Thierry Van Eeckhout (Siemens Digital Industries): ‘Digital twinning is a lever for co-creation
‘Logistics is an important activity in our society. It has a pivotal function and benefits from continuous evolution through new applications and technologies. That is why Siemens, as a Foundation Partner, is supporting Log!Ville,’ says Thierry Van Eeckhout, Vice President Sales of Siemens Digital Industries Belgium-Luxembourg. He shares his vision on innovation, digitalisation and sustainability, and the role of Log!Ville.
Siemens AG, with its head office in Berlin and Munich, is a technology-focused business which concentrates on the domains of industry, infrastructure, transport, and healthcare. The company operates globally in 190 countries and has around 303,000 employees. ‘Siemens sees logistics and intra-logistics as an important aspect of its business activities. With our ecosystem of partners, we focus on the interaction between various typical (intra) logistics applications, such as autonomous vehicles, warehouse cranes, transport and sorting systems, and so on. Our digital software platforms play a special role in realising added value from the design phase up to and including the operational management of the applications. Moreover, with over 200 of our own factory locations, we are also the first user of these solutions,’ Thierry Van Eeckhout explains.
‘At Log!Ville, our Digital Industries division is a main partner. Together with Siemens Mobility, they work on digitalisation and automation in the industry, with logistics and intra-logistics being one of the most important fields. What distinguishes us is the all-encompassing nature of the solutions: we firmly believe in a holistic approach which allows us to offer software and hardware and concentrate on products, processes and performance. In this context, digital twins play a vital role.’
‘The logistics sector is facing numerous challenges and these are best tackled using automation and digitalisation. It is no surprise, therefore, that we are finding more robots, cobots, AGVs, autonomous forklift trucks, and multifunctional conveyors in this area, often used in combination with one another. Simulations based on digital twins can also help to find the right combination to realise efficiencies within an existing building, for example. Application-specific IoT structures and algorithms can also help to prevent unplanned downtimes. Cutting-edge technologies such as blockchain and 5G will soon penetrate this area,’ says Thierry Van Eeckhout.
According to him, the solutions can be designed by Siemens or developed with partners. ‘AGVs are gaining ground. Siemens does not yet have any in its portfolio but we could use co-creation to offer logistics companies the best solutions in this area.’
‘The more partners you have in a co-creation project, the more important it is to have a robust data backbone. Siemens thus uses a holistic approach; we use digital twins for the product, production and performance. We can thus shorten the development process with our partners and respond more quickly to new trends in the market,’ he adds.
Thierry Van Eeckhout sees five major trends which are putting pressure on the market: expectations regarding deliveries, the increasing importance of ‘elastic logistics’, sustainability requirements, last-mile arrangements and the emergence of ‘performance-based contracting’.
‘Take increasing sustainability requirements, for example. Our logistics chains are increasingly subjected to restrictions and, as a result of the tighter regulations, manufacturers are under pressure to drastically reduce the emissions from their production and (intra) logistics infrastructure. Digital twins also offer advantages in this context. They allow processes to be developed with the highest degree of energy efficiency while simultaneously realising a more effective ‘whole’. We are convinced that technology will serve as a lever to achieve the sustainability goals,’ he adds. In this regard, he no longer just thinks in terms of more careful use of energy but also considers ergonomics, for example. ‘The well-being of our employees is also part of sustainability. Simulations allow processes to be simulated and modified.’
Even more ‘gems’
‘Locally, we are increasingly engaging in co-creation with Belgian companies. This could involve machine manufacturers but also logistics companies (3PLs), or end-customers, and we integrate different systems to create a better unified system which then becomes an ecosystem involving various parties. First, companies often need to be convinced that they are throwing away time and resources by only focusing on solutions. But with the right mindset, they soon realise that collaboration will help them improve their range, tackle increasing complexity, and position themselves in the market more quickly,’ he explains.
He has also noticed that Belgian companies have generally worked through their fears when it comes to innovation. ‘Until fairly recently, they were somewhat behind the curve but now they keep up to pace with developments. We should be proud of the fact that more companies are embracing well-considered innovations by elaborating new business models and using (or developing) exceptionally modern technologies such as robots, cobots and more. We often don’t like to blow our trumpets but we have many ‘gems’ among us that are notching up international success thanks to processes such as co-creation,
Log!Ville as an innovative ecosystem
‘That is one of the reasons why we became and still are a motivated Foundation Partner of Log!Ville. We are convinced that this ecosystem, with its many innovations relating to hardware and software, not only motivates businesses to hop onto the innovation train but also inspires them thanks to the exchange of knowledge. This ecosystem concept is also reflected in our booth. We not only demonstrate working hardware and simulations via multimedia to make software as tangible as possible but also solutions that we are developing with other partners,’ explains Thierry Van Eeckhout.
The latter will become increasingly significant. ‘As I said earlier, the market and technology are evolving incredibly quickly. For Log!Ville, this is a challenge in the sense that the demonstration centre must be more alert to innovations and new trends. Being open to and aware of more solutions that could be developed with others will play an increasingly significant role,’ he concludes.