Thought Leadership

Advanced machine engineering – a managed environment (podcast transcript – part 4)

By Bill Butcher

Industrial machinery in manufacturing is witnessing noteworthy innovations. It is a daunting mission to design, confirm and manage modern-day manufacturing and assembly processes to achieve unrivaled quality while optimizing cost.

In this last blog of the Advanced Machine Engineering series, we are providing a transcribed excerpt of the fourth podcast,  where we take a more in-depth look at the multi-disciplinary BOM and configuration management and why it’s important for our listeners. We are addressing the question: what is a managed environment, and why should it be necessary to the machine builders and their suppliers?

Bill Davis
Bill Davis, Director of Industrial Machinery and Heavy Equipment Solutions at Siemens Digital Industries Software

We, again, interview one of our resident engineering experts, Bill Davis, who is the Director of Industrial Machinery and Heavy Equipment Solutions at Siemens Digital Industries Software. Bill’s expertise in this industry expands over 30 years, with 20 years as an engineer.

Below, is the transcribed excerpt from the fourth podcast in this series:

Bill Butcher: Welcome to Siemens Digital Industry Software podcast series on Advanced Machine Engineering, brought to you by the Siemens Thought Leadership team. As we’ve learned throughout this podcast series, industrial machinery manufacturers have seen groundbreaking technological advancements in the areas of design and machine simulation. Today, in our fourth and final podcast of the series, we are discussing another differentiation of the advanced machine engineering solution, which is that it allows machine manufacturers the ability to create a multi-disciplinary bills-of-material (BOM) and a configuration management environment. With this approach, it is possible to leverage your proprietary data to create a digital thread approach to engineering and a competitive advantage.

We have so enjoyed this series with our resident expert Bill Davis, who is the Director of Industrial Machinery and Heavy Equipment Solutions at Siemens. Bill has over 30 years of experience in engineering and operations management and has focused the last 20, approximately, on the industrial machinery industry. Bill, welcome!

Bill Davis: I appreciate the warm introduction. Welcome, everybody, to the final podcast on Advanced Machine Engineering.

Bill Butcher: Alright, so let’s continue this dynamic topic. In the first three podcasts, we talked about the evolution of technology within the machinery industry, and key trends that continue to shape the industry today. We also introduced the Advanced Machine Engineering solution at a high level, where you discussed three key differentiators: multi-disciplinary design, virtual machine simulation and commissioning, and multi-disciplinary BOM and configuration management.

In our last two sessions, we took a deep dive into multi-disciplinary design and virtual machine simulation and commissioning. In this session, Bill, I’d like to take a deeper look at multi-disciplinary BOM and configuration management and why it’s important for our listeners. So, as always, I’d like to start out by asking a simple question: What is a managed environment and why should it be important to the machine builders and their suppliers?

Bill Davis: Yeah, thank you, Bill. It’s a good topic, and one that kind of spans the ages. When we talk about BOM management, I think about some of the days when I started in engineering back in the eighties, and how we were adopting many different process scenarios that I’ll give you as examples. We built machinery that manufactured paper cups for our customers – so very high-speed equipment, upwards of 200 cups per minute that were in each one of these machines. Also, if you went in one of these plants you would see hundreds of these machines cranking out paper cups. It was kind of a unique opportunity for me and I’m grateful that I was able to start my career in that field. I was equally grateful to understand early on what, even in those days, we’ve come to talk about managed environment for machinery. So, of course, we had a lot of drawings and everything like that, and bills-of-material that were all in written form. It was important for us to be disciplined in how we arranged our data. Before we had PDM and PLM, we had a file cabinet that was our managed environment.

We would build machines that today we would call configured-to-order. So, it’s idealized. The process is that you have a menu selection of different components, sub-components and assemblies that you pick from, based on a set of criteria that are given by your customer’s requirements. You compile the bills-of-material, and then everything works, because you’ve built it all before and you know that each one of those different sub-assemblies will work together with its partner, regardless of whatever else you chose. It takes a lot of discipline from a machinery builder to adopt the configured-to-order approach, but obviously, that’s the shortest delivery schedule time frame because it doesn’t really require any engineering work as there’s no new drawings that must be made.

A more common approach is where they would ask for something that we didn’t have in our configuration list. So, this is an engineer-to-order type of approach. And we were fortunate in our ability to be disciplined enough to break that down into differently affected sub-assemblies. We could take the modules – we were doing modular machine design back then – and perform the engineering piece on one of the modules, retaining the interface points in isolation as opposed to having to design a whole new machine. I would consider this being an engineer-to-order approach that can go from one or more types of sub-assemblies, all the way to a complete machine, if you were completely building something that was brand new. It is a very wide spectrum, but I think that most of us in the engineering administration world would prefer it more modular and discreet, and not a complete rewrite, because there’s way too much risk.

Thirdly – and we kind of talked about it from a CTO perspective – how do I continue to maintain and manage the configure-to-order ability? The answer is by adding greater capabilities. In our managed environment file folder, I looked at the early machines and file folder that was only a quarter of an inch thick. However, as we got into the waning days of 2D drafting, the number of possible configurations in that bills-of-material was an inch thicker. So, it really takes a lot of work to be able to do that platform expansion and platform design. But what’s equally important in companies today is our ability to identify or to take out the mechanical and electrical and keep those separate in their bills-of-material. Due to much complexity, and the integrated nature of the mechanical, electrical and software solutions, the bills-of-material needs to include everything – all the various capabilities, features, functionality and components. So, you must have a bills-of-material that represents the entire machine and not just the different disciplines.

Bill Butcher: Right. So, we discussed in our previous sessions, about challenges facing machine developers and builders and you mentioned complexity. Is complexity the only challenge around this topic of data management or are there other areas of concern?

Bill Davis: In the example of my first company with the manufactured paper cup and container machines – every time we turned around, a customer would ask us to build a version of this machine for a different cup or container size. The team that I lead designed and built 150 variants annually. So, complexity is as manageable as you want it to be. However, one of the things that is challenging for machine builders is that they need to manage it all and incorporate the different variants and possibilities. So, we look at maybe a left-hand and a right-hand version of a machine or different controls. Most machinery builders that are listening to, or reading, this podcast probably understands that they may build the same machine using Rockwell controllers and the same for building Siemens controllers. However, because those materials are not the same, there are often translated impacts to mechanical and electrical components. So, you’ve got increased product complexity.

Consider the fact that in the factory that I mentioned, where you have one hundred machines running, every one of those cup machines was going to make a different size cup. Also, they were going to only do that for about two weeks or two days. Therefore, the lot sizes and changeover parts are challenging machinery builders because they have to design and build these machines to handle a short length of time that their customers are going to run their machine before the changeover. So, they’re expecting a lot more adaptability and flexibility in the machines, and they need to offer variety without driving up costs. You have this complex network of features and constraints that’s intertwined with the actual product. We can’t build a machine without having a product for the machine. Having the features and the functionality is one thing, but having it conform to the product requirements of the customer – that’s another part that is challenging for machinery builders to build flexible-enough machines.

Bill Butcher: It seems like the challenges are encompassing, on some level, multiple areas that machinery builders need to be concerned about. How can the Advanced Machine Engineering solution help solve these challenges?

Bill Davis: There is a set of capabilities, of course, where we’ve talked about multi-discipline engineering and building the machine from the beginning, simulating that machine and proving out that we could build what we said we were going to build. However, when you talk about the variants and the different possibilities, and added customer constraints or requirements, it becomes apparent that every machine and every order that you take as a machine builder is a new project. Therefore, having the ability to execute all projects in an engineering way, through the engineering process, requires a high level of project management, discipline and change management. Consider the fact to just deal with the change management piece first is that you’ve got two different areas where change management is really impacted. One is in this platform management or ongoing engineering that we talked about, previously. But if we’re working through a project, we must be cognizant of the fact that the reason we’re building new machines, or the reason we’re changing things, is to reduce costs. We need to have a managed environment visibility to all the impacts of the change. Also, we need to be able to understand the complete scope of what’s going on. Then consider this configuration matrix – highly-configurable products with the applicability of this part used on the left-handed one; however, not on the right-handed one – but used on the other version. So, what you find is that in order to maximize the reuse of a part, it ends up being pervasive throughout the organization; therefore, your change management effort needs to be very robust to ensure that you are accommodating all configurations.

You need to have the level of planning capability that’s in each discipline – kind of a more agile approach. But, you must also have traceability of those customer requirements, as well as your company requirements, all the way down to the actual activity that’s being performed by the design engineer, electrical engineer and controls engineer for executing the project. So, you are having that scope of deliverables and being able to take it from a high-level customer requirements specification document, and driving it all the way down through the BOM structure for attaching it to the actual task. Also, there’s the deliverable that gives you a level of capability around ensuring and reducing your risk that you’ve met those customer requirements.

It’s crucial for the project management, from an automation company perspective – in an executive leadership position – to be directly responsible for the performance of the organization and managing the project when you’re talking about these different disparate groups. Nobody has complete ownership of the whole machine. Instilling the culture of complete project management is important for taking your machinery company to the next level. This is easily overlooked for each discipline domain. So, having capabilities in advanced machine engineering around program management is essential.

Bill Butcher: Accountability and responsibility are great drivers for trying to get everybody aligned in your organization and your supply chain. So, Bill, I can’t thank you enough for spending the time with us to discuss the unique value delivered through the Advanced Machine Engineering solution. Before we end this podcast and this series, could you quickly summarize the main advantages of the advanced machine engineering solution and why it should be considered by our listeners?

Bill Davis: Oh, sure, Bill. Absolutely! So, at a high level, I would encourage everybody to go back and listen to the other podcasts (links at the bottom of this blog) if you want a deeper dive into any one of these areas that we discussed.

Firstly, there is a multi-discipline design and multi-disciplinary engineering, with the ability to collaborate and work to support all of these different disciplines – the mechanical, electrical, software and fluidics within a single design environment, and to build that true digital twin that supports all of those disciplines – a key part of what we’re talking about with multi-disciplinary design.

Secondly, the virtual machine simulation and commissioning, and the more traditional 1D, 3D types of simulations having a tightly integrated simulation solution, with that functionality, supporting a parallel product development. So, between multi-discipline design and virtual commissioning, you’re going to maximize the amount of concentrated engineering resource that’s in a parallel environment and not overextending it. It’s important to understand that having a tight integration and simulation capability is required from a virtual commissioning perspective. Therefore, having that capability with a real digital twin that represents all of the disciplines is crucial.

Thirdly, it’s vital to manage all of this in a single environment and understanding the options and variants to integrate requirements and project and change management. It is managing the entire bills-of-material throughout its product life – from the original engineering design through manufacturing. We also have a great manufacturing solution around smart manufacturing that plays a role in this BOM configuration management, and into service life and managing the machine bills-of-material throughout its life.

Bill Davis: So, Advanced Machine Engineering, just to summarize, comprises the three contents of multi-discipline design, virtual machine simulation and commissioning and multi-disciplinary BOM and configuration management. I thank you for the opportunity to speak about Advanced Machine Engineering.

Bill Butcher: Well, thank you again, Bill, as well. It’s been a pleasure to speak to you throughout this series on Advanced Machine Engineering and highlighting the positive effects on the manufacturing industry. We’re looking forward to hearing your contributions in additional series for industrial machinery very soon.

Listen to podcast01podcast02, podcast03 and podcast04 from this series via our Thought Leadership blogs.

Also, you can access the entire podcast series via AppleStitcherSpotifyCastboxTuneIn or Google.

To improve the speed and efficiency of your machine design process, watch our Advanced Machine Engineering – Start your digital transformation journey today webinar.

About our expert:
Bill Davis is the acting Industrial Machinery and Heavy Equipment Industry leader for Siemens Digital Industries Software. His experience and insights have been acquired from a career spanning 30 years in engineering and operations management with machinery and heavy equipment companies.  Bill holds a master’s degree in Business Administration from Marquette University, with a concentration in Operations Management and Strategic Marketing, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Milwaukee School of Engineering.

This blog is an excerpt from the advanced machine engineering podcast transcript, displaying the fourth in a series of four podcasts.

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