Integrating SINUMERIK into day-to-day workshop life
How Pfeiffer Maschinen- und Apparatebau became a beta tester for Siemens
Bringing SINUMERIK into the workshop: For Siemens project manager Karsten Schwarz, this goal at the end of the 1990s is not an easy task. Until he finds a partner in the contract manufacturer Pfeiffer, with whom he optimizes the control in direct use. A partnership that has existed across companies and generations for more than two decades – and in doing so has made SINUMERIK a familiar face in workshops.
"You know that yourself," says Karsten Schwarz with a smile. "Sometimes there are things in professional life that are worth fighting for. For me, this was and is clearly the SINUMERIK." In 1997, the Siemens engineer committed himself to a new approach: to bring SINUMERIK to the workshop. The operating and programming interfaces "ShopMill" for milling and "ShopTurn" for turning are intended to simplify the daily work of skilled workers: Instead of having to code complicated NC programs for production, they promise users a precise and effortless adjustment of sequences of actions for the desired purpose.
Karsten Schwarz knows that he has not set himself an easy goal. "Most workshops said at the time, 'Siemens control? No, it is too expensive, too complex. That's for the automotive industry, but not for us in the workshop," he recalls. In fact, until the turn of the millennium, SINUMERIK was mainly used in large companies, from cars to aircraft.
The beginning of a partnership
It seems to be a small step at first when Karsten Schwarz spontaneously visits a longstanding SINUMERIK customer, the Pfeiffer workshop in Zirndorf, on his way home. It was a welcome with a critical eye, Karsten Schwarz remembers with a smile today. An intensive partnership begins this evening in 1998 with a lively discussion. Karsten Schwarz and Andreas Pfeiffer Senior quickly realize that they share the same concern. Together they want to optimize SINUMERIK for use in workshop production.
Contact with Karsten Schwarz led to us becoming a kind of beta tester.Andreas Pfeiffer, Managing Director of W. Andreas Pfeiffer - Maschinen- und Apparatebau
"We started with a milling machine with ShopMill in the early 1990s," recalls Andreas Pfeiffer Junior, who took over his father's workshop in 2012. "And we had our problems with it in the first period, as is always the case with new software. When Karsten Schwarz showed up at our doorstep, my father explained to him in detail what was going wrong," he recalls with a smile. A stroke of luck, as it should quickly turn out. In close cooperation, the team optimizes the user interface and programming of SINUMERIK in order to meet the needs of contract manufacturing.
The entire SINUMERIK development of this is still depleting to this day. This is one of my moments of happiness in the history of SINUMERIK.Karsten Schwarz
SINUMERIK arrives in the workshops
After several years of trying out and giving feedback, the SINUMERIK Operate user interface is created, which unites ShopMill and ShopTurn in the same interface and is still used in the workshop area. "Siemens first had to learn to involve end users in the development process," recalls Karsten Schwarz. "It wasn't until we founded our training center 'TAC' in 2006, now 'DEX' (Digital Experience and Application Center), that this changed fundamentally."
With the first joint optimization of the SINUMERIK control system for everyday workshop life, Karsten Schwarz and Andreas Pfeiffer Junior have cleared an important hurdle. More and more workshops are recognizing the advantages of SINUMERIK and using them in their daily work. "With the first end-customer workshops, which we held in Zirndorf at the time, we were able to inspire many medium-sized companies for SINUMERIK," says Karsten Schwarz.
In the early 2000s, Siemens moved around the world with a life-size cardboard rhino as a marketing measure. The horn consisted of a piece of metal that we had milled in our workshop.Andreas Pfeiffer, Managing Director of W. Andreas Pfeiffer - Maschinen- und Apparatebau
The next milestone: Digitalization
But neither Schwarz nor Pfeiffer Junior rest on their successes. Today, the two of them have long since set their eyes on the next goal: digitalizing all the machining processes within workshop production. For more than eleven years, the family-owned company Pfeiffer has been working with a continuous chain of NX CAD/CAM. "We've been talking a lot about workshop management, i.e. Machine Resource Libraries, edge computing and the digital twin lately," says Andres Pfeiffer Junior. "I see great potential in these technological developments."
This is because full pre-simulations of the work processes indicate problems prematurely. "You should not notice the error until the cutter suddenly goes too far down because the machine has been programmed incorrectly. The Digital Twin minimizes this risk."
For Andreas Pfeiffer Junior, a seamless process chain is important. Everything from the idea to the machine should be mapped. This is another reason why he has been relying on SINUMERIK for many years. "Siemens offers solutions from CAD to machining," says Pfeiffer Junior.
"SINUMERIK as an established automation system for the workshop was almost unthinkable 20 years ago," Karsten Schwarz sums up. " The Pfeiffer company played a major role in turning this large industrial gear train.So, at this point: Thank you!"