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Digital Technology Is Remaking Manufacturing, Siemens Executive Says

Bill Koenig
By Bill Koenig Senior Editor, SME Media
Barbara Humpton speaking at Automate in Detroit (SME Media photo)

DETROIT -- Digital and Industry 4.0 technology are revamping manufacturing, a trend that will accelerate, the president of Siemens USA said today.

“Change takes place at an exponential rate,” Barbara Humpton, president and CEO of Siemens USA, said during an address at the Automate show in downtown Detroit. “That’s been true of software” and will happen in the industrial area, she said.

“With the technology we have available today,” she added, industrial is moving “from mass production to mass customization.”

Humpton cited artificial intelligence (she called it “augmented intelligence”), additive manufacturing, digital twins and other forms of digital tech. With 3D printing, for example, she said, “We can move materials and make things where they’re needed.”

The executive said digital technology also permits faster planning and enables employees and engineers to provide ideas to improve production.

“We’ve got the opportunity, all of us, to turn our employees loose with digital tools,” Humpton said.

“I fear a little bit for those who don’t make the change,” the Siemens executive added. “I’m convinced we’re not dreaming big enough.”

Some companies are set up to assist manufacturers digitally. Visual Components North America Inc. has a booth on the Automate floor. The company analyzes the manufacturing operations of clients and provides digital simulations of possible alterations and improvements, said Graham Wloch, business development director.

Also at Automate, Siemens introduced several products, including a virtual PLC based on the functions and operation of the SIMATIC S7-1500 PLC and independent of its hardware. The virtual PLC can be downloaded similar to an app.

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