News & events

A Digital Enterprise journey

Third Quarter 2019 News & events

Siemens recently demonstrated its Digital Enterprise portfolio at the Africa Automation Fair (AAF), showcasing its current and future digital automation technologies. Motion Control’s editor met with Ralf Leinen, senior vice president for Digital Industries, Southern and Eastern Africa, to find out more.

Siemens recently demonstrated its Digital Enterprise portfolio at the Africa Automation Fair (AAF), showcasing its current and future digital automation technologies. Motion Control’s editor met with Ralf Leinen, senior vice president for Digital Industries, Southern and Eastern Africa, to find out more.

Ralf Leinen

Motion Control: How is Siemens Digital Industries aligning itself with the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Leinen: The core of what we do is what we call Business to Society. When we do business, it matters to us that we leave something behind. Making the sale is not the driver, we want to do the right things – like increasing employment and upskilling people. So besides reaching our business targets, we want to extend our reach into the market and do what matters. We want to drive our social responsibility in a very humble way. This one thread goes through Siemens globally. We believe that companies can only truly succeed if they help to fulfil the needs of the society, they operate in. Besides helping to drive a country’s economic growth, businesses should add lasting value to communities.

On the other side, Siemens has taken on the responsibility of continuously driving innovation in the field of automation and digitalisation and is the undisputed leader. Technology trends develop from innovation and we distil these into products, solutions and services. That’s what we want to demonstrate at AAF.

We can go back in history to see the progression. When I came to Siemens 30 years ago, we automated machinery and that was a quantum leap. Then we automated whole production lines and that was considered a quantum leap at the next level. Then whole factory floors were interconnected. Now we come to the next level: how do we further strive for productivity and speed-to-market flexibility? Our drivers are speed, quality, flexibility and safety. Here in South Africa specifically it is about how to increase safety. These things cannot be achieved by putting in another level of automation, it is about how to make technology meaningful.

Through the integration of cutting-edge technologies into our portfolio, we can help industrial companies to benefit from rapidly growing data volumes in new, wide-ranging ways. With the use of technologies such as artificial intelligence, edge computing and additive manufacturing, we are paving the way for the future of industry. With artificial intelligence, we have self-learning, self-communicating, self-diagnostic machinery; and edge computing turns the mass of data generated into meaningful information. To handle this mass of data you put computing power at the edge of the machinery. The task is done there and only the relevant data that has been processed at the edge is taken up to a higher level. You only extract what belongs in the boardroom or at the plant manager’s dashboard. This is a far more effective way of handling data; and without this data, you are not able to make effective decisions or increase your go-to-market. So, we say it makes sense to use artificial intelligence in machinery and edge computing in larger environments. Edge computing technology is the missing link and it is putting processing power close to the action.

When we talk about skills development, people and services, virtual reality and augmented reality are the technologies that provide our people with ways to upskill, support and operate. These are the things that we talk to our customers about when we discuss their roadmap for the next three to four years.

The old way of doing things is over. The force and speed with which the use of data increases is huge. Now people go into the virtual world with a digital twin before they start building a plant. This represents an idea and how to execute it and creates huge potential for even higher productivity. You create a virtual twin of your product, production, performance and service and take the data and feed it back in an ever-recurring cycle of optimisation. This is what people are asking about – they need to squeeze out all the elements of productivity.

This is what we mean when we talk about digitalisation. It is the realistic coverage of the value chain of our clients. The value chain goes from what to build, to how to do it, to how to keep operations going. Siemens technology allows us to drive this.

In the last ten years Siemens has invested €11 billion in additions to our portfolio by acquiring companies, software and elements of products to drive this holistic approach from automation to digitalisation. We continuously innovate. The future will be artificial intelligence, edge computing, neural networks, digitalisation and IIoT.

The understanding of this technology has evolved, and all the links are falling into place. Automation will remain a fundamental layer of what we discuss, it’s the basis; but it all comes down to the real context. Sometimes it’s just a dashboard in the boardroom. Sometimes the simplest things make the biggest difference.

Siemens Solution partner, New Africa Control (NAC) joined Siemens at this year’s AAF. A chat with NAC’s MD, Alan Taylor provided an example of the Siemens philosophy in practice.

Motion Control: What is your business?

Taylor: We buy equipment from Siemens and sell it on as part of a solution. We specialise in factory automation and our main customers are the mines. We have some of the most recognised specialists in the industry because of our Siemens connection. Siemens has opened its software suite so we have access to the kernel software and can develop applications within the Siemens environment.

Motion Control: How is IIoT playing out in the mining industry?

Taylor: We have been involved in digitalisation for quite a while, getting information to the customer. On the ground we take measurements and send that data to industrial computers. From there we bring it to the operational level, where operators sit in front of hundreds of screens. We also get into sequential starts and stops, where large parts of a plant start up automatically. Then we provide predictive maintenance and are well known in the industry for diagnostics. We can quickly diagnose problems and pass on a huge amount of information about an object. This could be a temperature measurement or a motor running – there are thousands of pieces of information. A report is issued and then the operator knows where to go and what to do. The end-user is always aware of what is happening.

One of the big mines we work with is based overseas, so the information is moved wherever it’s needed within the hour, so people at investment tables on the other side of the world know what is going on. For example, they can see the downtime, or what water has been used, or what the production volume is. They have all the information at their fingertips.

Then the last thing is that digitalisation is moving to handheld devices and this is fully operational. When there is a fault, depending on the level it gets passed through general information and is captured in a report; otherwise a problem that cannot wait is flagged by sms. This is a huge part of our business. We can make the right person aware at the right time.

For more information contact Jennifer Naidoo, Siemens Digital Industries, +27 11 652 2795,,


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