Engineering The Future
Business as usual for Siemens and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult Centres.
Here we tell you about the latest innovation to benefit manufacturing supply chains: Factory in a Box 2.
Siemens has over 170 years’ experience in manufacturing. Today, here in the UK we have 15 manufacturing facilities, our latest factory, already under construction, is a £200m investment in a train manufacturing facility in Goole East Yorkshire which will manufacture trains for London underground employing over 700 people.
One of the reasons Siemens continues to increase its manufacturing capability in the UK can be attributed to our investment in innovation. One of the ways we de-risk those investments is through working with the High Value Manufacturing Catapult Centres. A great example of this can be seen in our Drives factory in Congleton. A number of years back we knew that we had to increase productivity and flexibility through the use of robotics. At the time we didn’t have a great deal of experience in robotics and we knew that the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry had been working with robotics for some time and had the skills and experience we needed. Our initial thoughts were that robotics would require purely programming skills, however by working with the MTC we found it wasn’t just about having programming skills, it was also about understanding end effectors and adapting our products and processes to meet the needs of robotics i.e. introducing robot-friendly packaging and adding chamfers to sharp edges for easy assembly.
Siemens in Congleton has now become self-sufficient in the adoption of robotics and this is precisely why the Catapult Centres exist – to build capability, de-risk investment, accelerate innovation cycles and ultimately make UK manufacturing more globally competitive. As a result of our initial engagement with the MTC, we have now become a tier 1 member which allows Siemens to collaborate and engage with other members, engage with research projects and further accelerate our innovation cycles by introducing new skills, technologies and processes into our factories much faster than if we were to pursue solely by ourselves.
‘Factory in a Box’ has been a great opportunity for Siemens to both collaborate with other organisations to show how businesses can grow through the adoption of smart manufacturing technologies and processes. Delivered by the MTC, in partnership with Siemens, the work has been two-fold. Factory in A Box 1 was launched earlier this year and demonstrated how Siemens Industrial Software could be used as part of a ‘Digital Twin’ supporting non-Siemens technologies and manufacturing products housed within a physical shipping container. Factory in a Box 2, which has very recently been launched, set out to be a more mobile demonstrator with the physical element of the ‘Digital Twin’ being a process plant visualised through ‘mixed reality’ conveyed as holographic imagery.
Ultimately, Factory in a Box 2 is a rapidly deployable, remotely managed, modular manufacturing supply chain network enabled by industrial digital technologies, demonstrating a seamless totally integrated automation approach. The factory design and controls architecture of the demonstrator have all been virtually commissioned, so in the absence of a physical factory, the production process is emulated, and mixed reality is used to visualise real time production data.
The key benefits of this seamlessly integrated demonstrator can simply be described as the whole worth being more than the sum of the parts. It minimises the need for gateways or data translators and increases the level of integrated built-in diagnostics.
Siemens manufacturing facilities have gained a great deal of value from this integrated approach. Collaborating with the MTC on Factory in a Box 2 has allowed Siemens to share best practice (our 170+ years of manufacturing experience!) and the benefits we have seen with other organisations, ultimately supporting UK manufacturing as a whole and putting British manufacturing back in the driving seat of the 4th Industrial Revolution.