Advanced Machine Engineering: Complex Customization and Safety

Smart machines are essential to provide an order of magnitude increase in information flow to enable hyper-automation.

Siemens Digital Industries Software has submitted this article.

Written By: Rahul Garg, Vice President of Industrial Machinery & Small and Medium Business Programs for Siemens Digital Industries Software

Innovative technologies are rapidly advancing machine engineering processes, driving positive change in the manufacturing industry and causing companies of all sizes to innovate to meet machinery manufacturers’ challenges and trends. These trends include consumer-driven customization, which can result in smaller lot sizes and product life spans, and global competition, which spans both large enterprises and more flexible, agile startups. Given these trends and technologies, smart machines are essential to provide an order of magnitude increase in information flow that will enable the hyper-automation required to leverage vast amounts of data and automate machine functions.

(Image courtesy of Siemens Digital Industries Software.)

(Image courtesy of Siemens Digital Industries Software.)

Advanced machine engineering (AME) processes work with innovative technologies to promote this dynamic industry and motivate companies. Companies across the industrial machinery industry are turning to advanced machine engineering with a focus on ensuring greater certainty in developing next-generation machines. By fostering collaboration among the many disciplines that are essential for advanced machines, machine builders can reduce ramp-up time to production through virtual design and commissioning, resulting in improved upfront validation, shorter commissioning times and more immediate productivity. 

Key Advanced Machine Engineering Capabilities

Advanced machine engineering solutions impact the machine industry while focusing on its safety benefits. These critical capabilities include:

Multi-disciplinary design complexity: Machines are not merely a piece of equipment. The software must adapt to conditions on the floor, enabling the machine to react to real-time sensor readings. As more mechanical capabilities and features are being replaced by software, machine designers must consider the mechanical, electrical and fluid aspects of machine design.

The multi-disciplinary design encompasses the complexities of building a machine, including engineering the design and manufacturing. It creates a single source of truth in design to address the back-and-forth process between engineering silos. Blending these capabilities and skillsets in a collaborative environment ensures the machine design’s quality output in everything working together cohesively. It is an art form, rather than simply bolting on electrical sensors and cable-runs. Moreover, it creates harmony in the multi-disciplinary design that did not exist when disciplines were in silos because it is an integrated solution.

Multi-disciplinary BOM and configuration managementThe multi-disciplinary bill of materials (BOM) for machine builders is vital for sophisticated, smart machines. This asset provides manufacturers greater flexibility to respond to customer demands for customization with configured-to-order modern machines.

Every machine and order that a machine builder receives is usually a new project. Consequently, machine builders must track these diverse options and variants for integrating requirements and project and change management, thus managing the entire BOM throughout the product life. This process includes the original engineering design through manufacturing and managing the machine bill of materials throughout its service life.

A level of planning capability is required for each engineering discipline, providing an agile approach. Therefore, it is essential to trace customer and engineering requirements, including the mechanical design’s activity and electrical and controls engineers executing the project. This process includes the high-level customer requirements specification document, the BOM structure and attaching to the risks for the deliverable.  

This methodology provides a level of capability for ensuring and reducing the risk in meeting customer requirements, enabling sophisticated software solutions implemented into every machine.

Virtual machine simulation and commissioning: A machine must prove itself and validate the software code virtually, interacting digitally, before operating physically on the factory floor. Therefore, virtual simulation provides a physical safety aspect by seeing something collide in the virtual world, making it substantially safer and less costly to fix than on a physical machine. 

Subsequently, virtual commissioning drives the behavior of the motors while integrating the kinematics. This awareness pays enormous dividends because no one purchases a machine sight unseen or on virtual simulation claims via the software code. This revelation is powerful because a machine mechanism might move faster than expected, leading to an actual impact load more significant than anticipated. Thus, replicating the kinematics virtually uncovers potential hazards, leading to swift resolutions.

Furthermore, by embracing virtual commissioning and visualization, machine builders bring customers into virtual reality to interact with the machine in its digital form, providing customers a way to substantiate that a machine works before shipping it to their plant. 

A prime example of virtual commissioning is Tronrud Engineering, which for more than 40 years has developed, produced and delivered innovative machines and equipment. A new machine’s digital twin allows their designers, engineers and programmers to work simultaneously and continuously interact to share their knowledge. By implementing virtual commissioning and simulation, Tronrud Engineering has reduced their commissioning time to 70 percent while compressing their engineering time by 25 percent—a substantial benefit to their bottom line. 

Smarter Machines, Smarter Code, Smarter Software

Sophisticated software is crucial to machine manufacturers addressing a competitive global market with shrinking margins, rapidly expanding customization, environmental and government regulations and Industry 4.0 smart factory initiatives. Subsequently, machines must be smarter. 

(Image courtesy of Siemens Digital Industries Software.)

(Image courtesy of Siemens Digital Industries Software.)

The core requirement includes machine design innovation in operation and development. Being good versus great hinges on the quality and creation of the automation code. Having significant code provides intuitive user interfaces that promote ease of use and advantage of new hardware capabilities. It also uses software algorithms to help machines move faster and more safely with less physical stress on components.

However, possessing well-written code is not enough. Modern machines have vast complexities in the lines of code. It is critical to test that code in a virtual world, utilizing all use cases before loading it on a physical machine. Therefore, companies are under tremendous pressure to deliver highly customized machines rapidly, with added complexity—and relying on the safety of merely physically validating the machine is not an option.

Every machine contains a set of binaries representing the compiled machine operation and user interface code. With conventional practices, programmers scramble to get last-minute changes to the code locked in before the machine ships. It is imperative to retain a locked version of the final code to use for many purposes, including service, catastrophic backup, lessons learned for future machines and upgrades to previous machines in the field.

Therefore, having a code repository is not enough. Each software variant must be traceable and retrievable via the serial number for the machine bill of materials. A machine’s life needs traceable records of all upgrades in hardware and software representing the machines’ living digital twin.

The Future of Advanced Machine Engineering

Advanced machine engineering solutions are emerging which address the challenges and trends facing the machinery industry, including our discussion of the multi-discipline design, multi-disciplinary BOM and configuration management, and virtual machine simulation and commissioning.

The Xcelerator portfolio from Siemens Digital Industries Software, a comprehensive, integrated portfolio of software, services and an application development platform, provides a full suite of solutions to empower machine builders and suppliers with the essential tools to compete successfully. The portfolio accelerates the transformation of businesses into digital enterprises and unlocks a powerful industrial network effect—essential requirements help industrial machinery companies to transition seamlessly to create tomorrow’s complex, efficient machines.

Visit Siemens Digital Industries Software to learn more about advanced machine engineering.

About the Author

Rahul Garg is the vice president of Industrial Machinery & Small and Medium Business Programs for Siemens Digital Industries Software. He and his team are responsible for identifying and delivering strategic initiatives and developing solutions for the industry, working closely with industry-leading customers and providing thought leadership on new, emerging issues facing the machinery industry. Rahul’s experience and insights are derived from a 25-year career of delivering software-based solutions for product engineering and manufacturing innovation for the global manufacturing industry. He has held leadership positions in multiple areas, including research and development, program management, sales and P&L management, having focused exclusively on the industrial machinery and heavy equipment industry since 2007. Rahul holds a master’s degree in Computer Science from Wayne State University, with a concentration in Operations Management and Strategic Marketing, as well as a Bachelor of Computer Engineering degree in Computer Engineering from Bombay University.