Digitalisation is crucial for the Middle East's competitiveness

Opinion: The manufacturing future of the region depends on the rapid adoption of digital strategies and tools, writes Jan Mrosik, CEO, Digital Factory Division, Siemens AG
Digitalisation is crucial for the Middle East's competitiveness
Digitalisation brings lower operating costs and higher quality, flexibility and efficiency. Response times to customer requests and market demands are shortened, and new business models are opened up.
By Jan Mrosik
Sun 09 Sep 2018 02:13 PM

Our world is increasingly impacted by data. Today, eight billion devices – from smartphones to trains and wind turbines – are connected to the internet, and this number is expected to grow to one trillion by 2030.

As the world becomes ever more connected, digitalisation is the key differentiator that will enable companies to remain competitive.

Digitalisation brings lower operating costs and higher quality, flexibility and efficiency. Response times to customer requests and market demands are shortened, and new business models are opened up.

From energy and transport to finance, the impact of digitalisation is being felt, and perhaps nowhere more so than in manufacturing.

This is of particular relevance to the Middle East. The region is rapidly developing diversified economies, with manufacturing as a key pillar.

The UAE is working to increase manufacturing’s share of GDP and in Saudi Arabia, the National Transformation Plan seeks to achieve digital transformation, securing a larger role for manufacturing. Egypt, too, has set goals to raise the industrial sector’s share of the economy to more than 20 percent.

We know that nations with established industrial sectors are stronger, better skilled and more resilient in the face of economic volatility. And when manufacturing is successful, our countries are successful. Being a relatively new player in global manufacturing and engineering has advantages. The Middle East can swiftly embrace and implement new technologies and build expertise more rapidly than other regions.

Digitalisation technologies are a differentiator, and the Middle East has the potential to use them to leapfrog the third industrial revolution, becoming a world leader in Industry 4.0, or the Industrial Internet of Things.

The question is: how?

No time to lose

Firms must start their digital transformation now. Becoming a digital enterprise is no longer a vision of the future. It needs to happen now. Through a portfolio of industrial software and automation called the Digital Enterprise, companies can integrate and digitalise their entire value chain, be it in pharmaceutical, food and beverage, automotive, aerospace or any other industry. This integration and digitalisation builds an exact digital copy of the value chain: a “digital twin”.

An intelligent virtual model, it duplicates and simulates real-world properties of products and production processes to drive huge productivity and efficiency gains.

Throughout the product lifecycle, the digital twin provides companies with the means to design, simulate, validate and optimise products, processes and even entire factories in the digital world. All generated data is stored using a common data backbone which shares this information among all stakeholders involved.

We know that nations with established industrial sectors are stronger, better-skilled and more resilient in the face of economic volatility

By merging the virtual and real worlds and applying Siemens’ software and automation products, Italian car manufacturer Maserati reduced its time-to-market for its Ghibli model from 30 to 16 months. Germany based Bausch + Ströbel, which builds specialised machines for the pharmaceutical industry, expects to enhance its engineering efficiency by at least 30 percent by 2020 through the use of digital twins of its machines.

Connecting devices

But digitalisation doesn’t stop there. Data from both production and the product in use can be evaluated in real time. Therefore, we’ve created a cloud-based, open IoT operating system called MindSphere to rapidly connect devices, machines, whole facilities and even fleets to the cloud. Through applications developed by almost anyone, data is analysed and fed back into the value chain, driving better decision-making and flexibility, shortening development time and resulting in higher-quality products.

As an example of its potential, we are working with Expo 2020 Dubai to use this technology for energy efficiency, asset management and integrated mobility, helping the Expo ecosystem make the very best use of its data.

Siemens is also developing two MindSphere Application Centers in the UAE; one to focus on driving the digital transformation in airports, cargo handling and logistics, and the other for process industries such as oil and gas, water and wastewater. These centres are designed for collaborative work, and ultimately it’s about competitive advantage.

I believe building platforms to allow global players to localise technology and expertise is essential to sustainable industrialisation and knowledge transfer.

Partnerships, along with defining a business strategy for the digital era and skill development, are a key part of the transition to digitalised businesses. If proof were needed, our collaboration with Strata and Etihad in the UAE to develop the region’s first 3D-printed part for aircraft interiors is a great example of how partnerships between the right global and local partners can rapidly advance digital manufacturing.

These are exciting times and by embracing the digital transformation, the Middle East can drive sustainable economic and social growth as a leading global player in digitalised industry.



Creating the most connected Expo

The Expo 2020 Dubai selected Siemens as the Premier Partner for Infrastructure Digitalisation, and the two parties are working on creating the most connected exposition to date.

At the heart of the partnership is Siemens’ open IoT operating system MindSphere, which by connecting various devices at the Expo will harness and analyse data. In addition to ensuring comfort and energy efficiency for buildings, this technology will underpin the Expo as a test bed for future innovations and a blueprint for a smart city.

Siemens will also support Expo 2020 Dubai’s legacy strategy by making use of the buildings of Expo 2020 Dubai as the new home for its future global logistics headquarters.



Jan Mrosik, CEO, Digital Factory Division, Siemens AG

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