SIPLACE - putting the 'X' into APEX
Dec 03, 2004
February in California will see the launch of the new Siplace X series of machines, the world's press assembled this week in Munich to hear executives from Siemens explain what has driven the development of this machine.
Early next year full technical details will be released on the X series, and clearly they will be delivering some real technical breakthroughs, but for now we are exploring the trends in the industry that have led Siemens to develop these new machines.
To give background to this new development, Peter Drexel, Member of the Siemens group Logistics & Assembly Systems, talked a little about the business and the pedigree that has allowed them to develop this system.
To understand the L&A (Logistics & Assembly Systems) group you have to be aware of the markets in which they operate. These include Distribution & Industry, Airport Logistics, Postal Automation and, of course, Electronic Assembly Systems. All of these disciplines have one need in common - the need to understand logistics, control and architecture. It is important to understand this as it forms part of the foundation for all the products of this group. If you were to use one word to bind all these together it would be "Handling" - the ability to handle, move and process parts. In this way certain principles apply to moving baggage at an airport, sorting post, managing inventory in a warehouse or placing components on a circuit board.
Peter explored the ethos that drives Siemens. Describing how the foundation of company culture (in terms of both employees and management) is the base upon which Methods, Knowledge and Process expertise support the performance and quality that they strive to achieve. This underpins customer benefits, which is a fundamental requirement for a profitable business.
"The last ten years were about mastering SMT placement", Peter states. He adds that the next ten will be about the movement from machine focus to the whole electronic factory - driven by cost of ownership, a need for flexibility and faster response times -response to differing products and changing customer needs.
Peter offers a process to create value for the customer: firstly, by providing best in class equipment with excellent support; secondly, seamless full line integration maximising full line performance and utilisation; thirdly, closed loop functionality, process consulting/control, traceability, monitoring and set-up optimisation software, etc.; and finally moving to an integrated logistics and factory concept.
Peter supports his views on factory automation with examples, such as paperless environments, using wireless LAN, RF terminals and real-time logistics solutions. - offering a low cost solution with a very fast ROI. The three ways in which real time logistics can help are: reliability, ease of use and speed.
As a further and more relevant example, Siemens have built an electronic manufacturing unit in Shenzhen, China for a private Chinese customer. They are building electronics on three shifts, seven days a week. It is a high performance factory that takes the ethos of factory logistics to its natural conclusion. An open interface ensures the system works with other equipment. This open approach is key as Siemens is offering architecture, rather than a factory.
The basis for the success of the Siemens system is innovative machine technology, and this is what the SIPLACE X series provides.
Tilo Brandis, Head of Siemens L&A, talks about trends in the global SMT market.
In introducing a new solution into the electronics manufacturing industry, it is important to understand the trends and needs of the market.
Electronics Assembly Systems Trends
Looking back to the ten years up until the downturn of 2001/2, it was clear that all regions enjoyed steady growth, with the USA and Asia doing particularly well just before the collapse. Almost $4billion was spent on equipment during 2000. 2001 and 2002 were not good years - in fact the USA and Europe were down as much as 50%, in Asia the decline was less, with China slowing rather than declining. Now in 2003 and 2004 the trend has changed again, with growth everywhere, but most notable in Asia. Tilo sees 2005 as a relatively flat year, with some growth in China and very little growth in Europe or the USA. Looking further forward, Siemens predicts a further ramp in growth in 2007 and 2008. These all add up to steady single digit average growth.
Tilo also considers the sectors in which SIPLACE enjoys the most success. In telecoms they have more than 40% market share (telecom represents more than 23% of Siplace sales), while in consumer goods they have less than 10%. Automotive is a strong sector, again with more than 40% share. This is pleasing as this is an area that makes very high demands on quality and reliability, a good commendation for SIPLACE equipment. An area of particular interest in the future is that of sub-modules or hybrids, which Tilo sees as an important trend in the future.
Siemens have more than 13,000 Siplace machines installed in the market, split 17/25/31/27% between USA, Europe, Germany and Asia respectively. Interestingly machine sales in the last year have changed to 14/19/21/46%, showing a large, but expected, drift to Asia. It is important to say that Siemens still enjoys huge success in its local market.
The trends here are clear - high volume manufacturing has moved from North America to Asia and to Mexico, from Western Europe to Eastern Europe and Asia, and from Japan to Asia. The reasons behind this trend are obvious to everyone. Tilo believes that Eastern Europe has some real potential to provide lower cost manufacturing within Europe.
SIPLACE has global installations and as a result needs a global footprint. This it has with more than 80 service locations and 15 training centers around the world. They also have R&D and engineering centers in Asia, Americas and Europe.
So, why is SIPLACE growing faster than the market?
Tilo suggests a number of reasons. Listening to the needs of the customer is important - meeting with key accounts and considering their needs within the environments they operate. This is not just regional, but also technological. Listening has taught Siemens that the old "one size fits all" adage is no longer appropriate.
Tilo also believes that Siemens have to offer "Investment Protection" - that is to ensure both fast ROI and compatibility - ensuring machines can be upgraded with new developments.
Thirdly, Tilo sights Siemens excellences in Processes, People and Products as a key to their success.
Today's homogenous market will become more fragmented in the future - braking out into sub-sections - like automotive electronics breaking down into infotainment and safety. Because of this, more specific solutions will be needed, reiterating the obsolescence of the "one size fits all" phrase.
A big challenge that has affected Siemens is the variation of currency. The strong euro and the weak dollar have contributed to challenges for European producers. This is, in some ways, an opportunity - Siemens has had this success whilst being hampered by currency issue, without those issues they could perhaps do even better.
The solution here is to build elsewhere, and to this end Siemens has taken a site in Singapore and will be manufacturing equipment for the Asian market locally. "Singapore offers us quality and reliability - this, I think China will offer, but perhaps not yet" says Peter Drexel. Tilo adds "we have learned a great deal from the Siemens group in how best to move manufacturing - we plan to build stable products in Asia, relying on Europe for development and the transfer of technology.
All these trends led to the development of the new SIPLACE 'X' series - more detail of how it deals with these issues will be available soon...