Siemens: accelerating Industry 4.0 manufacturing
Siemens has a reputation which is near-synonymous with technological innovation and visionary leadership in the industrial manufacturing sector. The largest business of its kind currently operating in Europe, the German company has enjoyed longstanding success in the manufacturing community since 1847. However, far from resting on its legacy, Siemens continues to take on truly global precedence as it expands to new markets and takes on region-specific challenges. This attitude couldn’t be expressed better than the work it is currently exhibiting in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) area, particularly Singapore, with which the company has enjoyed a long and prosperous entrepreneurial partnership since 1908.
When Benjamin Moey joined the company in 2014 as the Head of Strategy and Business Development, he says that it was the unique value that Siemens brings to the APAC region which drew him in: “It was a unique opportunity. I think this company is at the cutting edge of technology and I'm glad to be back in Asia because this is the growing manufacturing hub of the world.” A microelectronics engineer by training, Moey has enjoyed a varied career, including roles in strategic marketing, investment management the UK and Head of Strategy at Rolls Royce Energy (Asia Pacific). After starting with Siemens, he was soon promoted to Director (Mergers & Acquisitions) at the company’s Energy Division in Orlando, Florida, before rising to his current position as Vice President (Advance Manufacturing, Digital Industries) of the APAC branch. It is this full-spectrum experience, from engineering to finance, strategy, R&D (research and development) and finally to mergers & acquisitions (M&A), that he believes primed him for leadership at Siemens. “I've been around,” he says, “and I think that the combination of these diverse and international experiences, as well as my MBA at the London Business School, has really set me up for my current role.”
Moey’s wide breadth of experience and penchant for change came to the company at a crucial time; deciding to fully embrace the exciting, new digital era, Siemens has started to diversify from the hardware which gained its reputation. “There has been a lot of change in mindset at the management level and we have begun transitioning ourselves to be more digitally focused,” he explains.”In the last four years, we have been acquiring software companies in the industrial space and today we are one of the leaders in that sector.” The transformation started in 2014 when the company set out its 2020 vision, which focused on a trinity of technological changes within manufacturing: electrification, digitalisation and automation. Instrumental to ushering in this new era for Siemens was the creation of ‘Next47’. A new unit receiving €1bn in funding over a five-year period, it is dedicated to fostering digital disruption and developing fourteen core technologies of the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0), including robotics, AI (artificial intelligence), VR (virtual reality), cybersecurity and many more.
Popularly conceived as a holistic integration of digital tech and the means of production, Industry 4.0 generates an exciting vision of the future, wherein self-optimising systems change the work/consumer dynamic forever. The possibilities of this paradigm shift, Moey claims, can be observed in two recent projects undertaken by Siemens, one in Vietnam and the other in Singapore. “Vinfast (a subsidiary of a Vietnamese Conglomerate Vingroup) had aspirations of building their own automobile plant to serve the local market,” he says. “Vinfast approached us in Vietnam asking ‘can you come and figure this out for us?’ Siemens, using the industrial software tools at our disposal and our knowledge of automation, designed and developed a digital twin of the factory. Vinfast virtually commissioned it prior to the actual build.” Digital twin is software which can replicate physical assets in order to perform qualitative research before commencing a full project. Integrating IoT (internet of things), AI, machine learning and analytics, Siemens’ digital twin enabled it to complete the project within 21 months - “It's amazing how digitalisation and our tools have enabled this to happen within such a short period of time,” Moey adds. The second project was slightly more unusual, yet it exemplifies the diversity of the company’s imagination: Aquaculture 4.0. A fish farm in Singapore approached Siemens to enquire how AI might be able to help its business. Setting up cameras to monitor fish growth patterns, Siemens was able to compile data that could be analysed by AI software to find optimisation potential. “Few people realise that digitalisation is not just applicable to standard manufacturing facilities or production lines,” Moey posits. Although still in the data collection phase, he believes that Aquaculture 4.0 has the potential to increase capacity ten-fold.
Projects and results like these could not be produced without the technology to enable it or the innovative workplace culture to drive it. Siemens, states Moey, possesses both of these valuable assets. Frequently the two come together and this has led to some of the company’s greatest achievements. Prime examples include MindSphere, Siemens’ cloud-based IoT platform for connecting assets within an integrated, analytical platform, and its AMTC (Advance Manufacturing Transformation Centre) concept. The latter was developed to help the APAC region reach its full potential by introducing next-gen manufacturing techniques. “ASEAN probably accounts for about 20% of the world's manufacturing revenue and growing; these manufacturing companies need help and Siemens is ready to be part of their growth story,” Moey says. A unique venture in the global market, the goal of AMTC is to bridge the gap between developing and matured industrial practices, particularly with regard to the adoption of 3D printing. Siemens hopes that helping companies accelerate the adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies through simplification, digitalization and collaboration “can help them translate their prototype designs into industrial-scale production and truly harness their benefit on a low risk, low investment basis at our AMTC facilities,” he continues.
It’s a noble, exciting idea and one which Moey has no illusions will be easy. “Each company’s journey will be different. But, we will have the right equipment builders, certification bodies, government authorities and researchers to help them get started,” he enthuses. Siemens’ goal with AMTC is to create an ecosystem of partners and technologies to support customers with turnkey solutions and expert guidance. The company achieves this by building strong relationships with its core partners/suppliers, such as EOS and JTC, as well as by leveraging the cream of the startup community with next47. “We invest a lot in startups and support them because they are at the forefront of technology,” Moey explains. “Siemens helps them to mature, develop and support our ecosystem as a whole - many times we end up acquiring them fully.” The company is interested in working with equally open-minded companies which have an innovative approach to the industry; Moey considers it essential that they share this vision.
That brings us back to Industry 4.0 and Siemens’ place within it. For Moey, AMTC and the company’s work in the APAC region are leading to a new paradigm of manufacturing and customer consuming which comically dubs ‘the lazy economy’. Detailed, optimised and intelligent, ‘the lazy economy’ could change our purchasing habits significantly. “IoT is helping us deliver what consumers want when they want it and to deliver it on time using advanced manufacturing technologies like 3D printing. One day, IoT might help us understand how much food you have in your fridge and schedule deliveries accordingly,” he says. The realisation of such a thoroughly connected system could dramatically increase consumption efficiencies by making products quickly to order. The challenge for the regional market, he claims, is the ready availability of cheap labour which makes companies interested in adopting next-gen manufacturing techniques lose incentive. However, Moey considers this to be a generational reservation, one which may not hinder younger businesses. “Once the new wave of leaders emerge, because they're more exposed to these technologies, they will have the right mindset and take things to the next level.”
Siemens is primed to equip this next generation of APAC enterprise innovators with the technical and systemic advantages that they’ll need to be competitive. The company has already made notable progress in achieving this aim with AMTC and its mastery of Industry 4.0 technology. Accelerating the adoption of advanced manufacturing in the region is Moey’s staunch goal and he wants to make it clear that a partnership with Siemens is a significant step for any company that wishes to do so. “The changes happening now are here to stay,” he summarises. “I think people will evolve their mindset in terms of how they deal with change. The most important thing for them to understand is that digital transformation can be a gradual process; it doesn't have to be overnight; we need to constantly move and upgrade to really take on the challenges of tomorrow.”