The manufacturing plant floor gets a makeover from Microsoft and Siemens

REDMOND, Wash. – April 20, 2010 – Reducing time to market for products, increasing plant reliability and lowering production costs – what have these three areas all got in common? Together, they form a triangle of business challenges for today’s manufacturing plants. At Microsoft , we have been working with Siemens to develop the Innovative Production Line proof of concept (POC) which we believe could help provide guidance on how to solve these challenges.

This POC, which is making its global debut at Hannover Messe, leverages the latest embedded technologies from Microsoft and hardware from Siemens and connects the factory floor with the backend systems, neatly co-ordinating the interaction via a mobile handheld device on the factory floor. This creates immediate, tangible efficiencies while delivering the real time business insights, which modern manufacturing plants require.

The Siemens-Microsoft Innovative Production Line POC features familiar production line stations, such as enterprise management, materials inbound logistics, assembly line, and quality assurance – showing what is possible on the new Windows 7-based Windows Embedded Standard 7 technology. Windows Embedded operating systems used for the POC include: Windows Embedded Standard 7 for the specialized devices, Windows Embedded Enterprise for enterprise-class equipment, Windows Embedded CE for the handheld terminal, and Windows Embedded Server for the industrial server appliances. With these platforms, the production line showcases enterprise end-to-end connectivity from production line sensors to IT datacenter servers, as well as high fidelity 3D graphics and Natural User Interfaces (NUI). The modern NUI design based on Windows Touch is particularly compelling with multitouch functionality and gestures. This provides a more natural and compelling experience for users, and it also supports efficiency and productivity.

Microsoft and Siemens demonstrate the Innovative Production Line Proof of Concept

We have been working together with Siemens for some time. We have combined high definition, multi-touch interfaces and handheld devices to produce a solution which we believe really delivers the control and accuracy manufacturers need.

Taking into consideration how manufacturing plants operate, the POC includes handy features such as the handheld devices automatically tuning into and displaying the screen of the nearest station in the plant, and embedded sensors that automatically turn off the devices when they are not in use.

The POC also comes with a number of user scenarios to demonstrate how it would be used in the real world. For example, you can follow the progress of a customer order from station to station as it is processed, assembled and tested. You can also follow the lifecycle of a product, check on safety aspects of the production process, manage traceability and even view a scenario which addresses green IT. Our goal is to provide a system which really can adapt to the business needs of a manufacturing plant and give it the means to run a smart and flexible operation.

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