will put this into the product or not. I have already seen many Blockchain prototypes, so we are taking it seriously. We have specific departments in R&D which are only taking care about product innovation, and one of the areas of innovation is Blockchain. They will propose those innovations and then we allow our product management team to evaluate these proposals and decide whether to place them in the product or not.
MM: There was a presentation about autonomous vehicles where a version of the Digital Twin was being used to monitor what was going on inside the vehicle remotely. It seems like the Digital Twin platform is being applied outside of the purely manufacturing environment. Would you agree that this technology has applications outside of your core area of applications?
MP: We look at the Digital Twin not from a purely manufacturing perspective, but from a utilization perspective. Leveraging the information in the case of an autonomous vehicle was a natural application of the software.
The autonomous vehicle has many IoT points on it which allows us to send data mapped against the data model of the vehicle which exists in the form of the Digital Twin. The Digital Twin knows how the product should behave and what the performance parameters are. This is why we can pretty easily perform these kinds of predictions, and we can check whether the vehicle is functioning as it was designed to and as it was planned to perform, or whether there are any deviations. So, that is sort of an offshoot from Digital Twin coming out of manufacturing and then being applied to product or system performance. In manufacturing, it is a digital representation of how the production process should be performing. And then there is the utilization of Digital Twin data, which is used to analyze the proper functioning of whatever products are produced. And all those facets of the Digital Twins are different for different elements of our portfolios depending on the area of application.
MM: When we talk about autonomous vehicles, one of the things that comes up a lot is 5G technology due to signal latency, bandwidth and other important factors for managing a self-driving car. How is 5G affecting Siemens’ plans in terms of manufacturing applications?
MP: Let me try to take the question from a different perspective. The challenge here is, how much of the infrastructure or evolution of the infrastructure around the globe will ease the adoption of cloud technologies in manufacturing because, at the moment, customers are pretty skeptical because the MOM system is a business critical system. And so if I deploy my system into the cloud then it is a super crucial that they (the customer) have a very strong and reliable IT infrastructure. So when we talk about 5G technologies in manufacturing, it is not only about 5G itself, but it is how much we will be able to create a strong infrastructure to convince and provide the customer with the web based systems on the cloud with the same level of reliability that they would have if they had installed the platform on the premise with their own data centers.
MM: When talking about the cloud, we can see that the cloud is becoming extremely important across many industries and particularly in manufacturing. Because it has such a mission critical data function, how is the infrastructure of the cloud being built out in the manufacturing sector? Do you see a trend towards infrastructure being built on Amazon or Microsoft cloud platforms for example?
MP: It depends on the region. In Western countries we see Amazon as a major player with large adaptation by manufacturers, whereas China is quite reluctant to implement AWS (Amazon Web Services) in their country due to the need for greater control over their data. Amazon is from our point of view probably the first choice of manufacturers in terms of the cloud platform that customers are adopting.
In talking about cloud platforms for manufacturing, I think we should differentiate between corporations and small and medium businesses. It’s may be just my personal view, but it is more medium-sized businesses which will endorse the cloud quicker than the large corporations because the large corporations at the moment do not see a big advantage in reducing some operational costs from redesigning their entire IT infrastructure. They have available big data centers, and they have teams established so it’s just fine for them to add one more system for example, and not the whole MOM system. We see large corporations adopting only pieces of the MOM system, and not mission critical applications. Small and medium companies might have challenges in adopting MOM, but I see small and medium businesses adopting the whole system from the ground up, which is why I think that they will probably be the trendsetters for MOM adaptation.
MM: We cover the Central and Eastern European manufacturing markets where many European and global manufacturers have invested. The reason they’re investing there is because of the price of labor obviously and because of the highly educated labor force. But now there’s not enough labor and there’s a trend towards automated processes. Looking at a possible future of the region, I was visiting a bottling plant in Japan where there were two engineers running the entire factory. Is the future of manufacturing without people?
MP: What you’re describing is repetitive manufacturing processes. The number of people on the shop floor is proportional to the complexity of the goods that are being produced. If you think about aerospace, I don’t see that happening in the short term. So I don’t really see complex products having a high degree of automation, and I believe that human beings will still play an important part in their production. As new industries start to become more popular like rockets, you will still need a lot of engineers and production people to produce them.
MM: So you’re optimistic about Siemens’ prospects?
MP: Absolutely. I think we are in a unique position. We can clearly see that our vision is well appreciated by the customer, but we have challenges because our customers are always raising the bar. Once they buy the whole portfolio, they really expect a lot. It’s a nice interaction which is even facilitating the innovation of our products. I’m working for one of the best companies in the world from this perspective.
MM: Thank you for your time.
MP: Thank you.
Interviewed by Michael Majchrzak, Control Engineering Polska