Manufacturing, as a business segment, requires a lot of software in order to stay competitive and operate at peak efficiency. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software handles business functions including inventory and order management, resource allocation, human resources and more. Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) are employed to manage and monitor activity on the shop floor. Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software, analytics software, and a variety of other software applications are employed to fulfill other various functions throughout the manufacturing and enterprise environments.
While each of these software applications serves to improve efficiency in a single department, how much does that productivity increase translate to over the entire enterprise? Is the cost of adding additional complexity worth the benefit? Isn’t there a better way?
These are the questions that the Unified Architecture (UA), by Siemens, has been designed to answer. The Unified Architecture itself is not a specific product offered by Siemens, but rather a paradigm-shifting way of approaching software in the manufacturing context. Simply stated, the driving force behind the Unified Architecture can be boiled down to a single word: INTEGRATION. Logically, this makes sense; after all, no department within your company operates in complete isolation. Changes in areas like product engineering have direct effects on processes happening on the shop floor. Changes on the shop floor can have positive or negative effects on resource planning. Changes to the resource plan have effects that spread across the entire enterprise. This begs the question: If your business departments don’t operate in isolation, why should your software?
The Unified Architecture handles this manufacturing IT dilemma by
taking a more holistic approach to the concept of manufacturing software as a
whole. By providing a simple, standard interface for integration, UA enables
software from the entire width of the organization to communicate seamlessly.
With UA and its associated products, discussed next, it is possible to
integrate functions including ERP, PLM, MES and more. This fully-integrated
approach to manufacturing software enables closed loop manufacturing to occur.
In layman’s terms, this integrated environment allows for on-the-fly changes to
planning, executing, measuring, monitoring and more. Moreover, the integrated
approach of the Unified Architecture allows all departments to act or react to
changes throughout the enterprise in a more agile, flexible manner, consequently
leading to enterprise-wide increases in productivity as well.
In order to realize the vision that is the Unified Architecture, Siemens relies on a number of concrete products. These products fall under the Unified Architecture umbrella, meaning that they have been designed specifically with the Unified Architecture in mind.
The first of these products, the Unified Architecture Foundation (UAF), drives the Unified Architecture vision, making the integrations defined by the UA vision possible. As its name suggests, UAF serves as a foundation, providing many of the base-level services previously found in "classic" versions of SIMATIC IT. In contrast to previous versions of SIMATIC IT, however, UAF does not rely on the native or desktop applications previously used for administration. While these components (such as Material Manager, Production Order Manager, etc.) still exist, UAF relies on its web-based interface to perform administrative tasks. This method of administration is superior to previous versions based on the speed and stability of the software alone. In addition to providing many of the features previously handled by a classic SIMATIC IT implementation, however, UAF also provides the main engine for integration into the Unified Architecture paradigm.
The second product that falls under the Unified Architecture umbrella
is Unified Architecture for Discrete Manufacturing. This particular product is
designed to act as a wrapper around the functions provided by UAF. That is to
say, UADM provides a pre-built interface suitable for use in discrete manufacturing.
UADM is not a product that is applicable in every manufacturing environment at
this stage; however, where it is applicable, it provides a large set of
features designed specifically with discrete processes in mind. Perhaps the
most prominent feature of UADM is its interoperability with products including Siemens
Teamcenter. UADM with Teamcenter integration drastically simplifies tasks
including process definition, material definition, defect declaration and much
more. In short, the interoperability between Teamcenter and UADM provides a
truly agile environment, encouraging active communication between operators on
the shop floor and product engineers. UADM is also a fairly flexible piece
of software that can be easily modified or extended through the use of UAF.
Overall, the purpose of the Unified Architecture and its related
products is to increase the overall effectivity of the manufacturing
enterprise. By taking a holistic approach to manufacturing software, the
Unified Architecture aims to create a seamless digital thread amongst all the
IT systems and across all the levels of a manufacturing company. In turn, by bridging
this deep gap between the business, virtual and physical worlds of
manufacturing, the UA ensures a more agile operation and process for the
enterprise overall. The name of the game is integration, and the Unified
Architecture is really good at playing the game.
Paul Siebert is a Senior IT Analyst for Hyla Soft North America. In his three years with our company, Paul has become one of our Manufacturing Operations practice’s technical experts and a leading consultant for some of our biggest Aerospace & Defense customers. If you have any questions about this article or ant to learn how the UA can help improve your organization, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.