Process manufacturing companies have been slow to adopt product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions, mostly because they have not had many alternatives to choose from. This has not been the case for discrete manufacturers, for which there have been a wide variety of offerings since the late 90s.
PLM for process manufacturers only started to truly emerge in the early 2000s. Since then, all major PLM vendors have been offering "process PLM," but only a few also provide manufacturing execution system (MES) functionality, which is essential for process manufacturers.
Among them are Dassault Systèmes (with its acquisition of Intercim in March 2011) and Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC) (which partnered with Apriso in May 2011).
Siemens, on the other hand, has already released version 6.5 of its SIMATIC IT portfolio of products. Since Siemens has close to 15 years of experience in delivering MES and PLM solutions, I decided the time was right to take a closer look at what they have to offer for process manufacturers.
The Siemens Offering For Process Industries: An Overview
Siemens' offering for process manufacturing is made of SIMATIC IT (a product line for both MES and research and development [R&D] management) and Siemens' flagship enterprise PLM product Teamcenter, as well as connectors for integration with enterprise resource planning (ERP) and enterprise asset management (EAM) solutions.
All this is complemented by industry libraries, key performance indicators (KPIs), and reports for better implementation and monitoring of best practices and compliance regulations. It is based on the ISA-95 international standard created for automated interfaces between enterprise and control systems for manufacturers.
Since the early 90s, when MES systems first reached maturity, they have been considered to be either the only solution to all shop floor management problems, or altogether redundant in the face of ERP functionality. With SIMATIC IT, however, Siemens puts MES at the same level of importance as ERP and PLM. At the same time, SIMATIC IT is more than an MES platform. It lies at the junction between product development and execution, synchronizing manufacturing operations and business processes.
As shown in the figure below, Siemens offers an integrated ecosystem based on PLM and MES, as well as on the exchange of information between them and ERP (or other systems, such as EAM and even customer relationship management [CRM] or supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems). As their names imply, MES manages the execution side of the production cycle, ERP manages the resources necessary for production, and PLM manages product development.
Integration between PLM, MES, and ERP
A Closer Look at SIMATIC IT
The SIMATIC IT product line is made of three suites:
• R&D Suite (to integrate formulated product information and processes with manufacturing),
• Production Suite (for production execution and management), and
• Intelligence Suite (for real-time monitoring and data collection).
Vertical solutions are available for discrete manufacturing, process industries, and life science industries. Industry-specific libraries are also provided, as well as value-added services.
Also part of the SIMATIC IT family, the SIMATIC IT Client Application Builder is a development platform to implement Web-based user interfaces, such as SIMATIC IT Portal. These solutions allow users and administrators to use and manage SIMATIC IT through user-friendly and intuitive Web-based interfaces. This is part of the SIMATIC IT Framework, which is used to implement MES based on specific business and plant needs (using predefined IT components and business workflows), and also to manage integrations with other applications.
SIMATIC IT Components are modules that can be used with the solutions mentioned above, depending on the needs of the customer. The following components are now available: SIMATIC IT Historian (to manage process and production data), SIMATIC IT Unilab (integrated laboratory management system), and SIMATIC IT Interspec (control system for product specifications). Also part of the SIMATIC IT Components are the Cross-Industry Libraries (CIL), which are an intermediate stage between SIMATIC IT and the industry-specific libraries mentioned previously—they contain rules, configurations, workflows and reports for ERP integration, electronic work instructions, defect management, etc.
To summarize: at its core, SIMATIC IT has the SIMATIC IT Production Suite, which is a bridge between PLM and control systems, which can be used with SIMATIC R&D Suite for PLM-related aspects of formulated product manufacturing (formula/recipe design and development), the SIMATIC IT Intelligence Suite for manufacturing data collection, monitoring and analysis, and modular components for business or industry-specific needs. All these applications can be managed using the SIMATIC IT Framework.
How Does SIMATIC IT Help Process Manufacturers?
The first thing you should know about the SIMATIC IT R&D Suite is that it does not replace PLM, but it certainly complements it. According to Siemens, the SIMATIC IT R&D suite can help companies "streamline, optimize, and align all R&D related processes with manufacturing." Ideation and planning for new products is done in Teamcenter PLM, while product formulation and data exchange with other systems is done by the SIMATIC IT R&D Suite.
Here are some of the components of the SIMATIC R&D Suite that can be particularly useful for process manufacturers:
- SIMATIC IT Unilab is a laboratory and quality management system that can be used to manage quality standards, testing procedures (including collection of data and corrective actions), and all the workflows and reporting needed to improve and monitor quality-related processes. The Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) option of SIMATIC IT Unilab brings extra functionality for experiments, knowledge bases, and R&D workflow optimization.
- Formula Workbench is a functionality set offered by SIMATIC IT Interspec. It helps users define and manage formulas and recipes, compare and analyze different options, and optimize them. Interspec is a product specification management system used for various types of products (e.g., raw materials, semi-finished or finished products, packaging, etc).
- SIMATIC IT Electronic Notebook helps users to efficiently gather test and experiment data, with options to cross-reference and manage data across different projects or phases of the same project. Functionality for audit trail and access control is also provided.
Other functionality present in the SIMATIC IT R&D Suite that can be used by process manufacturers includes regulatory labeling (for better ingredient/chemical declarations and claims), general recipe management (to define and manage the steps required to follow recipes), and recipe transformation (to map ingredients to materials, procedure steps and equipment).
Examples of Recipe Management Screens
In the same way SIMATIC IT R&D Suite should not be confused with PLM, the SIMATIC IT Production Suite should not be considered a substitute for ERP. Its goal is to fill the gap between shop floor control systems and both PLM and ERP. Furthermore, the data collected and managed by SIMATIC IT Production Site can also be used by designers, suppliers, maintenance professionals, and decision makers. The SIMATIC IT Production Suite is built on the "Totally Integrated Automation" concept introduced by Siemens, and which aims to manage information and processes across all activities and systems involved in product development and manufacturing.
The SIMATIC IT Production Suite is based on the framework and components described above. Here are some of the modules and features that process manufacturing companies can benefit from:
- SIMATIC IT Production Modeler manages the interactions between various components and the activities specific to them, inside the SIMATIC IT Production Suite, but also in systems such as ERP, PLM, quality management, and others. It can also be used to create graphical definitions of the plant model (physical and logical elements involved in manufacturing) and the execution model (workflows and processes to manage the operations that make the manufacturing process).
- SIMATIC IT Production Definition Manager can be used to manage recipes (including their parameters and complex calculations and formulas), as well as to optimize the composition of the materials being used. This component is essential for bridging R&D environments (and functionality) and the manufacturing environment
- SIMATIC IT Material Manager keeps track of material movements and changes in status, to generate a full backward and forward product genealogy. It also provides integration with ERP for the import of the material master data, and manages the flows and availability of the materials needed for production.
- SIMATIC BATCH automates batch processes by offering functionality for recipe editing (with a graphical user interface [GUI]), production run planning, versioning of recipes, exception handling, audit trails, batch monitoring, etc. It is in fact not part of the actual SIMATIC IT portfolio, but integration with the SIMATIC automation portfolio obviously exists.
SIMATIC IT Production Suite Architecture
Among SIMATIC IT Components, SIMATIC IT Interspec has a special place because it is used both in R&D and production. It provides features specific to process manufacturing such as bill of material (BOM) explosion, ingredient declaration, compliance support, labeling according to regulations or customer needs, product specification comparison, centralized product knowledge, workflows for collaboration and validation for R&D, advanced search and reporting, etc.
Position of SIMATIC IT Interspec in the context of recipes
Finally, the SIMATIC IT Intelligence Suite gathers and manages data for asset management and production monitoring, process controlling, alarm management, and energy management. This data is then used for advanced reporting and KPIs. The SIMATIC IT Production Suite, along with ERP or PLM systems and shop floor control systems, feed the SIMATIC IT Intelligence Suite, which then contextualizes and analyzes data to finally display it through real-time screens or operational reports. Scorecards and dashboards are available through the SIMATIC IT Intelligence Suite Performance Monitor. And in the case of PLM, SIMATIC IT can feed shop floor information back into PLM to aid the continuous improvement of the upfront product development process.
The Intelligence Suite brings obvious advantages to process manufacturers, such as operational optimization, formula improvement, contextualization by product line, and energy or utilities monitoring and reporting.
In conclusion, SIMATIC IT offers a framework, three product suites, and components that process manufacturing companies can use to gather and manage data during all the steps of the R&D and manufacturing process, as well as improving business processes and workflows for these activities. With 15 years of experience, more than 1,000 installed solutions on 5 continents, and 500 engineers dedicated to the development of the SIMATIC IT family of products, Siemens certainly has a unique offer in this space.