Siemens to Rule the Plant via Kineo, VRcontext, and LMS Acquisitions

Siemens’s Industry Automation division, which includes Siemens PLM Software, continues with its strategy of offering manufacturing organizations virtually anything they might need—from product ideation and design to actual manufacturing execution and plant automation (including even the actual hardware products from sister divisions at Siemens). Still, the giant knows that hardly any large manufacturing company will procure everything from a single vendor, and thus it is more than happy to provide customers (and even competitors) with its best-of-breed (BoB) software components. Either way, Siemens is happy to help customers make smarter product development decisions, at various lifecycle stages, leading to better products.

Motion Planning Acquisition

To that end, in early October 2012, Siemens announced the agreement to acquire Kineo computer aided motion (CAM) software. The sophisticated France-based solutions will become part of the Components solution group within Siemens PLM Software. Kineo has had a relationship with Siemens PLM Software since 2003 and is currently embedded in Siemens’ NX, Teamcenter, and Tecnomatix brands. Dassault Systèmes is a Kineo CAM customer as well, and integrates the technology in much the same way that Siemens products do today. The Dassault DELMIA brand has a similar offering called DELMIA Robotics Path Planner (RPP).

In any case, motion planning is a pretty complex stuff. Technomatix has many partners and it looks like Siemens wants to own some of the strategic partners, similar to the recent acquisition of Perfect Costing. Other than Siemens and Dassault Systèmes (the latter might be a tad newer to the game), I don’t think any other PLM providers go to this level of manufacturing complexity and that any other PLM providers would be Kineo partners. But I would venture a guess that some of the big-plant automation players could be Kineo partners, though.

With the acquisition of Kineo, Siemens PLM Software strengthens its openness by extending its delivery of component technology to better support computer aided motion needs in the marketplace. The Components product group is not a full-fledged business segment within Siemens PLM Software—rather a place that also houses some other open component brands you may be familiar with, including the following:

  • Rulestream—for complex engineer-to-order (ETO) product configuration

  • Geolus—for shape search

  • D-Cubed—a collection of geometric software component libraries

  • Parasolid—a computer aided design (CAD) modeling kernel

Robotics Complexity

Needless to say, as a car moves down the assembly line, the robots must be in sync with the movement. As each robot moves in 3D, the Kineo solution can detect collisions and ascertain whether the robot will be in position. The ability to simulate this reduces time, injuries to robots (and perhaps even humans in the vicinity), and total cost of bringing up a production line.

Robots are different from the majority of plant equipment. Opening and closing a valve or monitoring a sensor is a relatively simple task. In contrast, robots have 3D motion, but can one easily separate their software and hardware? In other words, once a company heads down the robotics path, does it need to own both robotics hardware and software? If so, Siemens Industrial does hardware (whereas PTC and Dassault Systèmes don’t) and could be uniquely qualified in this regard.

Miscellaneous BoB Solutions

Also in early October 2012, Siemens acquired VRcontext, a Belgian company specializing in 3D visualization and training software for displaying engineering data in the shipbuilding and plant construction industries. VRContext has immediate value to Siemens COMOS Plant Engineering and Operations solutions in process manufacturing industries, where remote training provides lots of value, as real-life situations provide too harsh environments for training humans. So the VRContext solution will be housed in the COMOS group upon closing of the acquisition, but I would expect it to be expanded to other Siemens PLM industry solutions, particularly in light of the vendor’s recent success in shipbuilding.

In early November 2012, Siemens expanded its portfolio of industry software by acquiring another Belgian company, LMS International NV, a leading provider of test and mechatronic simulation software including model-based systems engineering to the automotive, aerospace, and other advanced manufacturing industries. With this acquisition, Siemens will become the first PLM software company to provide a closed-loop systems-driven product development solution extending all the way to integrated test management. The integrated solution should increase simulation accuracy, which improves decision making and enhances customers’ ability to design the product right the first time.

The decision-making process is underpinned by a deep and accurate virtual analysis linked to the physical world. LMS handles simulation and testing of acoustic, vibrations, etc., as well as hardware for measurements to get the test data—that’s why Siemens can now deal with both virtual and physical worlds. LMS will become a business segment within the Siemens PLM Software business unit. This means the company retains its P&L responsibility. LMS’ integration to many other PLM/CAD solutions (especially to Dassault Systèmes) was a key reason for the creation of such autonomous business segments, organizationally, more than a year ago.

Last but not least, the Specialized Engineering Software (SES) business segment within Siemens PLM Software houses the Vistagy solutions (acquired in 2011) for the aerospace & defense (A&D) and automotive industries. These specialized “long-tail” engineering apps are as follows:

  • Fibersim—for the design of durable and lightweight composite structures

  • Syncrofit—for the design of complex aerospace assemblies (the product knows the notion of a joints

  • Mastertrim SDE—for the integrated car seat trim (seat covers) engineering process

  • Char/Quality—for the first article inspection

With the aforementioned arsenal of both BoB components and the capability to be a “one-stop-shop” PLM/CAD/compuer aided engineering (CAE) provider, Siemens PLM is positioned well to give its competitors a run for their money. Dear readers, do you concur with the aforementioned moves by Siemens and my statements? Do you think that these were all good catches, and that Siemens is smart to pick all those specialists and let them continue to bring revenues even from its archrivals?

References and Recommended Reading

Siemens Teamcenter Going to the PLM Cloud. October 18, 2012.
Bentley Extends Commitment to Siemens PLM Software. September 25, 2012.
Siemens PLM Tackles Product Costing. September 24, 2012.
Best-of-Breed Versus Complete CAD-PLM Suites: The Debate Rages On. November 7, 2012.
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