This blog recaps the main messages shared at the recent Siemens Innovation USA event and IDC's analysis of them. The event took place at Siemens Corporate Technology USA headquarters in Princeton, NJ on March 27, 2017.
A few weeks back, I attended the Siemens Innovation USA event, held at the Siemens R&D hub in Princeton, NJ. The message Siemens shared with members of the press and analyst communities is this: Siemens is a global company with deep U.S. roots, which means it is both global and local and here to serve its customers.
Siemens USA CEO Judy Marks began the event with a recap of the company's U.S. existence, including a 160-year presence and currently 50,000 employees located across the U.S. Marks emphasized that Siemens is both a manufacturer operating more than 60 manufacturing sites in this country and exporting $5 billion annually, and also a major participant in the software digital economy for which the United States is known. To demonstrate this, Marks highlighted that more than a third of Siemens' software engineers are located in the US, and $10 billion in software-specific U.S. acquisitions over the last 10 years.
Next, Chief Technology Officer Dr. Roland Busch shared the company's strategy for Vision 2020, which involves increased support for digitalization of its customers, or in IDC terminology, Digital Transformation. At the core of the digital transformation for Siemens is MindSphere, the company's open IoT operating system to support platform-as-a-service. In a crowded IoT platform market, Siemens touts several differentiators: its installed base of hundreds of thousands of connected "things"; its deep domain knowledge across manufacturing, energy, healthcare, buildings, and turbines; a digital portfolio with MindSphere and software, services and security; and a bit of creator-as-customer, with numerous Siemens internal use cases including servicing its own fleet of equipment with its digital portfolio. Based on its long history in product and production design and simulation as well as automation hardware, Siemens also has depth in the creation and ongoing definition of a digital twin for each unique asset connected to the platform.
In the area of predictive maintenance, MindSphere is supporting a number of manufacturers in their efforts to improve uptime and pull costs out of the service lifecycle. Konecranes, a Siemens customer, takes this a step further by linking operational digital twins of its cranes and MindSphere to enable condition monitoring and predictive maintenance, and feeding back operational data to the product design. In other words, Konecranes is doing what my colleague Jeff Hojlo and I consider to be the holy grail of the marriage of product and service innovation: closed-loop innovation from the field back to product design. An example of this would be identifying that the brakes are wearing too quickly on a piece of equipment, find out from operational data whether the issue is one related to use or a flaw in the design (or even the production process), and then taking the necessary action either by modifying equipment operation or improving the product development process.
The day ended with a tour of a simulation lab, where Siemens engineers demonstrated some of the futuristic capabilities of factory operations, in support of the Industrie 4.0 vision. The demonstrated production line included a variety of autonomous robots that were capable of carrying out jobs on their own, without having detailed programming instructions. In the demonstration, the autonomous systems understood their skillset and the tasks, and could readjust themselves, in real-time if necessary, to react to a dynamic environment, such as pieces on an assembly line that may have shifted.
Seeing the autonomous systems in action made the talk of artificial intelligence, deep reinforcement learning, and neural networks come to life. It reinforces Siemens' depth from its strong IT, manufacturing and industry base that it can bring to the world of digital transformation. Such a combined skillset is necessary as Siemens enters a very crowded fray of other IoT platform vendors trying to gain the attention of companies across industries. Siemens is later than some of its largest competitors in marketing its open IoT platform and working to create an ecosystem of developers, applications, and implementers. It will be important for the company to continue to demonstrate its deep industry knowledge in the markets where it is competing, as well as quickly grow a developer base that can build on the MindSphere platform and rapidly expand adoption.