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For OEMs and suppliers, the transformation into a digital enterprise is crucial for achieving optimum plant availability, production flexibility, and competitiveness

siemens 1In order to optimise the commissioning costs and ensure the necessary level of quality, starting with the first vehicle produced, each start-up process must be perfectly planned. The digitalisation of both, the product development and the production process, plus the consistent and standardised use of data throughout the entire lifecycle, makes the complexity far more manageable. With the digital transformation of processes, OEMs can speed up planning and respond more quickly.

To connect separate manufacturing processes, these processes must be addressed holistically. Siemens has identified four cornerstones that a digitalisation strategy should cover. The first cornerstone is a consistent data flow – from product design through production planning and engineering all the way to execution and service. Integrating suppliers in the value chain is a key aspect in this regard.

The second cornerstone is the “digital twin” – a digital representation of the real product and its production plant, which is created for the virtual development process that runs in parallel. The digital twin addresses, for example, the vision of achieving peak production right after the line is started. After all, the ramp-up process has been already simulated in the digital world. The digital twin also provides information that is incorporated into the design of other car models and increases plant flexibility.

The third cornerstone is the “transparent factory.” There are key performance indicators that can be used to make improvements, conduct data analyses, or introduce predictive maintenance procedures. The fourth cornerstone is horizontal and vertical integration. The entire shop floor is networked with Ethernet communication, and the shop floor and IT worlds are closely interconnected.

The biggest challenge when it comes to digital transformation is taking the step from using individual solutions to using a standardised process chain. Product lifecycle management (PLM) needs to be connected to manufacturing operations management (MOM) and need to share common data. It must also be clear what data is needed when and where, and how it is made accessible. Consistent data integration is the only way to exploit all the benefits of digitalisation. The standardisation of processes and interfaces is an essential prerequisite in this regard.

Siemens has developed a portfolio that already enables automotive companies to interconnect key parts of the product and production lifecycle and to digitally support their entire value-added process. This suite of integrated software and automation systems is known as the Digital Enterprise Suite.

It comprises the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) portfolio for design, planning, and simulation, the Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) portfolio for engineering production, and the Manufacturing Execution System / Manufacturing Operations Management (MES/MOM) portfolio for ongoing operation. In addition, it combines lifecycle and data analytics (MindSphere – the cloud-based, open IoT operating system from Siemens). Teamcenter is used as the collaboration platform. The shared database makes it possible to adopt data very quickly from product development to manufacturing design and even adapt manufacturing operations quickly when changes are made in the product design.

Becoming a digital enterpriseIt’s clear that automotive companies cannot replace their entire software and IT infrastructure from one day to the next. It is essential to start in the right place and to make the necessary transformation economically viable through a long-term migration and replacement program.

Thus, for instance, Nissan launched an innovation program to cut time-to-market and boost product quality. To do this, the management team decided to use the NX software in its product design operations. This Siemens software solution provides data for virtual validation, which helps to uncover problems during the design process and to shorten the development cycle. The virtual tests run at an early stage and enable users to search for design alternatives before production starts and expensive modifications need to be made. And the Teamcenter PLM software makes comprehensive vehicle information available to employees. The Nissan innovation is very successful. Design changes were reduced by 90% in some cases. The error rate once a vehicle was approved for market dropped by 80%, and development cycles were shortened from 20 to 10.5 months.

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Simulation of flexibilityPremium manufacturers often produce in relatively small batches, and flexibility in manufacturing lines is particularly important to them. Volvo, for example, wanted to make a variety of vehicle models on a single line. The company used Process Simulate to plan the BIW process, final assembly lines, and the paintshop process. The PLM tool thus took over the accurate simulation of the different welding cells in the bodyshop, for example. Programs that are set and tested offline and are adapted only slightly during productive use can be generated with Process Simulate. That way, existing manufacturing lines can be revamped to produce new models within an extremely short time frame. The team managed to retrofit the body shell line in the Torslanda factory (pictured opposite) in Sweden within the planned 24-hour production-free window of time over the weekend. The company uses Teamcenter to create an engineering environment in which both the Product Development department and manufacturing planners can work together. The manufacturing team can thus constantly access the latest product information and immediately respond to the necessary process changes if anything is modified. Tecnomatix automatically generates the engineering documentation in just 10% of the time that would be needed during a manual generation process.

Virtual commissioning and PLC simulationThe integration of different planning disciplines also plays a key role in the other stages of the production lifecycle. Users frequently transfer data manually from the product design and production planning processes to separate software tools. The information sent between Production Planning and Automation Planning must be interconnected so that a higher level of data integrity can be achieved, for example.

Data integrity in this sense means that both departments are referring to the same number of control systems or the same number of welding points that have to be made in a particular cell. With Production Systems Engineering (PSE), Siemens wants to create a standardised workflow that automatically compiles and provides data comprising mechanical, electrical, and automation technology. As the backbone, Teamcenter enables data standardisation and maximum transparency at all levels. The engineering costs are cut considerably and errors on the interfaces are avoided. Virtual controllers enable early error detection and swift functionality validation, even during the configuration and engineering phases.

The digital shopfloorAudi’s newest assembly hall illustrates that the step toward complete networking is no longer a big one. When constructing the hall, at Neckarsulm, Germany, the key points of relevance were: lower engineering costs, energy savings, a further increase in availability, and cost savings. Audi achieved these goals with a uniform automation platform: the TIA Portal engineering framework from Siemens was the focal point of the automation strategy. Programming, parameterisation, visualisation, and diagnostics can be implemented on a uniform platform with the automation standard. The engineering costs, for example, were cut by around 10% by using TIA Portal. Unlike before, every single control system now provides detailed diagnostic information to the higher-level control system without any need for additional programming.

The system access times can therefore be shortened, thanks to the individual program modules’ shared database. Also, the production management team can identify the condition of plant components at an early stage and take preventive action if deviating values are detected. Availability in final assembly reached more than 99% through the use of TIA Portal.

Applications for big data analytics are allowing them to search through large volumes of data from production operations to uncover patterns or links. These provide them with findings, which they can use as a basis for making more precise decisions within a shorter period of time. MindSphere is the cloud-based, open IoT operating system from Siemens that connects real production operations with the virtual world and offers the opportunity for digital services. MindSphere provides a complete industrial security-hardened environment for the use of various analytics applications, whether they were developed by Siemens, third parties, or even customers themselves.