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Staying Ahead Of The Pack
 | 02 Sep 2017 08:00

• Technological disruptions are changing the way companies do business and there is a need to leverage digital tools to maintain relevance

• Adopting new technologies can be a game changer for companies to stay ahead of competition and increase market share

Businesses today face more competition than ever before.

The rise of the start-up culture across the globe has led to a wave of a next generation of companies mushrooming to life, often disrupting the market with new digital technologies and ways to implement digitisation into their business environment.

Thus, there is all the more reason for both established and new businesses to keep up with the times and leverage digital tools that will assist in their journey to become a digital enterprise, which will in turn help them stay ahead of the pack.

At its core, technology company Siemens sees digitalisation as “the integration of digital technologies into everyday life, by converting information into digital format and computerisation of systems and jobs for ease and accessibility”.

Such digital optimisation could boost profitability by 20% to 30%, especially when companies leverage digitalised work environments to increase productivity based on conservative estimates which are supported by analysis of real-life cases.

Optimising lifecycles

That said, what those digital tools look like depends on the industry.

For manufacturing, everything revolves around product lifecycle management (PLM). Optimising the PLM is the key to increasing profit and growth while at the same time driving down costs.

Touted to be the world’s most widely used digital lifecycle management solution, Siemens’ PLM software Teamcenter is one such solution capable of combining countless digital tools. The digital platform covers every aspect of a product’s lifecycle, including bill of material management, design tools such as Siemens NX and CAD, as well as product cost management.

Take the aircraft manufacturing industry, for instance. A main challenge for its manufacturers is to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. The best way to do so is by increasing the aircraft’s structural efficiency and reliability, as well as using new, lighter composite materials to minimise weight.

European aircraft manufacturer Airbus Group utilised Siemens’ PLM software technology in the area of aircraft composite design. Virtual testing, for example, helped decrease the number of physical tests on composite components and support aircraft certification.

Similarly, Ukraine-based aircraft maker Antonov Company opted for Teamcenter and NX to implement its international cargo aircraft projects, including the Antonov An-178 airlifter. The aircraft took flight only three years after concept with the help of the digital tools which significantly shorten its time-to-market.

Teamcenter did so by reducing design documentation authoring and maintenance efforts, as well as cutting production planning and new aircraft manufacturing costs.

Digital manufacturing

Carmaker Maserati is also using the platform to adapt to digital manufacturing with the idea of digitising its overall factory, but is starting with product design, process engineering and plant production.

An interesting addition to the wide range of digital tools companies can use to chart the process from design to delivery is a new technology called the digital twin. It is essentially a dynamic software model of a physical object such as a machine or a car, or a system.

What it then does with the “twin” is analyse and simulate real-world conditions. This reduces testing costs and time-to-market by enabling companies to collect critical data without the need of physically manufacturing and testing it.

Aerospace upstart SpaceX uses the digital twin in its aim “to revolutionise the commercial space industry with rockets that cut the cost of a launch by a factor of 10,” according to Siemens.

The digital twin has enabled significant improvements in process control and higher productivity. As a result, its Falcon 1 rocket can lift a half tonne into low-earth orbit for around US$6 mil (RM25.74 mil), which is said to be a third of the cost of other currently available options.

On the journey to become a digitalised enterprise and to operate it, the utilisation of the Internet of Things (IoT) is crucial. IoT creates a lot of Big Data which has to be managed and ideally turned into smart, actionable data.

This is where digital tools such as Siemens’ open Cloud-based IoT operating system MindSphere come in as it is able to provide data analytics and connectivity capabilities, applications and services as well as tools for developers.

MindSphere is an all vertical IoT solution which is supported by Siemens’ various business units that will integrate suitable software components into their products. This means that in the future, every Siemens product will connect to MindSphere in plug-and-play mode.

Case in point is transportation providers which are expected to provide timely and accurate services and meet availability targets. An efficient maintenance programme and data-enabled functionality is paramount to meet those needs.

Continuous monitoring

Using Siemens’ technology, maintenance efforts are most cost-effective, condition-based and predictive. In Spain, train operator Renfe uses its highspeed Velaro E train where key components are continually monitored by Siemens and trains developing abnormal patterns are dispatched for inspection service to prevent failures.

Siemens also conducted a pilot project in the UK with a large European train operator on one of its regional routes.

The project analysed a relatively small data set of one million sensor-log readings – taken at five-minute intervals over a year – which made it possible to predict which sensor pattern was likely to result in engine failure and enable the operator to react in time to prevent them.

Partners for the MindSphere include Accenture, Atos, Evosoft, IBM, Microsoft, SAP, Amazon Web Services and Bluvision.

The old paradigm where the bigger boys dominate over smaller players is no longer relevant as agility and the ability to pivot with the changing times are now indispensable to success.

This article is brought to you by Siemens

Optimising the PLM is the key to increasing profit and growth while at the same time driving down costs.

Digital optimisation could boost profitability by 20% to 30%.