Siemens Automation Summit Emphasizes Safe, Reliable, and Flexible Manufacturing

The Siemens Automation Summit, held in Orlando, Florida, June 24-26, provided a highly concentrated training and education venue for the company's automation user community. The event demonstrates the strong commitment that Siemens end users and solution partners have to an automation portfolio that continues to improve while also expanding across the entire manufacturing spectrum.

While Siemens supports the event, it is organized by the end user advisory board, which has complete control over speakers and topics. From ARC Advisory Group's perspective, the major themes were safety, reliability, and flexibility in manufacturing.

Commitment to the North American Market Strengthens
This event also offered many opportunities to network with peers, interact with speakers in each of the breakout sessions, and meet, Raj Batra, Siemens Industry Automation President in the US, who expressed passion for the company's commitment to the North American market. Siemens has emphasized its intentions to participate in the current manufacturing renaissance in North America, which is driven partly by the low-cost energy that has initiated resurgence in investment in manufacturing.

Digital Manufacturing Design Institute Partner

As a key partner in the recently formed Digital Manufacturing and Design Institute (DMDI), Siemens will share its expertise in driving a digital world with manufacturers in the US. The company's product portfolio has evolved to align well with DMDI initiatives for digital integration across the manufacturing enterprise, intelligent machines, and advanced analysis.

Reshoring of Manufacturing

While several large Siemens customers in the discrete manufacturing industry (including both BMW and Volkswagen) are expanding their North American production operations, the company is seeing even larger investments in the region by its process industry customers. This includes several large greenfield chemical plants being built in the US to take advantage of low feedstock and energy prices due to the shale gas boom. Some of the largest chemical industry manufacturers, including Bayer, DuPont, Air Products, and Dow Corning are all Siemens strategic partners.

According to the company, this past year, the Siemens' Process Analytics business had its largest bookings ever and the company's other automation technologies are also seeing increased acceptance among North American users. In response, Siemens will relocate its Houston plant to increase capacity by 50 percent by December 2014.

Engineering Efficiency and a Digital World

With the impending reorganization of Siemens planned for October 2014, Mr. Batra reinforced the structural changes will take effect simultaneously in North America. The new organizational structure replacing today's Sector Industry will be Digital Factory and Process and Drives divisions. The Digital Factory division will further reinforce the vision set forth following Siemens' acquisition of UGS, now known as Siemens PLM. This vision for the future of manufacturing merges the real and digital worlds for design, production, and service to streamline the entire design-to-manufacturing process.

While digitizing the design-to-production process is well underway, the company has not lost focus on the importance of streamlining the automation engineering process. The TIA Portal, initially introduced in the European market three years ago, is now making inroads with Siemens' partners in North America. The development of the TIA Portal software represents an investment of nearly 1.6 billion euros and 55 million lines of software code. The company estimates that the TIA Portal can reduce project engineering time by 30 percent when using Siemens S7 series automation controllers, G120 AC drives, safeguarding solutions, and operator interfaces. The TIA Portal addresses streamlining the complete engineering lifecycle of design, commissioning, and maintenance.

The TIA Portal is the growth engine behind Siemens' automation business as it addresses many of the inefficiencies that have confronted automation engineers for decades. Conceptually, TIA Portal is a project management tool that merges all of the separate development and configuration tools once required for a project. From ARC's perspective the TIA Portal addresses the increasing cost of software development in machine control applications. Encapsulating application programming, configuration and operator interfaces in a common environment is one of the more important aspects of the development environment.

Equally important, TIA Portal recognizes that automation projects are based on teams of software developers. The TIA Portal incorporate functions such as cross-referencing and version management to automate and streamline project management for software development teams. It has brought high-level development capabilities, widely available in modern programming tools to the automation world. The company's North American Solution Partners recognize that this is an important tool for improving productivity.

SIMATIC Virtualization as a Service

An interesting development we saw at the summit was the "SIMATIC Virtualization as a Service" offering. The service offering is a turnkey package that bundles server hardware, server software, and PCS 7 application software. Siemens partnered with HP for the server platform and VMWare for the Hypervisor virtualization software. The service provides a turnkey server platform with preinstalled PCS 7 engineering software. These product services allow manufacturing groups to install servers on the plant floor without getting IT departments involved. Significantly, the service manages the individual product update cycles by evaluating whether updates are necessary and thus caters specifically to the industrial environment in which regular patches could disrupt production.

Session Highlights

The Automation Summit has retained its focus on educating automation end users and system integrators, making this a valuable opportunity to share both challenges and success stories with colleagues in similar industries and applications. As with most user conferences, there were simply too many sessions going on at any time for a single individual to attend every breakout session. It's important to plan in advance to identify sessions that would be most valuable to improving your company's business performance.

Customer presentations helped illustrate the broad coverage of Siemens automation technology from simple to complex machine control applications. Combined, the S7-1200 and S7-1500 automation controllers are positioned to replace the older Micro 200, S7-300, and S7-400 controllers.

The functionality of the S7-1200, launched over four years ago, spans the entire S7-200 line while covering a segment of the S7-300 line of capabilities. Launched in 2013, the S7-1500 now has an installed base of over ten thousand CPUs in the field worldwide and will span applications currently covered by the S7-300 to S7-400 controllers.

The new controllers reflect the demand for Ethernet-based automation. The standard CPU includes three Ethernet ports, each with a unique IP address. Motion control, safety, advanced diagnostics tools, and security are all integrated into the system making the S7-1500 a highly versatile automation platform. Security functions reflect the increasing demand by the machine building community to protect their intellectual property. Copy protection, password protection, and encryption are all available to help ensure that machine builders can ship products anywhere in the world with confidence that their know-how will not be copied.

Siemens Solution Partners Demonstrate Safe, Reliable, and Flexible Automation

A representative from Marvair provided an excellent case study on how the company's S7-1200-based CoolLinks controller expands the application range of automation solutions. Together with Prism Systems, the company developed a new generation of HVAC systems for cooling cell tower electrical equipment. The S7-1200 replaced a dedicated embedded solution, enabling the use of off-the-shelf automation equipment. The reliability of the S7-1200, low cost, and Ethernet connectivity all combined to allow the automation engineers to develop an innovative, cost-effective, and easily maintainable solution.

Comau Engine Assembly, a major supplier of automation to the automotive industry, faced considerable pressure to deliver a new engine assembly line for a customer. According to Comau, the project leveraged the capabilities of Siemens' latest development tools to reduce the delivery time from 42 to 20 weeks. Comau leveraged its Smart Cell Technology to provide highly flexible, totally automated engine assembly cells that incorporate RFID technology to carry the assembly instructions with each engine as it moves through production. Siemens TranLine 2000 templates were instrumental in providing turnkey software for the operator interfaces used throughout the production operations.

Red Viking developed a battery-free AGV solution as a replacement for traditional fixed conveyance solutions. The solution was originally developed for a heavy machinery manufacturer seeking to reduce deployment and maintenance costs and increase flexibility in production operations. To eliminate the need for batteries, a cable embedded in the floor transfers power to the AGV via inductive coupling. This innovative concept demonstrates the flexibility, scalability and safety integrated in the entire solution.

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