Supporting printing technology manufacturers in the transformation to Industry 4.0

Siemens’ focus will be on digitalization at drupa 2016 – Thilo Sporbert

Thilo Sporbert, head of business development for printing technology of the Digital Factory Division of Siemens in Erlangen

Can you briefly explain the role Siemens is playing in printing technology?
Thilo Sporbert:
We assist machinery manufacturers of all industries worldwide – among them the printing technology industry and related sectors like packaging or plastics machines. We offer them a wide spectrum of automation and drive solutions. This ranges from hardware and software to technology-based services. We are present wherever printing machines are manufactured, and we work for large, medium-sized and small companies at most versatile technological levels.

drupa 2016 is just around the corner. What will you show there?
The focus will clearly be on digitalization. We will show the machine manufacturers and the users from the printing industry how an integrated process chain from the design and planning stage to simulation and engineering as well as the production and operation of a machine can look like and which advantages it offers for the development of a machine in terms of flexibility, time and cost. In addition, machinery manufacturers and users can gather and analyze data relating to the performance of their machines, energy data, makeready and downtimes or hints regarding proactive maintenance by means of our software and cloud solutions. Our solutions support the transformation of the machinery manufacturing industry towards Industry 4.0. At drupa, we want to demonstrate that by means of the life cycle of a machine.

Are these solutions open to all printing methods?
It makes no difference whether the machines are operated in the graphic arts, industrial or packaging sector. Our solutions are now being used in analogue, digital and hybrid printing processes that combine offset, gravure or flexographic printing with a digital step for personalization. The main growth area is digital printing because it supports the trend to individualization and shorter print runs in the best way.

How do individualization and automation fit together?
TS: The shorter the print run and the more frequent the job and format change, the more important is automation. Otherwise, the changeover times are a burden to productivity. Nowadays, we see print shops that have automated only islands around single machines and printing companies with a fully digital, highly automated workflow. The latter are better able to cope with the difficult market environment. In the printing industry, automation is the key element of continued competitiveness.

So, what does this require of the engineering industry?
TS: The customers expect more flexibility, shorter innovation cycles and new approaches in order to individualize machines through the addition of finishing units. Complexity is growing. Above all since the cost pressure moves energy and resource efficiency into the focus, while the expectations on performance are not diminishing. This makes fast machines, fast automation and fast communication a must. One key to that is our Profinet-Bus that creates the basis for extremely short cycle times through real-time communication. Furthermore, the same cable is used for the security technology – one communication bus is sufficient.

Communication is the crux of Industry 4.0. Where does printing technology stand?
TS: The German machinery manufacturing industry needs to catch up in general. Many companies still keep on waiting, because, in addition to all the investments, a great willingness to rethink across all processes is required. Since we are the only supplier that already has the complete process chain in his portfolio, we can start with the customer wherever it is reasonable to embark on the transformation. This may be any point in the value chain – design and construction, simulation, production or the after-sale service of machines. Nobody needs to fully digitalize all processes at one go.

Siemens offers machinery manufacturers a wide spectrum of automation and drive solutions. This ranges from hardware and software to technology-based services.

Do you see the printing technology manufacturing industry as a growth market?
In this sector, we are clearly set for growth. This is driven by digital printing and the packaging market where we are closely involved in packaging machines and machines for the production of flexible materials. We are confident that we will be able to achieve a disproportionally high growth rate with this market.

There is also growth in Asia. How are the machinery manufacturers doing there?
In India, they operate in the low-performance range. In China, more and more in the mid-range where first companies take the plunge into the high-end range with fully automated machines. They focus on exports and want to make a compelling impression in the global competition by offering high quality.

What is your vision of the printing house of the future?
It won’t take very long and every printing company will implement the fully digitalized value chain; simply, in order to remain competitive. The basis is provided by an integrated software platform for an uninterrupted flow of data from the order intake to the machines and the processing of the order. This digital factory will be carefully shielded from cyber attacks and will be able to respond extremely flexible to the customers’ wishes. The development progresses towards the digital workflow in which processes and decisions run in parallel. This requires the companies to do some rethinking – recently, the willingness to do that has substantially increased.

Packaging South Asia is the cooperating media partner for drupa 2016 which is scheduled to be held from 31 May to 10 June at Dusseldorf, Germany