How Internal IT Brings Digitalization to Life for a Company

Helmuth Ludwig, Global Head of Information Technology, Siemens
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Helmuth Ludwig, Global Head of Information Technology, Siemens

We are convinced that internal IT has a key role to play in anchoring the Internet of Things in Siemens, driving forward digital change and growing our business.

And that starts with the right mind-set. Whatever we do, we ask ourselves where we can simplify processes, services and solutions; where we can standardize software tools or directly use a market standard; and especially, how we can involve the final user in all the steps right from the start. We bring together the triad of simplification, standardization and customer interaction with technological advances that the digital transformation offers during the implementation phase.

Regarding simplification: In our IT infrastructure, we consistently give priority to cloud solutions. This helps us to become both more cost-effective and more flexible. “Cloud First” is the yardstick we apply to all new cloud solutions, but also to more and more existing ones. The Internet of Things can only achieve its maximum business impact if we have data ubiquitously available, and the cloud concept can be used in many areas: cloud computing, cloud storage, applications in the cloud–there are many deployment scenarios for this technology for our core and support processes.

Simplification is best implemented with standardized solutions. Standardization can take many forms. For example, you can use standard market solutions or transform in-house experiences into standard solutions.

 To be ready to adjust to changing trends we need a flexible and very agile IT architecture 

Siemens has its own PLM and manufacturing solutions and therefore many ways of designing and optimizing the digital value chain in-house. Siemens can implement the Internet of Things for its own products, which benefits customers. Thus, to some extent, our company is its own technology lab with more than 270 major manufacturing sites worldwide. Many business divisions are already working with these solutions–streamlining the associated processes, standardizing the system interfaces and making the IT connections quick and efficient. These all offer potential for standardization.

With our IT Centers of Expertise we transfer knowledge across the company: if any Siemens division wants to introduce a new PLM solution, it is much more efficient to first check what other Siemens divisions are using and explore the feasibility of take on those same processes or entire solution components. The Siemens division quite often realizes that there are many more overlaps that can be put to good use than originally expected. Internal IT has a complete overview of this process and assumes an advisory and coordinating role.

As important as simplification and standardization are, the top consideration is always customer benefit. An excellent example of customer benefit focus is the Siemens Electronics Plant in Amberg, Germany. The aim here was to create the basis for a highly flexible production unit – with a production-backbone closely linked to product development that processes an identical digital representation (“digital twin”) in addition to the physical product. For this purpose, you need to ensure that data, functions and systems are compatible–both horizontally and vertically. Vast amounts of relevant data need to be prepared for integration in a “smart” system whether it concerns predictive maintenance, resource planning, defect adjustments or machine utilization.

This level of complexity was fully addressed in the “smart factory” in Amberg. Every relevant piece of information can be retrieved and processed by the customer immediately, to any depth of detail and at any step of the process. Everything is perfectly linked together with the result of nearly 6 sigma perfection.

Simplification, standardization and customer satisfaction: I believe a culture that works in accordance with these three key issues has a vitally important foundation. That applies regardless of the megatrend of digitalization but is all the more important if you are recognized as the industrial leader in digital transformation. Digitalization is not an end in itself; it needs to bring clear benefits for your internal partners as well as your customers.

Every company needs to ask itself the question: What will be the relevant trends that define my competitive advantage in the future? We have discussed this with internal and external experts and defined the most important drivers for the future. Trends such as “Customer interaction drives the activities,” “Production is flexible, modular and intelligent” or “Real and virtual objects become one” are supported by detailed impact analysis for our different businesses.

As Nobel Laureate Niels Bohr said: “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it is about the future.” To be ready to adjust to changing trends we need a flexible and very agile IT architecture. That creates credibility because trends have development stages and we deliver value early. “Real and virtual objects become one,” for example, makes it possible to take advantage of the digital representation of a design and its simulation data already available in design and manufacturing. The next step is the combination of this information with data coming from the field and comparing the simulation with observed behavior. We are convinced that such an environment can greatly motivate teams in their work and that this motivation will have a very convincing impact on customers.

For me, digitalization and the Internet of Things are not just catchwords or goals to be achieved for their own sake. They need to be portrayed in terms of clear added business value. This is how you can be sure that you are pursuing a successful digitalization strategy.

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