Industry 4.0 in Action- How Experience with Plant Simulation has Shaped an Oakland University Grad’s Career Trajectory

In November 2020, the Wall Street Journal wrote a story that zeroed in on the partnership between Oakland University and Siemens. Summing up the need for industry and academia collaboration, John D. Stoll reported, “As university budgets are squeezed and student debt loads rise, an era of close-knit relationships between companies and universities is getting under way.”  This partnership is not only helping students during their time in the classrooms, but in their careers as well.

Ryan Schoettle, a 2019 graduate of Oakland University, is now a Digitalization Industrial Engineer at Brose North America Inc who uses Industry 4.0 skills every day. These skills have set him apart in the industry and they were fostered though the alliance between industry and academia. As a regional simulation technical expert with a specialty in Siemens Plant Simulation, Schoettle has been able to leverage his theoretical and practical knowledge to support his company in a big way.

Initially graduating from Michigan State University with a teaching degree and a minor in mathematics, Schoettle returned to school to engage his passion for engineering. He was drawn to Oakland University’s Industrial and Systems Engineering  program because of its focus on innovation. “It was really interesting for me because it was all about efficiency and improving people’s life. Making things easier, quicker and more effective.”

Oakland University’s Industrial and Systems Engineering department (ISE) joined Siemens’ global academic partner program in 2009. Through the program the department received the Tecnomatix® portfolio of digital manufacturing solutions (including the Plant Simulation solution, Jack™ software and the Process Simulate solution) and Teamcenter™ software tools, as well as training and support. The department’s theme is product lifecycle management (PLM), so these tools fit seamlessly within the existing courses.

“It was a great experience to be able to use Plant Simulation in university and then have those tools readily available.”

While progressing through his time at Oakland University, Schoettle was introduced to the Siemens Plant Simulation software. He enjoyed learning more about it and was interested in all the possibilities that simulation opened up.  Working with the Oakland University faculty, he was even able to cover some graduation requirements by performing a semester-long independent study focusing on Plant Simulation. After spending the first few months familiarizing himself with the software with the help of professors and Siemens’ active online community forums and blogs, Schoettle was able to put these new skills into a lasting project.

He wrapped up his final project by putting together five concrete examples of how Plant Simulation could be used and how different models are represented using the digital twin. His work created a learning catalogue for professors to use with future students to help them understand and illustrate the possibilities of software like Plant Simulation.

“Oakland University is really setting up their students to enter industry 4.0 with already one foot in the door.”

After interning at Brose, Schoettle accepted a full-time position with the company as a Digitalization Industrial Engineer.  While working at Brose Schoettle’s team was approached by Siemens with a few software options. Having the experience with Plant Simulation from Oakland University, he was able to provide valuable insight about the use of the software to his superiors.  Siemens extended a trial run to the company and Schoettle became the sole key-user for Brose worldwide. After working on a few projects that resulted in thousands in savings and increased efficiency for the company, the company decided to get a long-term license.  “Because of how powerful and versatile the Plant Simulation software is, I was able to convince the organization to go beyond the trial license and procure the long-term license which we have had for almost two years now.”

Now, in the wake of COVID-19, Schoettle  job has been busy.  In an unpredictable business year, simulation software provides money-saving insight for companies. “Simulation really offers us a proof of concept and minimizes our overall risk” Understanding the value of digital twins, Schoettle has been able to save his company thousands.  His goals for 2021 include working with company leaders to define the culture of simulation from top to bottom.

When asked about his advice for other engineers looking to break into the industry Schoettle said, “If you are a freelancer and learning simulation software on your own, I would advise them to check out the PLM community. You can find an answer to almost every question you have and if you don’t then you can post your question [on forums] and I’ve gotten an answer in  a matter of 20 minutes by experts. It is incredible how much engagement there is in that community.”

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