Professor Siegfried Russwurm, chief technology officer at Siemens, says digital transformation is opening up great opportunities
The world has never been as networked as it is now. Whether in gas turbines, trains, manufacturing facilities or medical imaging technologies, our reality is taking on a digital dimension.
Digital change is sounding the bell for a paradigm change – in business as well as private life. As one of the world’s leading companies in digitalization, Siemens is playing an active part in this development. We’ve set a clear focus and identified digitalization as one of the biggest growth drivers to carry us into a successful future.
Even today, Siemens’ worldwide workforce includes about 17,500 software engineers, who contribute a wide range of industry-specific IT and software solutions to their work in electrification, automation and urban infrastructures.
Together we’re making use of the opportunities that digitalization offers – the virtual world – for our specific application areas in the real world. And there we meet not only our customers’ quality requirements, but our own needs as a company, for example when it comes to maximum availability of products.
Sinalytics – a new platform for Siemens Digital Services
Research and innovation play a key role here. Corporate Technology, our central research department, supports the company’s businesses by providing new methods and innovative solutions – for example, helping to develop industry software in much shorter cycles, in close cooperation with customers.
We’re also devising platforms that very successfully foster and accelerate the development of data-driven services throughout the company. We’ve bundled all the technologies needed for Siemens Digital Services in a powerful platform that is already in use. We call it Sinalytics. It supplements our previous capabilities in remote maintenance and optimization with the latest developments in data analysis, connectivity and cyber-security.
Sinalytics enables our business units to offer their customers new services, based on our people’s own specific knowledge of their domain and their analytical skills – all with high levels of data security. Last fiscal year alone, our conventional and digital services generated some EUR 16 billion in revenues. We now expect Digital Services to show average annual market growth of 15 percent.
As this process evolves, we can draw on years of experience. We’ve been using smart technologies to network and manage equipment for more than ten years now. Today our remote maintenance platform connects some 300,000 systems – industrial plants, trains, wind farms, medical imaging equipment – and each month these systems deliver 17 terabytes of data that Sinalytics integrates and analyzes.
Customers are saving money through data analytics and remote maintenance. One example is the Velaro high-speed train in Spain, which has an impressive punctuality rate of 99.9 percent.
Our experts mine this massive volume of data gathered by sensors in machines and systems to derive valuable discoveries.
An exciting example comes from our Mobility Division. Predictive servicing has enabled the Velaro E – Spain’s equivalent of Germany’s ICE Intercity Express train – to achieve 99.9 percent availability on the route between Barcelona and Madrid. Suitable data analyses help us predict technical malfunctions and thus service the trains preventively, in association with our customer Renfe.
That means the train operator can promise to refund passengers’ fares if a train is more than 15 minutes late. And that level of customer service also pays off for the operator – because of the reliable availability of it’s rolling stock. Indeed, Renfe’s trains have become so punctual that today almost half of all travelers on this route take the train rather than a plane. The figure used to be only one in 10.
Predictive servicing has enabled the Velaro E to achieve 99.9 percent availability on the route between Barcelona and Madrid.
Sinalytics gives our customers the flexibility they need to get data analyses in whatever place fits their individual needs best. That might be in a cloud, such as Mindsphere – our cloud for industry based on SAP’s Hana platform. Or it could also be locally anchored – for example at the Siemens computer center in Frankfurt. But in the future, thanks to intelligently networked devices, customers will also be able to get their analyses directly in the field – meaning right where the data are generated.
Web of systems – our version of the internet of things
Our thinking goes a step further: we’ve made the concept of the internet of things (IoT) a reality for industrial applications. In our electrification and automation domains – the real world – we and our customers have built up expertise over the decades that we can now link to the virtual world.
Factories, traffic networks and power grids are complex structures that involve interlaced real and virtual systems. Most of these infrastructures are critical. This is why Siemens has evolved the IoT further into what we call the “Web of Systems”.
Using web technologies, we make systems, devices and machines the starting points for digitally networked industry. That doesn’t mean your equipment sends your raw data, unfiltered and unprotected, into a cloud where it’s processed and turned into knowledge by some anonymous entity. Rather, devices interact with and understand each other thanks to built-in computing capacity. And the knowledge of what the data means stays within the real and digital systems.
Being open to new approaches
But technological skills by themselves are not enough. To be successful in the long run, we’re systematically turning Siemens itself into a digitalization company – adjusting our processes and our corporate culture to the new digital culture. In training and continuing education, we’re preparing for new working methods in the digital world.
With some 10,000 trainees and dual-track university students, we’re one of the largest private business trainers, making future employees ready for the digital world in such areas as cloud computing and robotics. We use new tools to work together across various disciplines and departments.
We’ve been learning from digital start-ups’ willingness to take entrepreneurial risks when tapping new lines of business, their ability to learn quickly from mistakes and take corrective action. And we’re exploring new territory in the way we work with external partners. Being open to new approaches is one aspect of our mindset. Being as quick and flexible as a start-up is another.
Article by Professor Siegfried Russwurm, member of the managing board and chief technology officer at Siemens