Virtual Commissioning of Manufacturing Lines

By Markus Erlmann

Did you ever think about how a whole manufacturing line is set up on the shop floor? And wonder why it is running smoothly and at an optimum in regards to throughput, reliability, flexibility, safety and sustainability. Well, I’m not sure if all manufacturing lines run at an optimum, but I’m always fascinated seeing the complex system of a whole manufacturing line working smoothly.



Finding an optimum is a difficult task for manufacturing engineers. How can this be done?

Let’s take a system-oriented approach. As with any complex system, it’s divided into separate components, e.g. divide the overall line into zones, cells or workstations. In addition, sub-divide a cell into mechanical, electrical and automation components. Each of these sub-systems will then be optimized independently.

There is a downside to this approach. Sometimes the interconnection between the different components gets lost, which leads to issues during set-up and ramp-up of the physical manufacturing line. Here a virtual commissioning solution can help. Virtual commissioning basically allows testing and optimizing manufacturing lines upfront to the start of production. This is done in a virtual environment taking into account the mechanical and automation equipment like robots and PLCs (Programmable Logic Controller) as well as conveyors, fixtures, light barriers, etc.

There are two aspects of virtual commissioning. One is to ensure that automation equipment like robots work smoothly together with the control components like PLCs. This can be validated using Tecnomatix Process Simulate Commissioning in a 3D environment (I talked about this solution in one of my previous posts). The second aspect is to ensure the overall material flow and operation which can be simulated with Tecnomatix Plant Simulation.

Ralf Tobel, Director R&D, talks about the need to simulate PLCs and the differences between the two aspects of virtual commissioning.

For more details about Plant Simulation just visit the product page. Want to know more about virtual commissioning in a 3D environment; take a look at the Process Simulate Commissioning product page.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at