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Digitalisation in Condition Monitoring; a Perspective on the Factory of the Future

14 February 2016

Cloud for Industry

By Paul Hingley, Data Services (CMR) Business Manager, Siemens Digital Factory and Process Industries & Drives

Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things are increasingly talked about topics in business circles, but possibly the most important aspects of them will be the ability to extract digital data from almost any resource and turn it into tangible business value.

Tangible business value can apply to the way in which an industrial drive unit (for example) uses energy; by analysing its data it can be made more efficient, more reliable, higher performing, and its maintenance intervals can be adjusted to tie in with scheduled plant shutdowns.

 In effect, by using cloud-based technology, soon almost everything will have the ability to be monitored for its condition – a great advantage to companies and businesses trying to get the best value out of their assets.

By working in collaboration with the software solutions company SAP and by using the cloud-based technology SAP HANA®, Siemens will in the near future have the ability to send data into an industrial cloud platform called MindSphere.

The company has developed an open Ecosystem that will enable customers to visualise real time data from various assets on their plant and at any location, utilising the concept of specifically designed Applications (apps).  MindSphere with an open Application Programming Interface (API) will allow Siemens customers to develop their own specific key performance indicators (KPIs) for the asset or assets, allowing continuous access to the data being generated.  So, in the near future there will be apps available for a gearbox, motor, and so on, allowing you to instantly visualise machine and specific product performance data.  Add to this asset connected temperature sensors, oil sensors and accelerometers (vibration sensors) and you’ll now have the opportunity to not only compare the real data against operational data, but also to provide a proactive approach to asset maintenance and management.  For example, energy management will be included, allowing customers to fully benchmark asset performance against production requirements.

As we move forward, these apps will become downloads with the parameterisation of data based on the asset’s environment and performance.  It is early days yet, but it is already beginning to happen.  At the recent SPS show Siemens revealed a little of how its cloud-based platform MindSphere would perform on a live demonstration connected to a Siemens integrated drive systems (IDS) solution.  Siemens see this concept becoming a major part of the drive to digitisation or Industry 4.0.  Customers will have the opportunity to connect to remote and often harsh locations like offshore wind farms or remote manufacturing sites, using new monitoring and diagnostics techniques based on smart data.  To evaluate this data in real time and make decisions will save cost, time and improve safety too.

Industry Service Backbone
Industry Service Backbone (ISB) agents may sound like a group of people, but are actually pieces of software that will sit within the product or in a connection device where the customer needs to connect to existing assets or installations.  The ISBs are designed to collate the data and then securely send it to MindSphere.  Data security has been designed into this concept based on industry standard principles, allowing customers to have confidence from a simple connection. 

This use of data represents a paradigm shift in customers‘ thinking, moving away from just automation data obtained from a product to now also defining the asset data and the value this has to their organisation on many levels.  Performance, energy and efficiency data will allow the customer to not only evaluate plant performance, but also to compare this data to other facilities within their organisation, and to make OEE and OE decisions.  

The Industry 4.0 future will also see the inter-communication of machines.  It will mean that machines will start to learn from each other through available data.  Fundamentally, for plant and equipment operators, it will mean far fewer surprise breakdowns and it will provide the customer with the ability to plan asset and plant management.

The future is here
Siemens sees a future where customers will be making more and more decisions based on value data.  There will be new and innovative business models allowing customers to financially plan their asset management costs.  New service offerings will be available from manufacturers and their partners where real partnerships will produce optimum plant efficiency.  The ability for any vendor to purchase the app development kit (SDK) and develop their own application will provide an industry app store which could also be solution and industry specific.  These are really exciting times for industry as digitisation finally becomes reality. 

Pilots will be ready by the end of the first quarter of 2016, as Siemens has already spent well over a year developing the technology so that it is ready for launch during 2016.

Learn more about this technology at

Paul Addison