More moves to support the Digital Factory

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Content Copyright © 2007 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

I came across an announcement in Automation recently that seems indicative of a trend in manufacturing systems. I have edited and paraphrased the article.

Rockwell Automation Inc (automation controls) and Dassault Systèmes (PLM supplier) have signed a memorandum of understanding to work together on a joint solution to create a virtual design and production environment for manufacturers. It’s one of the latest salvos aimed at the emerging “digital manufacturing,” or “digital factory,” marketplace.

According to the Dec. 11 announcement from Rockwell and Dassault, the joint solution will link manufacturing design to factory-floor control by integrating Rockwell’s RSLogix 5000 control programming and configuration software together with Dassault’s Delmia Automation PLM software. The joint solution is targeted at manufacturers to enable them to reduce the cost of engineering and ramp-up time, and to continually optimise their manufacturing operations with an accurate, real-time, simulation model. The solution produces a virtual design and production environment that more closely links product design to manufacturing. The result will be immediate feedback being available on design changes, thus enabling the testing of various “what if” scenarios in order to continuously optimise manufacturing operations.

While this capability is “not yet commercially launched, it will be available soon,” said Martin Canell, manager, strategic alliances, global business development, for Rockwell Automation. The timing is yet to be determined, he said, “but we’re talking months, not years,” until the solution is available. Rockwell and Dassault said they will initially target the automotive market, where they both have common customers.

In January 2007, Siemens AG announced a $3.5 billion acquisition of UGS Corp., another PLM provider. Additional action in the PLM space followed in May 2007, when Oracle announced its $495 million acquisition of Agile Software Corp., another PLM supplier. A real consolidation of PLM vendors has therefore happened and this seems to be linked with the recognition of the need to link PLM more heavily into the rest of the manufacturing process.

The interplay between design and manufacturing will help increase efficiencies in the design process and ultimately minimise the time between design and delivery, said Rockwell and Dassault. Engineers involved in all stages of design will have the ability to make adjustments in real-time, incorporating, preserving and augmenting knowledge rapidly across various stages of the production life cycle, the announcement concluded.