03/01/2022 | Digital Innovation

Interview with Eckard Eberle | Siemens

Digitalisation is redefining the way industry operates in many areas. But what does the future hold? We asked Eckard Eberle, Chief Executive Officer of Siemens’ Process Automation for his insights.

ACHEMA Inspire: First of all, what do you expect to see with the next stage of digitalisation within the process industries?

  • __Eckard Eberle: Since the term “Industry 4.0” was established at the Hannover Messe 2011 as a crucial part of the digitalisation in the process industry, great progress has been made. The focus from the outset was on the integration of plant and operating data through integrated engineering. From this initial concept, two further developments have taken shape: spurred by progress in digitalisation and at the same time driving forward that process. The first is asset performance in relation to cloud technologies. The second – and our current focus – is simulation within the framework of plant operation.
    Our developments and industry-specific solutions are now very closely oriented towards our customers’ requirements. In use cases, the focus is on flexibility (for example in the variation of batch sizes) and the optimisation of quality and productivity. This can usually be implemented effectively using simulations.

ACHEMA Inspire: How vital are integrated solutions to success?

  • __Eckard Eberle: We have always offered an excellent level of integration across all systems – this has been the selling point of TIA for 25 years. Consequently, our SIMATIC PCS 7 process control system is one of the most open on the market. With this, we provide customers with the smooth interactions between systems from different manufacturers in modular plants. Initially, the chemical industry was sceptical as to whether, given the complexity of digitalisation, this type of approach could be implemented as an alternative to the one-stop-shop solution. But our success proves us right. We will therefore continue to pursue this strategy of simulation the entire lifecycle through comprehensive vertical and horizontal integration.
    This also applies to our new control system, the SIMATIC PCS neo. We are delighted the issues addressed here are in line with the latest trends. For example, the system offers web-based multi-user capabilities, making engineering easier. Another significant feature for applications in fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals is the native support of MTPs and the modularity it offers.

ACHEMA Inspire: What is the potential for IOT in terms of, for example, a seamless connection from sensor to cloud?

  • __Eckard Eberle: In process industries, the long lifecycle of a plant is often a key challenge. Digitalisation in brownfield has very specific needs. But we also see that here digitalisation has gained massive momentum in recent years.
    Why? Because there are smart sensors that enable digitisation no matter where or when they are required in an ecosystem. By way of an example: the multisensory in one of the world’s fasted bottling plants was able to create added value in no time at all; helping Coca Cola HBC by limiting waste, reducing water consumption and lowering emissions.

ACHEMA Inspire: What challenges must be overcome for IT and OT convergence?

  • __Eckard Eberle: The increasing interconnection of IT and OT is an important element for a successful digital transformation and should include effective cybersecurity measures. They will grow ever closer, particularly when it comes to 5G.

ACHEMA Inspire: I recall you saying in the past, the basis of this is the domain know-how. Can you elaborate on this?

  • __Eckard Eberle: A deep understanding of the market and the needs of customers. This is the only way to develop things that really create added value: Bringing Industry 4.0 to life is one thing, getting the implementation rolling is something completely different. The fact that so much has already happened ten years later is something we can all rightly be proud of. Industry 4.0 illuminates our path in many areas of production.
    At that time, we promised ourselves that, by setting up new networked systems on top of the existing system landscape, we would be able to significantly increase the availability and performance of a system. Three years ago, this project was still viewed very sceptically, but step-by-step we are now seeing that it works. A good example is vaccine production. Thanks to digitalisation, the plant in Marburg converted to vaccine production together with BioNTech within five months.
    This didn’t happen “just like that”, but we included a complete MES layer with paperless documentation, coupled it, revised the control system – all partly only from the home office. That would have been completely unimaginable a few years ago. Thus, Industry 4.0 is an enormous speed booster for implementation and operation. IT and OT are only growing together through digitalisation.

ACHEMA Inspire: In terms of success, just how important is it to consider the use of future technologies?

  • __Eckard Eberle: It was as important in the age of Industry 1.0 as it is today, in the midst of the turnaround of Industry 4.0. Digitalisation and so, Industry 4.0 means perfect and consistent data management. Data can only flow if connectivity is ensured. It is therefore not surprising that communication has become a very important topic. This is true in the private sphere, where the mobile phone with a corresponding network is indispensable, and it applies in industry. However, there are of course very specific requirements in industry. That’s why we see private 5G networks as an important driver in the context of digital transformation.

ACHEMA Inspire: Is it fair to say the way we work and how we work together is determined by technologies and that determines the technologies?

  • __Eckard Eberle: Digitalisation is too big, you can only do it together. We all have to come to the same table regardless of organization and function. There are no limits to partnerships. This applies internally, where we and others have converted entire business areas to an agile structure. And it applies to collaboration with customers and partners.
    An exciting topic in this context is the joint development of industry standards were competitors design together with their customers, because this is the only way we can actually create added value for the industry. An example that many of us have been working on for a long time in MTP as the basis for modular production. We work here together with many customers and, of course, in the appropriate committees.

ACHEMA Inspire: Let me ask you about the role of the so-called Digital Worker and how they interact with the virtual with the physical worlds.

  • __Eckard Eberle: The Digital Worker unites the real and virtual worlds. It’s a transformation that increases efficiency and security, as well as the smoothness of processes and quality of information. The Digital Worker creates a new dimension of control in which the entire system is virtually transparent for field workers and remote experts, while its predictive plant management leads to a continuous and trouble-free flow of all plant processes. There’s a solution for digitalisation of al workflows in all plants; this means an end to pen-and-paper procedures, easy access to information, so key personnel such as operators and technicians, can be more efficient.
    There is constant pressure to reduce operational and maintenance costs. Maintenance teams need to keep the plant running while facing significant financial pressure and it is possible to achieve time reductions of up to 30 per cent. There are other things to consider such as centralising and outsourcing operations and maintenance.
    Workers struggle to find the right location and identify right device quickly – putting the plant and its safe operation at risk. Then there’s the issue of large and fragmented data pools. While data becomes more available through intelligent devices, IoT, for example, it is tedious – if not impossible – to access them simultaneously and efficiently. Pen and paper often still dominate.


Richard Burton

Editor / World Show Media


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