Siemens Highlights Digital Enterprise Suites and Future Technologies at SPS 2020

By David Humphrey


Like all major trade shows in 2020, the Smart Production Solutions (SPS) show, typically held annually in Germany at the end of November, went virtual this year as “SPS Connect.” The event featured a program of online lectures and SPS 2020presentations. Siemens contributed to this year’s virtual SPS with its own half-day online event, called SPS Dialog. This combined presentations on current and future technologies with customer use cases and a virtual “showroom.” The event highlighted the company’s Digital Enterprise offering and introduced some future-oriented technologies and solutions.

Focus on the Digital Enterprise

A leading supplier to both discrete and process automation markets, Siemens takes the solutions approach favored today by many end users. The company’s Digital Enterprise suite combines automation hardware with industrial software and relevant services. On the software side, Siemens’ Xclerator portfolio combines solutions for product lifecycle management (PLM) and electronic design automation (EDA), with tools for configuring cloud solutions such as Siemens MindSphere platform and the company’s Mendix low-code development platform programming. This enables users to model their products and processes using digital twins that connect the virtual and real worlds. Siemens’ Digital Enterprise Services rounds off the offering with consulting, implementation, and optimization support.

End-to-end Digitalization and the Role of the Digital Twin

Siemens’ Digital Enterprise suites support the digital twin, which allows manufacturers to simulate product design and production processes in state-of-the-art engineering software. According to Siemens, with a digital twin, users can test product designs according to defined constraints and then optimize them in software before physical prototypes are built. This process can drastically cut engineering time in the transition from design to production by eliminating the “trial-and-error phase” of prototype building. For production, virtual commissioning using a digital twin speeds up commissioning of a machine or entire plants with less risk.

SPS 2020

At the SPS Dialog event, Siemens demonstrated end-to-end digitalization using real machine applications. Each application is described below.

Greater Flexibility with Modular Production

Module Type Package (MTP) refers to an emerging standard for reimagining process equipment in modular form. SPS 2020Rather than creating a single machine for all process steps, this approach realizes some process steps in individual modules. These modules, which may be skid-mounted for flexibility, integrate devices such as a compressor, pumps, and valves into a functional unit with local intelligence. Users can then add or subtract modules to scale up or scale down a process as demand changes.

Using digital twins, equipment providers can develop new modules and then easily integrate them into existing production lines. The Digital Enterprise portfolio allows users to simulate, test, and pre-configure modules in advance. Siemens believes this can reduce engineering effort significantly during commissioning and enable the modules to be quickly and easily integrated into the plant and process control system.

With MTP, users work with fully automated, pre-tested and ready-to-use modules that can be easily integrated in two steps (physical connection, module import).

Additive Manufacturing: High-precision Printing and Milling

SPS 2020The use of additive manufacturing (AM) technology in industrial applications has grown rapidly in recent years. In this Siemens application, AM is used to accelerate production of molds for lightweight components such as those used in formula race cars. “Flexbot,” an innovation that combines a six-axis robot with a SINUMERIK CNC controller in one machine, 3D-prints a part and then smooths its surface using a milling spindle – all with a high degree of precision. Using a digital twin and simulation tools, the robot was optimized before it was built to avoid collisions and increase overall machining speed. AM offers significant potential benefits to manufacturers, including lower costs and shorter time to finalized product. In this application, just one machine is used for both additive and subtractive manufacturing and the whole system, including the manufacturing process, was virtually developed, planned, and validated.

Using Digital Twins to Optimize Machines Onsite

The digital twin offers enormous cost savings potential in both the design and operational phases. No one understands a machine better than those who built it, but once the machine leaves the builder’s facility, it’s difficult to make SPS 2020improvements or solve problems without access to current data.

However, by accessing data from the digital twin of a machine in the field, the builder can help its customer optimize the machine continuously while it is on-site, for example, to improve energy efficiency or optimize operations. At the SPS Dialog event, this was demonstrated on a packaging machine from TrakRap, a small, UK-based builder of packaging machines for fast-moving consumer goods. Using simulation, the company optimized its machine design to reduce packaging material and generate less waste. By monitoring parameters at the industrial edge, developers were also able to reduce the machine’s energy consumption. In addition, the company shortened time-to-market by 40 percent and reduced overall costs by 30 percent, according to the machine builder. Finally, TrakRap developed a new business model and now offers customers a service based on output measured in terms of “pay-per-wrap.”

A Look Ahead:  New Technologies in Manufacturing

Siemens also shared a look at some new technologies that the company believes will change the manufacturing landscape, now and in the near future.

5G for Industrial Applications

5G wireless communication will have a major impact on industry. With high data rates and reliable low-latency transmission, 5G will enable comprehensive, wireless networking of production, maintenance, and logistics. While we will still need to wait another year for the version of 5G that will bring the most value to industrial applications, Siemens recently announced its first 5G router, demonstrating that it intends to be a pioneer in 5G technology for industrial applications.

Industrial Edge:  The New Frontier

The industrial edge has emerged as the new frontier of Industry 4.0. Many manufacturers now gather and evaluate machine data for a wide variety of applications. Lacking specific tools, many have written their own software that runs on local industrial PCs, but this method requires resources to maintain, and updates can be a headache. A better solution for the edge is a local platform that manages devices, updates, and security patches centrally; handles communications with the cloud; and helps ensure industrial-grade cybersecurity.

Siemens addresses these needs with the Industrial Edge Management System, an edge platform that manages edge infrastructure. The platform itself can run on-site on an industrial PC or PLC, or in the cloud where it can manage devices regardless of where they are installed. Edge apps and software can be installed on devices remotely while their status information is monitored centrally.

Edge or Cloud?

While users agree on the advantages of machine data analysis, some disagree whether this should take place at the edge or in the cloud. The answer is, of course, “it depends.” Edge devices may be sufficient for small amounts of data, but for larger data processing tasks, a cloud-based solution might be more suitable. In a hybrid solution, data can be pre-processed locally before only key data are uploaded to the cloud for storage or further processing. This solution is especially attractive for large manufacturers that wish to compare and benchmark data from multiple facilities. While edge platforms typically can be hosted on any cloud platform, Siemens offers MindSphere as an industrial IoT as a service solution.

Low-coding Makes It Easier to Access All Those Data

Machine builders often find it difficult to attract experienced software engineers with the skills to write the complex code necessary to access and evaluate machine data. One solution for this is low-code application development. For the industrial edge, Siemens recently introduced the Mendix Industrial Edge platform, which allows users to create custom applications on the Mendix low-code platform that run locally as an edge app. The platform is designed to abstract the complexities of data analysis and enable more people to develop their own IoT applications.


“Integration” describes how devices and software work together seamlessly. In today’s IT-driven environment, the term also refers to the vertical integration of devices, software, and data between the edge and the cloud. In Siemens’ offering for discrete manufacturing at SPS, the common thread is continuous integration, from hardware, software and services, to machine data with edge- or cloud-based industrial apps, all enabled by emerging technologies like AI and 5G that are changing the face of manufacturing.


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Keywords: Smart Production Solutions, SPS, Siemens, Discrete Automation, Industrial Edge, Cloud Computing, MindSphere, Digital Twin, Digital Enterprise, ARC Advisory Group.

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