By Ellen Fussell Policastro
With manufacturing moving more toward a digital environment, security will gain greater importance in the years to come.
“With manufacturing going digital, that leads to extraordinary improvements,” said Helmuth Ludwig, chief executive of Siemens Industry Sector U.S. during a conference call Friday discussing the outlook for the manufacturing sector.
Moving more toward a digital environment means more use of, and reliance upon, software, which could bring great benefits and opportunities for manufacturers. However, that can also introduce the potential for security issues.
“The ability to optimize manufacturing flow with minimized downtime and at the same time supporting this with security systems where the leading companies are working with Siemens very strongly can ensure the manufacturing environment is as secure as possible, which then generates these optimizations.”
Ludwig conducted the conference call from the Detroit Motor Show which was an appropriate backdrop to discuss manufacturing because he saw great promise for the industry as a whole, but especially for the auto industry. Two other industries that showed great promise, he said, were oil and gas and chemical.
Touching the treetops of many reasons to be optimistic this year, Ludwig landed firmly on three main reasons: Virtual planning, software, and education – making manufacturing attractive to students.
One of the trends that will increase optimism in 2014 is the use of virtual planning for physical realizations.
“You not only see cars at the motor show, but you see assembly lines – a great example of today’s modern manufacturing — virtually planned and physically realized,” Ludwig said. “Industrial production is at a ten-year high. We’re at a five-year high in sales. Some voices say next year, the gross might flatten off. At the same time you see the automotive industry positive around the future. Volkswagen announced they will invest $7 billion here in North America.”
Ludwig pointed to the Mars Rover as another prime example of virtual planning.
“We hear again and again about the Mars Rover bringing new observations to Earth. It is larger than anything ever sent to Mars.” The mission was to bring it down safely on the surface of Mars. To study this, scientists came up with a complex version of ways to virtually bring it down. “There was no physical alternative; they couldn’t send physical test modules up to Mars.” But they used an integration of virtual testing to accomplish a physical realization.
Software the Key
The key to virtual planning is the use of software, which can change productivity enormously in manufacturing.
“One of our partners is running a virtual machine in parallel with their physical machines,” he said. “They test the new parts introduction in virtual environments, and the downtime of the machine during the changeover process is significantly reduced.”
Software will lead to manufacturing optimism especially in the U.S. because, “there is no country where software is more advanced than in the U.S.,” he said. “People are thinking day and night about software, and 65 percent of all the top hundred software companies are actually headquartered in the U.S.” This becomes even more extreme when you look at the revenue. In fact, 79 percent of the top hundred software companies see their revenue coming from U.S. software companies.
Luring Young People
With an aging population, especially in the manufacturing sector, the need to make manufacturing attractive to young people is even more crucial now. The economic recovery in several technical markets and the strength of physical and virtual manufacturing mean nothing without the right people in place, Ludwig said.
“While so many years the focus has gone away from education, now we’re back on track, making the job of making things attractive to young people,” he said. One way is with 3D printing and expanding apprenticeship programs. One such program is Siemens’ apprenticeship program with Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, NC. After three and a half years of training, students learn all aspects of electronics and have a chance to apply it when they leave the program. “They’ll be paid a higher salary than the average college graduate, and they have no debt,” he said. “So there’s another reason that makes manufacturing attractive.”
Siemens is also working with top universities, also supported by government initiatives in advanced manufacturing partnership.
“We’re working together with manufacturing institutes in North Carolina,” he said. “In the first year we (appropriated) $40 million in software. Why? We believe this is the best way of assuring sustainable manufacturing.”
Ellen Fussell Policastro is a freelance writer in Raleigh, NC. Her email is email@example.com.