A Technology Partner, not a Technology ProviderMon, 10/22/2018 - 14:09
Q: What would you describe as the biggest needs of the industry when it comes the digital revolution?
A: When considering the digital revolution and innovation, we tend to think on a large scale and overlook the fundamentals. For example, I had initially considered that a totally integrated plant using digital twins, in which maintenance and operations would be fully automated, was the big game changer. However, a year later and after witnessing breakthroughs by my Siemens colleagues, I believe the common denominator in their success has been communication. It is essential to communicate and work hand-in-hand with industry leaders and technological experts. This communication should also permeate the entire organization, from team meetings, to conferences, think tanks and all different kinds of internal media to exchange experiences and information.
Q: What kind of new products or solutions is the company planning to release in the near to medium term?
A: Although we have a variety of products in our portfolio, four of these specifically offer particular added value. First, Mindsphere is the cloud-based, open IoT operating system from Siemens that connects products, plants, systems and machines. MindSphere connects these assets to the digital world and, through the vast amounts of data it is able to gather, can optimize processes and production across a client’s activities. It is also highly scalable, secure and can be used with either Siemens products or third-party components.
The second technology I would highlight would be the Manufacturing Execution System (MES), which provides full transparency across the entire value chain and facilities. In 2017, this technology was implemented by Vale across its 38 Brazilian sites, including 22 mines, 11 pelletizing plants, a railroad network and ports. Our single manufacturing execution system replaced the 17 product management solutions previously used. Development started in 2014, the solution was implemented in 2016 and it is expected to generate savings of US$70 million by 2020 for the operator.
Another solution we provide is conveyor belt optimization through simulation and digital twins. Few consider the importance of conveyor belt efficiency but in fact it can create significant cost savings, reduce maintenance and all but eliminate downtimes. Siemens continually gathers data to predict failures, optimize the conveyor process and ensure overall greater efficiency.
Finally, our drive train analytics act as an overarching monitoring system for a client’s entire operations. We analyze drives, motors and gear units via a single system to match hardware and services precisely to the customer’s requirements. This can include the entire system or simply one component according to the client’s needs. This technology delivers data about the condition and health status of the equipment to certified Siemens experts, who can then advise the operator about any changes that may be required to prevent downtime.
Q: How are you stressing the value of your products to your clients?
A: We are on the right track for increasing direct sales by adding new team members with expertise in processes and equipment. However, in our market a low initial outlay still beats long-term value. As an industry, we must change this mindset and highlight the benefits digitalization can bring in allowing the customer to make the right decision when choosing a brand. When customers face a challenge, our goal is to prove we are the right partner to help them. We see the potential in every mine, from a small Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) to a large gearless mill mine.
Siemens technology plays a key role in this shift to more environmentally-conscious practices. Our main goal is to be seen as technological partners. We want the operators and technology companies to understand we are all working toward a common goal. Teamwork is critical.