The first Digital Native Factory – in Nanjing
Moving into a brand-new manufacturing facility while continuing operations during a pandemic is no mean feat. Siemens Numerical Control in China became a Digital Enterprise by consolidating three production sites into one lean and green Digital Native Factory – one week ahead of schedule and with minimal interruptions.
Siemens Numerical Control Ltd. (SNC) in China produces high-quality CNC systems, drives, and motors, and then delivers them to high-end manufacturing industries in the country and around the world. It is also the home of Siemens’ largest R&D and manufacturing center outside Germany.
Since its establishment in 1996, SNC has grown continuously. To meet the demands of the fast-growing domestic market, the company made the decision to consolidate its R&D, production, storage, and logistics – which were spread out over three facilities in the 10 million plus megacity of Nanjing – into one. The move also helps SNC to strengthen its footprint and better serve its regional customers.
Digital Native Factory born from own digitalization concept
Despite the Corona pandemic and being busy setting up the new 70,000-square meter site, SNC needed to maintain production volumes and continue meeting customer demand. “Nanjing was very seriously hit by Covid,” says Yu Rong Zhou, General Manager of Siemens Numerical Control. “Normally, we would have needed to stop production for weeks, but in the market situation, that was not possible.”
It was a challenge to digitally plan the development of such a large area in a very short time period while minimizing costs. "In the process of exploring how to tackle the project and determining what the new facility should become, the idea of the first Digital Native Factory was born,” explains Stefan Krug, Head of Lean Digital Excellence at Siemens and Project Manager of SNCnew. "The aspiration was to create a Digital Enterprise". An international team of 150 experts around the world collaborated virtually and in person to realize this mammoth undertaking.
In the Digital Enterprise, product development, automated production processes and digitalization go hand in hand. Digitalized and automated equipment, processes, and systems are interconnected in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). All data generated is fed back into a continual feedback loop of optimization.
Due to detailed digital planning, we could move the two existing production sites and the warehouse ahead of the already tight schedule, with minimum interruption to the production schedule, and with no customer impact.Stefan Krug, Head of Lean Digital Excellence & Project Manager of SNCnew, Siemens AG
Data, Digitalization, and Digital Twin
“From the first idea until the start of production, every step was digitally supported,” explains Stefan Krug. “We built up a detailed model of the factories step by step,” he says. The Digital Twin was built from a combination of factory data, production line data, performance data, and building information from the existing sites.
“We simulated the performance of the new factory, even before we poured the first concrete. We could plan the dimensions of the building, the material flows, and the required media supplies, such as nitrogen, power, and IT far more precisely,” he explains.
Optimizing with Virtual Reality
Utilizing value stream data of existing SNC production lines, the consultants at Siemens Advanta evaluated various production scenarios using Tecnomatix Plant Simulation. They identified bottlenecks in production, and optimized materials flows and employee walkways. SNC operators tested the production setup via Virtual Reality. “They were wearing VR glasses and could literally walk through the new factory,” describes Stefan Krug. Their feedback was used to fine-tune the final design.
By optimizing the flow and layout in the digital world, SNC improved the utilization rates of the machines, used 40% less space for the same output than the old factory, and saved themselves from investing in a second production line.
Data and digitalization were also indispensable to creating a sustainable production environment right out of the gate. By making structural changes to the factory’s Digital Twin, SNC saved resources and materials, thereby lowering the site’s environmental impact before construction even started.
In line with Siemens’ ambitious efficiency goals as outlined in its sustainability framework DEGREE, the new SNC facility is also equipped with automatic LED lighting, and high-efficiency pumps, fans, and cooling elements, all of which contribute to savings of more than 5 million kilowatt hours a year. A photovoltaic system was also installed. With these energy-saving measures, “we can also reduce carbon emissions by 3,300 tons every year,” says Yu Rong Zhou. This corresponds to circa 400 round-trip flights between Munich and New York City. An integrated rainwater recovery system further translates to a 6,000 cubic meter decrease in annual water usag
Normally, we would have needed to stop production for weeks, but in the market situation, that was not possible.Yu Rong Zhou, General Manager Siemens Numerical Control
Early move-in date
After intensive months of planning, simulations, testing, and construction, the Digital Native Factory was completed. “Due to detailed digital planning, we could move the two existing production sites and the warehouse ahead of the already tight schedule, with minimum interruption to the production schedule, and with no customer impact,” says Stefan Krug.
Despite the wide use of digital tools to develop the new site, human labor played a big part too. It took 300 employees 30 days to move 8,000 machines, tools and devices, 20,000 palettes of materials into the proof-of-concept plant. By August 25, 2021, the move was completed.
Digital Experience Center reimagines visitors’ experience
In SNC’s Digital Experience Center visitors can explore exhibits, interactive visualizations, and see a real Digital Enterprise live – with a Digital Twin fed with data from real machines. “In the classical digital tour, the visitor’s role is that of an observer, a listener,” says Yu Rong Zhou. “We want to change that into ‘experiencer,” he continues. A 3D cinema, VR glasses, and holograms and an interactive table gives users the chance to get an overview of SNC’s completed digital journey.
Flexible, Profitable, Sustainable
SNC’s Digital Twin lives on, not just in the visitor center, but as an essential tool. The pace of today’s marketplace means that SNC must respond quickly to fluctuations in customer requirements and demand. The Digital Twin can react quickly to this, ensuring that systems and processes work before major changes are to be undertaken. Digitalized factory production control and order planning, combined with optimized processes, also help SNC synchronize customer orders from the get-go.
“This digital factory is really taking the digital transformation to the next level,” says Yu Rong Zhou emphatically. “We were able to reduce time to market by 200%. We have even been able to expand our manufacturing capacity by 200% while improving productivity by 20%.”
Digitalization is the constant throughout in the SNC journey. By embracing the open and continuous optimization loop made possible by the Digital Enterprise and the IIoT, SNC ensures that its operations in Nanjing will remain profitable and sustainable, well into the future.
Siemens Numerical Control Ltd. (SNC) in Nanjing, China, produces high-quality CNC systems, drives, and motors, and then delivers them to high-end manufacturing industries in the country and around the world. It is also home to Siemens Motion Control's largest R&D and manufacturing center outside Germany.
Since its establishment in 1996, SNC has grown continuously. To meet the demands of the fast-growing domestic as well as international market, the company made the decision to consolidate its R&D, production, storage, and logistics – which were spread out over three facilities in Nanjing – into one.
SNC is based in 10 million plus megacity of Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province of the People's Republic of China, a sub-provincial city, a megacity and the second largest city in the East China region.
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