Manufacturing Outlook 2020: The journey into next decade

By Raffaello Lepratti

As we begin this new decade, I’ve reflected these past few months on where we have come in the manufacturing industry, and where we are headed. I’ve spent the last two decades in manufacturing and been fortunate to work with some of the best and brightest here at Siemens, as well as digital evangelists within our customer base and our ecosystem of system integrators. Our Siemens team has a unique and privileged position to see so many aspects of manufacturing challenges, with our team members representing diverse domains and bringing a variety of viewpoints. Siemens is a manufacturing software provider, intimately involved in solving today’s challenges – and anticipating tomorrow’s – for our customers. Since our first acquisition in 2001, we have built strong expertise across manufacturing industries.  We are a manufacturer ourselves and a leader in industrial automation, digitalizing our own factories. We have hard-earned knowledge, not only as we have invented and innovated a broad array of digital technologies, but more importantly as we have successfully implemented them for the full spectrum of manufacturing enterprises around the globe — including our own.

With that backdrop, several interesting observations have emerged for me. First, since the introduction of I4.0 early in the last decade, it has spawned related concepts like The Smart Factory and Digitalization, as well as a proliferation of digital manufacturing technologies for supporting systems. The industry experienced widespread puzzlement over how to apply these concepts in practice. What I’m seeing now is consensus among manufacturers, vendors, and integrators about implementation and contribution from a practical perspective. Investment and focus have become reality, with true momentum.

Part of that momentum in the industry is coming about simply because we now have systems and technology convergence (e.g., IT and OT) to actually deliver digital transformation and the concepts of Industry 4.0 for manufacturers across all industries. We at Siemens have worked tirelessly over the past decade to create a software portfolio that enables digital transformation from product ideation to product realization to product utilization – connecting the entire value chain. Within the Siemens digitalization portfolio is Manufacturing Operations Management, or MOM, a key enabler of Industry 4.0. We announced our MOM portfolio, Siemens Opcenter, to the world late last year.

Thanks to the outstanding commitment of the Siemens team, we were able to identify and align the best technologies available, leverage synergies across those technologies, innovate new technologies, and create a seamless user experience in a single, personalized, modern UI tailored for specific industry needs. A huge amount of work from all of my teammates was required to realize Opcenter. Now, we are able to deliver digital transformation in a holistic way across manufacturing operations functions and processes and continue to be highly agile as a manufacturing innovation leader, supporting manufacturers on their digital journey.

The innovations in Opcenter are key drivers of the momentum in the industry.

First, Opcenter is a holistic portfolio of solutions that allows for a stepwise approach to digitalization, with an open and flexible ecosystem. The Opcenter portfolio is comprised of Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS), Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), Quality Management Systems (QMS) and Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence (EMI) along with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and automation connectivity for seamless shop-floor process orchestration. All of these solutions are built within an open and flexible architecture to be able to realize digital transformation in a stepwise manner. This is critical in ensuring rapid ROI and minimizing disruption of mission-critical operations.

Second, Opcenter is built to advance the Digital Twin concept. The key to full visibility of every aspect of product life is the Digital Twin — the virtual representation of a physical product and associated manufacturing processes, from conception through lifetime product performance in the hands of the end user. The comprehensive Digital Twin enables companies to continuously optimize their products, production and performance in the virtual realm — minimizing costs and realizing closed-loop manufacturing.

Third, Opcenter is extensible and scalable, with personalized, modern adaptability. Opcenter, with industry-focused out-of-the-box capabilities, provides built-in extensibility in the architecture that supports business logic, UI and interoperability to extend customer-specific processes. Also, Opcenter enriches the value of using low-code platforms (like Mendix) through exposed APIs, enabling our customers to create purpose-built apps tailored to their business environment and their processes, with connection to their IT landscape. With the increased need to enrich the value of a plethora of data from the shop floor, IIoT and associated technologies (MindSphere), Opcenter Intelligence delivers actionable intelligence by transforming that raw data into smart data, adding product, process, and resource context.  

As we move into this new decade of manufacturing, I am more excited than ever and proud to be part of this team and journey. We are realizing true breakthroughs not only in products, but in the enabling technology that can bring those products to market – rapidly, safely, and efficiently. We are empowering a practical, stepwise approach that is realizable beyond pilot purgatory and scalable for the enterprise of today and tomorrow. We will continue our dialogue with our customers and partners as we face new challenges together and continue our work for the future of our industry.

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