MBSE and the digital transformation is for factories too

Often talking about model-based systems engineering (MBSE) and the benefits of the digital transformation it can seem as though it is most important for companies creating a product like a plane, train, or automobile. But the use of product in this sense does not directly mean discrete products that are sold to a customer, it might be a process, a service, or an organization within an enterprise. A factory environment can be just as complex as a autonomous vehicle, just differently so. The systems at play are different – swapping roads for aisles, cars for robots, and fluid lines for electrical harnesses – but these systems still need to communicate and be coordinated to the best operation. And getting there requires the same solution, a digital methodology relying on the digital twin and a communication framework established in systems engineering and MBSE.

This is not just a comparison of complexities and assuming similar solutions would work, digital native factories are coming online to create optimized environments and processes. Siemens Numerical Control Ltd. (SNC), out of China, designs, manufactures, and stores CNC production systems including the drives and motors for high-end manufacturing industries around the world. Recently, the business consolidated to a single site and needed to maintain production volumes and customer demands. The traditional decision would have been to stop production, but with a comprehensive digital solution the process could be planned and refined without disrupting manufacturing process more than already being experienced.

Build it before you build it

For SNC, the digital twin was absolutely essential to keeping operations going while planning their factory consolidation. It was built from a combination of factory data, production line data, performance information, and building specifications from the existing facilities. The digital factory became the sandbox for how to optimize the facility while integrating the many different systems it would contain – from the human infrastructure to the manufacturing equipment. With the data and requirements in hand, performance of the new factory was simulated, and simulated again, iterating on the design before breaking ground or pouring the first drop of concrete.

The dimensions of the building, the projected material flows, and the manufacturing supplies – think nitrogen lines, power infrastructure, and even IT – could be established and validated early to remove exceedingly expensive reworks. The MBSE methodology is critical to this type of work to ensure the components going in have all of the prerequisites to operate as expected. Can the floor support the wait of the machines? Is extra foundation needed in certain areas? Are the feed lines for electricity, working fluids, and other consumables able to route effectively everywhere they are needed? With those networks be easily accessible should something go wrong? A digital twin empowers engineers and designs to ask these questions earlier than ever before.

Don’t keep it running, run it better

Where digital native approaches and MBSE methodologies really shine for process and services industries shine are in the optimizations after construction and during the ongoing operations of a facility. A solution might be great on day one, but with more time, more variations, and more insight optimizations can continue for the rest of these product’s lives. But doing so requires some upfront investment to be able to track as much as possible, and this is where the electronics and software domains come into the fore. That is the industrial internet of things (IIoT).

Data generated from a wide variety of sensors is fed back into the digital twin, continuously, as a feedback loop for optimization. A data-driven approach to optimization is invaluable for many reasons, especially for companies looking to integrate sustainability requirements into their optimization decisions. But this is only touching the surface of what it possible with a digital native factory. For more information on how to implement digital twin tech. and optimize your factory for the best results you will want to check out the full article from EENewsEurope, reporting on SNC. For the how of it and other information on MBSE, there are lots of amazing resources on our website.

Siemens Digital Industries Software is driving transformation to enable a digital enterprise where engineering, manufacturing and electronics design meet tomorrow. Xcelerator, the comprehensive and integrated portfolio of software and services from Siemens Digital Industries Software, helps companies of all sizes create and leverage a comprehensive digital twin that provides organizations with new insights, opportunities and levels of automation to drive innovation.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/thought-leadership/2022/09/09/mbse-and-the-digital-transformation-is-for-factories-too/