How Can We Make Manufacturing Smarter?

Dassault Systèmes discusses the future of digital manufacturing with examples from customers.

(Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

(Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

In days past, the majority of gains in manufacturing efficiency were won on the shop floor. Nowadays, optimizing a production line is a much more abstract affair. Manufacturers have access to more data and more powerful analytics than ever before—tools that can unlock whole new levels of efficiency, but only if you know how to use them.

Of course, our digital age has impacted the demand side of the equation as much as it has supply. “The days of being able to produce to-stock are gone for many items,” said Eric Green, Vice President DELMIA User Experience and Advocacy, Dassault Systèmes. “The paradigm has shifted so that it’s an almost continuous iteration of understanding what consumers want and how manufacturers can support that, which is putting strain and pressure on manufacturing systems.”

A big part of this paradigm shift is the transition from supply chains to value networks. Green described the difference between the two this way:

“Value networks are collaborative, as opposed to just responding to requirements. If we look at where companies are investing and focusing in manufacturing today, what we’re seeing is that they’re looking at how they can use their capabilities to invent new business models or transform existing models.”

4 Examples on the Cutting Edge of Manufacturing

(Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

(Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

Green cited several examples of companies that are setting themselves apart in this way.

“What Tesla has been able to do is not only provide a product that’s transforming the automotive industry, but they’re also transforming their manufacturing processes, which enables them to do things differently to bring their products to market,” he said.

Another example Green cited of a company  transforming existing business models is CadMakers. Although it operates in the construction industry—with a focus on managing projects—the company is unique in its application of manufacturing practices to construction.

“CadMakers looked at what’s required to support the manufacture of a product, and used our solution to take those practices and apply them to the commercial industry for construction,” Green said. “That’s enabled them to define new processes and have a positive impact on the efficiency of construction projects.”

Green pointed out that despite their relatively small size and market share, Tesla and CadMakers are having disruptive effects on their respective industries.

“Automotive OEMs are now focusing on electric vehicles, and companies in the construction industry have seen what CadMakers has done and are starting to adopt this new paradigm,” he said.

(Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

(Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

Of course, innovation isn’t solely the domain of start-ups and SMEs. Other examples Green cited came from two of the biggest players in the aerospace and automotive industries: Airbus and Honda.

“Airbus has identified situations where using additive manufacturing transforms the way they produce specific parts,” Green said. “They improved the part structure and quality while having a savings factor of four. It’s also let them minimize the waste that’s produced from manufacturing these parts.”

Honda presents what may be the most compelling example of digitalization in manufacturing. “They have a business model where they want to be able to build any model at any plant,” Green explained. In order to realize that model, Honda turned to Dassault Systemes.

(Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

(Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

“Using our solutions, Honda has been able to simulate the production lines of those different models across those different plants,” he said. “So, if they want to move production of an automobile from one plant to another, they can simulate and understand what needs to happen in the factory before they actually move it. That helps them mitigate the risks involved and figure out how quickly they can ramp up to production.”

Making Manufacturing Smarter

Even after three industrial revolutions—and a fourth on the way—manufacturing is still about making things as efficiently as possible. What’s changed is that there are many more paths to optimization than there used to be.

Gone are the days of production managers having to walk the factory floor to get a sense of how the line is running. Manufacturing engineers no longer need to shuffle around miniature models of their facilities and equipment to find the optimal layout. Now, all of that can happen in digital space through simulation and virtual and augmented reality.

It’s a brave new world for manufacturing, and this is only the beginning.

What changes have you seen in the manufacturing sector? Share your thoughts in the comments below.