The Internet of Things (IoT), Advanced Manufacturing Technology, Industry 4.0 – no matter what you call it, digital manufacturing is revolutionizing industry. If you haven’t yet, it’s time to get up to speed on digital manufacturing and how it will impact your industry.
What is Digital Manufacturing?
Digital manufacturing goes by many names, but they all point to the same concept – a greater use of computers and microprocessors to:
- Design, test, evaluate and produce prototype parts and processes,
- Operate manufacutring equipment and systems, and
- Collect and analysis of operating data.
Deloitte’s recent publication, Advanced Technologies Initiative: Manufacturing & Innovation, defined digital manufacturing as an “Amalgamation of advanced software, cost-effective sensors, and network connectivity that allow objects to interact digitally.”
This definition shows the broadness of digital manufacturing and its ability to encompass several areas of manufacturing. Everything from big data to robotics to Additive Manufacturing and simulation software fall under the digital umbrella.
Why Leverage Digital Manufacturing?
According to Deloitte, 25 billion connected devices will be used in the manufacturing industry by the end of 2025. This boom in digitizing manufacturing is a direct response to the many benefits it produces and can impact your productivity today.
- Better data processing– Manufacturing processes already produce a huge amount of data and, with the advent of more cost effective sensors, even more real time information is available to monitor and improve process performance. The immensity of information would be difficult to process without the data processing tools to quickly and accurately analyze this data.
- Faster troubleshooting – Advanced tools can quickly identify and resolve problems as they occur, saving time, money, and even potential employee injury. Data feedback through machine-to-machine communications can even allow processes to be “self-correcting”, essentially solving problems before they happen.
- Expedited production – Digital designs can easily be passed from designer to production. Simulation programs can optimize production parameters before expensive tooling is ordered. Additive manufacturing allows physical samples of prototypes to quickly and cost effectively be evaluated.
- Increased safety – Sensors detect accidents before they happen and advanced robotics can remove the worker from potentially hazardous tasks.
How to Go Digital
With such compelling benefits and tools available now and on the horizon, manufacturers need to integrate digital technologies and equipment into their strategic investment plans. Getting started can seem overwhelming, but by taking it one step at a time, you can make a great leap to digital manufacturing.
- Plan: Know what can be digitized now, what is being developed, and prioritize needs.
- Analyze: Invest wisely by evaluating new tools with minimal short-term investment when possible. Use a consultant, software rental, or a service provider to ensure that you have the information needed to optimally commit funds in this fast moving technology space.
- Train: No matter how great the tools, it’s all for naught if no one knows how to use them. Train employees on digital tools before adding them to the processes, and continue training as the tool is integrated. Do not forget to develop the maintenance and repair skill sets within your organization as well.
- Build: Continually build infrastructure one piece at a time, including hiring digitally-skilled employees.
Here are just a few of the many tools available for enhancing your digital manufacturing capablities:
- Infrared sensors and smart infrastructure gather immense amounts of data and immediately process it, sending that information to improve mechanisms.
- Artificial intelligence and advanced robotics execute specific, voice-activated commands and can learn from humans to improve their process.
- Machine-to-machine communication through smart infrastructure promotes immediate adjustment based on changes in material weight, size, quantity, etc.
- Virtual design and augmented reality (AG) technology provide the ability to design and manufacture products virtually, saving on waste and generating feedback on how to best manufacture a design.
Get Up to Speed with OH!Manufacturing
The rapid pace at which digital manufacturing tools are improving means it is becoming more affordable and accessible to go digital. Manufacturers should get their digital manufacturing plan together to avoid being left behind. OH!Manufacturing can help get your business quickly up to speed, drawing on our multiple resources and connections to address your needs. Contact us today to get started!