The Digital Enterprise Summit for Machine Builders took place on Oct. 30, 2018 at the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute located in Chicago. The event, hosted by Siemens PLM, highlighted smart manufacturing solutions to help automate more factories.

Chip Ritter, head of sales for industrial machinery & heavy equipment for Siemens PLM, kicked the event off with the tale of Sears-Roebuck. In the late 1800s, Sears was an innovator in catalog retailing, taking advantage of a transformative time in the US with a westward expanding population.

However, two weeks ago the once colossal company filed for bankruptcy. Ritter says we’re now at the end of an era due to the new digital world and Industry 4.0.

“Things will end for your business if you don’t keep up with the trends and the needs of your customers,” says Ritter.

On the other side of the spectrum, e-commerce retailer Amazon continues to grow and takes advantage of the revolution the internet has brought to retailing. When looking at Amazon’s facilities, the company’s distribution centers are run like factories, rather than stores. The company is constantly looking to increase speed, efficiency and flexibility of its operations.

“More companies are transitioning to more automated factories to meet not just current customer demands, but changing customer demands,” says Ritter. “The way we do business has to be thought out differently.”

One area of business that can be tackled differently is in a company’s workforce development efforts. Ritter says Siemens hears from CEOs all over the world about how companies are struggling to hire people to fill their manufacturing jobs. But he says these companies can hire the right person at a much higher rate by adopting smart manufacturing technologies.

Digital solutions for smart manufacturing

During the daylong event, attendees took a tour of the DMDII’s shop floor to check out tools to help manufacturers with digital transformation efforts. One concept on display was Siemens’ digital twin, which manufacturers can use to create a digital replica of not only their production line, but entire facility. With this, plant management can see how real-time operations are being conducted on the plant floor and how proposed changes made would affect the entire enterprise.

“This new age of machinery is at the heart of Industry 4.0,” said Rahul Garg, vice president of industrial machinery and heavy equipment, Siemens PLM Software. “How do you take advantage of this digitalization concept to come up with new innovations in designing and engineering processes in your plant?”

Garg said there are four ways digitalization can help manufacturers; firstly, by connecting not only all a facility’s machines, but its entire enterprise. Secondly, manufacturers will be able to adapt to changes in the market quicker, aided by machine learning and smart sensors. Operations will also become more predictable, with plant managers being able to plan downtime for maintenance. And finally, the life of equipment will be extended with the ability to have remote upgrades performed on older machines.

To conclude the day, two of Siemens’ customers made presentations on their journey to digitalization. Manoj Patel, global controls manager for power train manufacturing engineering for Ford Motor Company, spoke about taking a legacy company like Ford and reconfiguring its operations into a digital enterprise. And Eric Lund, controls engineering manager for Burr Oak Tool, talked about his company’s efforts to use virtual commissioning.

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