In Focus

Security and plant upgrades will drive the future of processing

Steven Sischy likes a challenge. The automation and drives business manager for APS Industrial joined the company three months ago with the brief to work together with one of its manufacturing partners – Siemens – to make them the leading automation brand in the country. Siemens already has a great reputation in Europe and Australia, but Sischy is keen to take them one step further.
“My aim is to increase Siemens market share in Australia. Currently, they don’t hold the position of number one. They are definitely a mainstream player in a lot of the sectors where they are active, but they don’t have the dominance they have in Europe.
“My challenge is to see how quickly we can get them up there with Europe and help local industry experience these world-class products and technology. In the short amount of time I’ve been with APS we’ve started to see some returns with having a big focus in particular areas.”
This includes the food and beverage market where over the past two years, the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Industry 4.0 have started to take hold in the processing and manufacturing of goods.
“We also see the packaging industry as a very big market within the Australian and New Zealand markets,” he said. “What we have seen, with COVID, is a lot of people are more interested in knowing where their food is coming from.”
And this is one core principles of how Siemens does business – helping make sure that the food supply is secure, especially when it comes to traceability.
“What is important is cyber security,” he said. “If you look at the food and beverage sector, you will see that Siemens has a cyber security policy within its entire range. When they talk about traceability – especially when you start looking into food and beverage, as well as pharmaceutical – you want to know who has actually put what ingredients where, but they want to now go down to even the operator who packed the product.
“This is part of Siemens core DNA. This technology is already in place and gives manufacturers the capability to say ‘I can show whatever is going into a product has been made with a particular recipe and we will track the entire process from start to finish. We will also note when an operator has changed anything, down to the time and date when it occurred.’”
But there is also a component of the security protocols that is sometimes not taken into consideration, especially when it comes to bespoke manufacturing processes.
“The other side, with the technology – is the intellectual property, which is a massive component,” said Sischy. “Cyber security – because the products are already in place – protects the companies that are investing in these technologies to make sure their knowhow does not fall into foreign hands or any of their competitors’ hands.
“Siemens cyber security is very robust. A lot of the exposure that Siemens has to essential services – whether it be water, wastewater, electricity generation, transport – needs to have robust communication protocols secured end-to-end, so nobody can get in there and potentially harm those processes in any way.”
Sischy said it is also critical to note that Siemens has got a cyber security team that constantly looks at any of these issues that may arise. In the event of a breach, or a potential attack, they can get in contact with the security division who will act on their behalf to ensure that the processes are still intact. Sischy said it is important to protect your assets and if a company already has the necessary security steps in place at a high level, it is easy to integrate these types of measures down to individual processes.
“When it comes to starting your digital journey, we have already got it down to the Siemens LOGO!, which is a very small micro-based controller for home automation, as well as small pump stations,” he said. “It has already got cloud connectivity, so you can put it to the local cloud, or you can send it something like mindsphere if you choose to do that. But the point is you do have that capability.
“Like AI, as well as vison-based systems, we’ll start seeing the evolution of what we call edge-based processors where you are going to have a fair amount of processing sitting very close to the action and then sending that information, or digitalised image, back to some central-based cloud solution, which will then give you the ability to interrogate the information even further.”
Digital twins are also part of the Siemens’ portfolio. Digital twins have come to the fore over the past 12 months, whereby it is possible to create a virtual twin of a physical item. This gives companies the ability to start developing a process, have a look at what they want to do with the process, how they want to improve it, and put in the diagnostics before they connect any physical device to the network.
“Also, through a process that we call Team Centre, you’ve got the ability to also then work out from a manufacturing side, ‘How do I increase the movability? Do I have the right product for the solution? How do I reduce costs and how do I improve the quality of the system?’” said Sischy.
The end game to all these processes is giving processors and manufacturers the ability to achieve the productivity outputs they want, and streamline global processes.
“If you look at it – it doesn’t matter where you look – where any food and beverage company have global location, how do we see whether or not a certain geographical area is more deficient or even profitable versus other areas?” said Sischy.
“What we find, if you have a progressive company, is that they are always looking to be at the forefront of their competitors, or always be ahead of their competitors, which means the uptake of technology is relatively easy. It is where you have companies that may not have the capacities internally, that it becomes more challenging. Sometimes in those instances it can sometimes be harder.”
He said that APS’s philosophy, and therefore something that they are also trying to bring with the Siemens’ suite of products – and Team Centre in particular – is trying to improve the overall quality but also try and lower costs.
“A big part of this going forward, in the Australian market, is to try and reduce your energy consumption and CO2 emissions,” said Sischy. “It is going to be a massive focus going forward, so we need to look at the end goal and determine the true cost of its implementation. With Team Centre, because of the development and also looking at efficiencies, you can also look at the process flows, and that improves it – the actual physical prototyping reduces the development costs and improves the quality.”
He said that Siemens and APS can provide a complete solution including all the Siemens componentry – the PLCs, the drives, the switchgear, the power supplies, the networking devices, as well as panels and cabling.
“Through the company’s system integration program, end users will have the ability to get an end-solution product for the customer,” said Sischy. “It is not only providing product with the inclusion of the APS system program, but it also gives the customer the ability to understand and deliver their needs.
“To make manufacturers locally more cost effective, they need to adopt these technologies. If they are going to try and do this with their standard ways – ‘this is how we have done it over the years etcetera’ – they might not succeed. They need to adapt to the latest technologies.”
Overall, Sischy is excited about the future of the APS/Siemens relationship. It has been a mutually beneficial relationship for both companies – and of course, Australian industry who is better placed than ever to access these products.

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