The Revolution Has Begun: Siemens’ Use of Additive Manufacturing to Drive Innovation and Production Enhancement

Now that the 4th Industrial Revolution is upon us, industry titan Siemens is positioned on the front lines using 3D printing technology to optimize and innovate manufacturing processes.

What’s the Big Deal?

Beginning in the late 18th century, we have watched industry advance from early days of harnessing the power of water, utilizing electricity and pioneering the assembly line, to using computers and automation¹. Today, we are amidst a new change that is being called the 4th Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, which “combine[s] the physical, digital, and biological worlds”¹, and is transforming how business and production processes work together. As opposed to the physical changes seen in prior stages, it is now programming of machines that drive interactions that are able to make organizations more efficient and connect people through technology.

A multinational conglomerate based in Germany, Siemens AG is a “global technology powerhouse that has stood for engineering excellence, innovation, quality, reliability, and internationality for 170 years.”² The reach is vast both geographically and with sectors, as they span across manufacturing, energy, and healthcare. Considering the importance of the aforementioned industries from a societal perspective given dollars spent in these areas and visible relevance to our lives, it is crucial that Siemens remain at the forefront of new technology adoption. As such, they have adapted additive manufacturing as a means of creating high-quality prototypes that are created rapidly and with fewer resources used in the process, resulting in overall cost reduction.³

Ramping Now to Grow Later

Within a medium-term timeframe, Siemens has created the Digital Enterprise initiative to create a portfolio of solutions to address various solutions for movement to new technologies that will enhance product development processes. Siemens has stated that the 2018 goal was to abide by the motto ‘Digital Enterprise – Implement Now!,’ with the goal of bringing various capabilities to the marketplace as industry moves towards adapting to this 4th stage of the Industrial Revolution.² This plan aims to showcase that any company can utilize Siemens’ product offerings in order to add flexibility and efficiency to their processes, with this education being crucial given it is not only early adopters but the market as a whole that will eventually need to adapt to these trends in innovation in order to stay relevant.

See how Siemens has created a framework to address the challenges of digital innovation here:

In the short-term, Siemens announced in April 2018 that it launched an additive manufacturing network, that was focused on creating a platform where companies could make connections and collectively innovate in a network that was focused first on soliciting early adapters.5 This was set within the broader Digital Enterprise initiative, with a specific look at how this piece could enhance a development process. Upon creating what they consider to be an “ecosystem”, it could then be extrapolated such that the benefits could be brought to a broader audience. They also announced very recently a process simulation solution, a product which is “fully integrated into Siemens’ end-to-end Additive Manufacturing solution” and adds a physical product to the digital platform.

Fighting the Efficient Fight

I think Siemens has a solid foundation in place with the Digital Enterprise mission and Additive Manufacturing Experience Center and platform, though I think there are a few things that could be enhanced as the message continues to be rolled out and gain traction. First, I think the value proposition and product offering needs to be more visible to potential users/customers. While there was a physical location and the ability to access demos⁴, it was unclear in my research exactly how a company would harness Siemens’ knowledge to better amplify their production process and why they would find significant, immediate value. Second, I would double-down on forge strong partnerships with other industry leaders like Siemens has already begun to do with HP and Eos. This broad-based collaboration throughout the industry will be the driver of success in implementing additive manufacturing processes on a larger scale, as companies will need to adapt if they want to keep pace with innovation.

Open Questions

In thinking through the situation we face, a few questions come to mind. What obligations (if any) should be placed on multinational companies like Siemens to provide solutions for smaller companies to adapt to changing technologies? Do others believe we are truly embroiled in a distinct revolution separate from the rise of computers and automation? What are the ways in which companies will need to stay ahead of the curve, both from an innovation perspective as well as factoring in the costs of new technology implementation?

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Bibliography

[1] Forbes. “Why Everyone Must Get Ready for the 4th Industrial Revolution.” April 5, 2016. https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2016/04/05/why-everyone-must-get-ready-for-4th-industrial-revolution/#690273ca3f90

[2] “Siemens turns the Industrie 4.0 vision into reality with its Digital Enterprise portfolio,” press release, April 23, 2018, on Siemens website, https://www.siemens.com/press/pool/de/pressemitteilungen/2018/corporate/PR2018040162COEN.pdf, accessed November 2018.

[3] “Additive Manufacturing”, Siemens website, https://www.siemens.com/content/dam/webassetpool/mam/tag-siemens-com/smdb/power-generation-services/distributed-generation/distributed-generation-and-compressors-services/3d_print/additivemanu-infographic-neu.pdf, accessed November 2018.

[4] “Additive Manufacturing Experience Center” Siemens Website, https://www.siemens.com/content/dam/webassetpool/mam/tag-siemens-com/smdb/corporate-core/market-specific-solutions/machinery-and-plant-construction/additive-manufacturing/siemens-additive-manufacturing-experience-center.pdf, accessed November 2018.

[5] Source: M2 Presswire, “Siemens launches Additive Manufacturing Network to transform global manufacturing”. ABI/INFORM via Proquest, accessed November 2018.

[] Source: M2 Presswire, “Siemens introduces Additive Manufacturing Process Simulation solution to improve 3D printing accuracy”. ABI/INFORM via Proquest, accessed November 2018.

[Featured Video] Siemens. “Digital Enterprise Suite – Siemens answer to Industrie 4.0.” Youtube, uploaded April 12, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oivUopv2xyw, accessed November 2018.

[Featured Photo] https://additive-manufacturing-network.sws.siemens.com/, accessed November 2018.

 

 

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9 thoughts on “The Revolution Has Begun: Siemens’ Use of Additive Manufacturing to Drive Innovation and Production Enhancement

  1. Thank you for this insightful essay. It is interesting to not only see that Siemens is adopting Additive Manufacturing internally, but have decided to take a step beyond that by creating a Additive Manufacturing network, to allow others to tap into this new industrial age. While multinational companies are not obliged to share in the space of Additive Manufacturing, I believe that by creating the Additive Manufacturing Network, they are poised to take charge on the direction AM is headed towards, especially for the industries they are involved in. In doing so they would enhance their supply chain, which could result in much faster product deployment in the future. A recent example of how Siemens is reaping this benefit was discussed by Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2018/09/06/bringing-additive-manufacturing-to-the-rails/#7d7317d941d4

  2. “What obligations (if any) should be placed on multinational companies like Siemens to provide solutions for smaller companies to adapt to changing technologies?”

    I think Siemens has a significant obligation to provide these solutions, not just for societal reasons but strictly business ones. If Siemens is too far ahead, they may leave smaller, less sophisticated companies behind. At the same time, if they’re too far behind, they risk ceding their competitive edge to others in the market. The best way to position themselves is to strike partnerships with smaller, influential players that can benefit from their strengths in additive manufacturing. This can help transition Siemens from a thought leader to a valuable partner in the space.

  3. It was interesting to learn that Siemens is not only investing in technological trends to evolve their own products/services, but also to create an ecosystem that can leverage these trends. To your question, while it’d be nice if corporate behemoths looked at this as an “obligation” to provide solutions for other smaller organizations, I think serving/enabling smaller players and investing in a community can actually serve the interests of these big companies themselves. For example: we’re seeing a lot of companies like Google, Tesla share their technologies on open platforms. There are several possible benefits of this approach such as development of complementary products/services that increase adoption of the company’s technology, augmentation of their own product/service stemming from further research beyond where they left it at, and more.

  4. Additive manufacturing presents a huge opportunity to create prototypes much faster than before. As we learned in TOM, the most cost effective production process may be a highly specialized and rigid assembly line making large volumes of standard products. However, when producing only a few units of a product (such as a prototype), a job shop-type production process is more efficient given the large set-up costs involved in an assembly line. 3D printing can quickly produce a single product on a cost efficient basis but, importantly, it far less scale-able. Especially for the technology and biotech industries, 3D printing allows for highly specialized prototypes that would be difficult to produce with current machinery. This is an exciting technology and I’m excited to see what it can do!

  5. The question I struggle with is how Siemens wants to make money with additive manufacturing in the long term? Do they want to sell additive manufacturing systems? Unlikely. Do they provide consumables (printing agents)? Also unlikely, and there are already specialized companies in this field. Do they want to provide software for additive manufacturing systems? Perhaps, but Siemens is at its core no software company. As the author pointed out, it is difficult to understand want Siemens is offering in this space. I believe that 3D-printing is a severe risk for Siemens as B2B customers in industries such as defense, aerospace, machinery etc. become enabled through additive manufacturing to produce their own parts. My perception is that Siemens has contributed to the ecosystem in order to stay part of it. The company tries to understand in which direction things are going.

  6. This is a very interesting article. I did not know that Siemens was doing additive manufacturing.

    I particularly found the first question very interesting and probing – i.e. “What obligations (if any) should be placed on multinational companies like Siemens to provide solutions for smaller companies to adapt to changing technologies?” I found this interesting, because as far as I know, no such obligations are forced to multinationals in history. Companies chose to offer solutions to smaller companies because it makes business sense. Could you please share if you know such examples, where any obligations are posed to multinationals to offer solutions for smaller companies?

  7. Interesting article. To one of the questions stated, it seems that if Siemens wants to stay ahead of the game in the long run, providing small enterprises with the access to the Additive Manufacturing network will create a lot of value for them in the future if this trend indeed sticks around. There shouldn’t be an obligation for multinationals to offer the smaller players an “in” into the industry, but Siemens could benefit from partnerships and potentially “outsource” some innovations to the smaller players and participate in the share of success.

  8. Good article. I’m wondering if Siemens is trying to use Additive Manufacturing as a tool to further penetrate into the manufacturing sector. By receiving data on manufacturing activities from thousands SMEs, Siemens not only enables their customer but also positions itself to be the operating system of future manufacturing.

  9. Thanks for sharing! It’s super interesting to read that Siemens is making Additive Manufacturing a priority among their Digital Initiatives but from the article I wonder if it is being done more to generate buzz than truly offer others with the ability to leverage the technology to manufacture more efficiently. Specifically, I think the key question the author raises is whether the network Siemens is creating has the power to actually “amplify” the existing processes of those it is looking to serve. Given the risk in the entire space of 3D printing in actually reaching broad commercialization I do believe that Siemens is in a unique position to act as a market leader and now is the time to build these relationships with other multinational companies.

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