Siemens’ Domhnall Carroll told Engineers Ireland’s Annual Conference that tomorrow’s factories will see the merging of virtual and real worlds. Alongside the physical factory, a virtual twin will play an essential role in manufacturing


Speaker: Domhnall Carroll, industry sector head, Siemens Ltd

Manufacturing processes are becoming increasingly complex, and customer requests are also becoming more individualised. To manage the constant increase in complexity, the factories of the future will see the virtual and real worlds grow closer and closer together, according to Domhnall Carroll, industry sector head of Siemens Ltd.

Speaking at the Engineers Ireland Annual Conference in Sligo last week (15-16 May), Carroll told delegates that the basis for tomorrow’s factories would be provided by state-of-the-art industry software that links all stages in the value chain. This applies not only to simulating a product or a manufacturing plant on-screen but also to engineering, the actual production process and services.

According to Carroll, there have been four industrial revolutions as we move from Industry 1.0 towards Industry 4.0, which promotes the computerisation of traditional industries such as manufacturing. The goal of Industry 4.0 is the intelligent factory, which is characterised by adaptability, resource efficiency and ergonomics as well as the integration of customers and business partners in business and value processes. Experts believe this could be a reality in about 10 to 20 years.

Path from Industry 1.0 to Industry 4.0 (click to enlarge) (Source: German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (German: Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz, DFKI)

“The first industrial revolution was based on the introduction of mechanical production equipment driven by water and steam power, at the end of the 1700s,” Carroll said. “An obvious example would be the first mechanical loom, which was developed around 1784.

“The second occurred around a century later and was based on mass production achieved by the ‘division of labour’ concept and the use of electrical energy,” he continued. “This is exemplified by the first conveyor belt, which was used in a Cincinnati slaughterhouse in 1870.”

Carroll went on to say that the third industrial revolution was based on the use of electronics and information technology to further automate production. “We could see this in action around the mid-20th century onwards – for example, in 1969 there was the first programmable logic controller called the Modicon 084,” he continued.


Carroll contended that we on the cusp of the fourth major industrial change – Industry 4.0 – which is based on the use of cyber-physical systems. The path to Industry 4.0 is evolution, not revolution, and the next step is the integration of product and production lifecycles. “All of these ‘revolutions’ have resulted in increasing degrees of complexity in the manufacturing and industrial processes,” said Carroll, which leaves one wondering: what further developments and advancements can we expect in the factories of the future?

There are three core elements to Industry 4.0, Carroll continued:

  • The production network – flexible value chains with information available in real time across company boundaries.  This leads on to the realisation of flexible value chains based on powerful manufacturing operations management;
  • The fusion of the virtual and real world – the integration of product design and production engineering for a shorter ‘time to market’. This leads on to the integration of product design and production engineering, based on a common digital enterprise platform;
  • Cyber-physical systems – modular, flexible production units with complete and consistent virtual image. These systems enable the physical world to merge with the virtual leading to an ‘internet of things’, data and services. One example of CPS is an intelligent manufacturing line, where the machine can perform many work processes by communicating with the components. Cyber-physical systems lead to migration towards a ‘plug and produce’ integration of automation.

Siemens’ Digital Enterprise Platform (click to enlarge)

Carroll elaborated on the merging of the virtual and real worlds and he referred delegates to the Siemens Digital Enterprise Platform (see right). This Digital Enterprise Platform enables the merging of the two worlds. Advancing digitisation and networking, as well as convergence taking place between the virtual and real worlds, are key drivers in the manufacturing industry.

With the Digital Enterprise Platform, Siemens is working on an over-arching approach linking product lifecycle management (PLM) software with engineering applications. “This is the approach that will create the foundation for Industry 4.0,” said Carroll.

With integrated software and integrated technologies, Carroll said that Siemens aims to support the entire industrial value chain of its customers, thus enhancing their productivity and efficiency. The integration of the product development and production lifecycles – that is, the almost parallel development of product and production environment – can enable a 50% reduction in time to market.

Carroll gave some examples of companies such as Volkswagen, which increased efficiency by 14% while using 40% less energy and BMW, which now produces three car-models on one line in Shenyang, China. Canon, for example, shortened time-to-market by 40% through the use of PLM. In the latter instance, digital product development offered tremendous advantages for creating complex shapes and surfaces for camera housing, while simulation of complex assembly tasks was based on virtual prototypes. Canon also instigated faster design analysis and early integration of production, thanks to virtual manufacturing.


Carroll went on to describe his vision of the digital factory, which incorporates design, production and services. “Integrated systems will play a massive role,” he said. “Yesterday, the latest innovation was local automation technology and today we have communication-aided automation. Looking ahead to tomorrow, it’s likely that there will be an integration of the entire production process and supply chain.

“I believe that in the factory of the future, we’ll see the self-optimisation of cyber-physical systems, based on the analysis of virtual models and the Digital Twin,” said Carroll. Digital Twin is a concept that originally combined as-built vehicle components, as-experienced loads and environments, and other vehicle-specific characteristics to enable ultrahigh fidelity modelling of aircraft and spacecraft throughout their service lives.

Applying the Digital Twin concept to the physical factory, physical production facilities will come with a virtual twin in the future of manufacturing, according to Carroll. This virtual representation will be possible for both existing factories and those yet to be built. Alternative manufacturing processes and potentials for optimisation of the production lines will be displayed on-screen.

The future of industry lies in digitisation, according to Siemens, and the automobile industry is a good example of how practical the digitalisation of manufacture will be. This sector is exposed to major competition and is fighting huge cost pressure. It must also bring a highly diversified supplier network under control and serve the trend toward increasingly individualised products – after all, it is becoming unusual today for one car to be exactly the same as another.

But despite the stringent and complex demands it faces, industry still has to organise delivery of parts to the right place at the right time. This is also a place for industrial software, where it can be used to overcome the logistical challenge. But state-of-the-art industry software is providing the needed support to more than just the automotive sector. Digitalisation plays an important role in all branches of industry now, on both the product and process levels.

In order to be ready for factory of the future, Carroll concluded, we need to look on everything as a service (including tools and skills), we need supply-chain integration and we need data availability. These combined elements will allow for the integration of the entire production process and supply chain and should, in time, enable the self-optimisation of cyber-based physical systems. O'RiordanTechindustry,manufacturing,software
  Speaker: Domhnall Carroll, industry sector head, Siemens Ltd Manufacturing processes are becoming increasingly complex, and customer requests are also becoming more individualised. To manage the constant increase in complexity, the factories of the future will see the virtual and real worlds grow closer and closer together, according to Domhnall Carroll,...