Digital Manufacturing Technology Leads To Agility

Digital Manufacturing Technology Leads To Agility

Hannover Messe was all about Digital Manufacturing this year. One place I could not make in person was a demonstration by Accenture and Dassault Systèmes. This just goes to show the great convergence of digital technologies improving manufacturing processes.

The companies built a proof of concept (PoC) to show how digital technologies can improve efficiency and create more agile manufacturing in industries such as heavy industrial equipment and aerospace.

Working with a large industrial equipment company, Accenture and Dassault Systèmes are building and implementing a three-phase solution that harnesses digital technologies to create a link between engineering and the manufacturing shop floor for non-repetitive manufacturing companies. The adaptive solution provides a new level of continuity for product assembly including the sequence in which parts are built, and provides a better level of insight into the process for engineers and the assembly staff.

The first phase of the agile manufacturing solution creates the theoretical assembly sequence required to build a product such as a train, airplane or digger. Phase two helps create, optimize and re-plan quickly an operational plan and schedule for each worker on the shop floor. The third phase creates a digital display of the schedule for each worker so they are able to refer to it. These three phases use Dassault Systèmes’ solutions.

Replacing what has often been a paper-based process, Accenture and Dassault Systèmes are creating a solution that provides a new digital link between the engineering team and the shop floor, allowing for real-time changes in the schedule. The agile manufacturing solution can also provide insight and risk assessment into any proposed changes to a product or the assembly schedule before they are made, greatly reducing downtime and creating more agile manufacturing.

“Many companies struggle to improve manufacturing flexibility and sustain unexpected commercial or technical changes when production issues, missing parts or engineering modifications occur,” said Eric Schaeffer, senior managing director and head of Accenture’s Industrial practice. “A dedicated agile manufacturing solution will provide flexibility for configuration management and the ability for local plants to personalize products, as well as support for maintenance services.”

“The Industrial Internet of Things and other digital concepts are allowing manufacturers to embark on a new era of productive, sustainable and cost-effective processes that result in a better experience for their customers,” said Laurent Blanchard, Executive Vice President, Global Field Operations (EMEAR), Worldwide Alliances and Services, Dassault Systèmes. “We are extending our long-standing collaboration with Accenture to drive agile manufacturing in the age of experience. Companies can benefit from Dassault Systèmes’ expertise in virtual manufacturing operations and data management applications and Accenture’s best practices in integration services, business process re-engineering, change management and deployment.”

Technology And The New World of Work

Technology And The New World of Work

Tim Sowell’s thinking over the past few months has resonated with me. He’s looking at the blend of technology and humans that will build the plant of the future.

Some years ago when I was laying out the initial editorial stance of Automation World, I was attacked by Lean practitioners (consultants). They said there was little use for automation. It just replaced people and made plants less intelligent and flexible.

My reply was that they missed the point. Some things needed to be automated—maybe for safety reasons or for repeatable quality. Some things would always require people (no matter what some dystopians are trying to sell us today). The smart managers and engineers architect blended manufacturing using the best of both automation and people.

I still believe that.

Sowell’s latest blog post, New World of Work will be center to Factory of the Future, takes a look at a similar idea. Much deeper than my musings, of course, his thesis needs to be digested and considered when you are out architecting your next manufacturing or production line.

He talked of a discussion with some colleagues discussing the future from a variety of views. “Sure enough we ended up aligned on the core that the ‘factory of the future’ will be around what two companies labeled ‘New World of work’. I have mentioned this many times in this blog around ‘smart operational work’.”

We were able group companies who looked at the future thru “new technologies” and how they could apply them, (I seem to visited a number of this type in the last month) vs those companies that we believe will be the leaders with the successful approach of “how they must operation, work” in the new world.

Sowell New World of Work

They defined some characteristics of the new world:

  • Brand loyalty at customer reducing, so “Brand Promise” is key
  • Agility to satisfy is key
  • Shrinking mid tier market as the larger companies continue to consolidate to address the supply of new products and service markets. (especially in consumer products).
  • Dynamic workforce where workers rotate locations/ roles, experience in a role will be less than 2 years.
  • Supply chains with limited inventory requires transparent/ agile manufacturing across the sites.
  • “Constant Change” in assets, process, people, products is the natural state in the 2020.

Then they defined some fundamentals of the “new world of work.”

  • New ways of working with dynamic workers that share, collaborate and are connected but assume experience from the system, they trust the system
  • New Processes around agility, new product  introduction that leverage the skills and approach of the “digital Native” collaborative worker, combined with new technologies to enable new processes and operational awareness. The ability to see situations early, continue to learn, and act fast to changing conditions is key.
  • New technologies provide the opportunity to deliver these new ways of working, with new processes. The likes of leveraging the data, through “big data” to use the past to determine the future in a natural manner. The industrial internet of things (industry 4.0) will enable smart devices providing new levels of embedded autonomy in machines and processes, shifting workers to “exception based” management, but with greater responsibility.

Think about the ease of younger people who move between physical and digital seamlessly. There is no hesitation to communicate and collaborate. If they don’t know something they will search for an answer. As we learn to blend technology and people seamlessly, we’ll see this new world of work evolve.

Sowell concludes, “The natural state of the new world is one of ‘change’ and the systems and culture must be able to ‘master’ naturally.”

Digital Manufacturing Technology Leads To Agility

Digital Manufacturing Requires Digital Supply Chain

Part of the promise of digital manufacturing, also known as Industry 4.0 or Industrial Internet of Things, concerns breaking the digital barriers, freeing information to flow to where it is needed.

This relates to the promise of implementing an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system in a manufacturing enterprise, which always fell a little short due in large part to the lack of integrated information. Timely, accurate data from production did not find its way into the enterprise system.

Effective digital manufacturing extends beyond just the facility into the ecosystem of company facilities, logistics, suppliers, and customers. In other words, the next great leap of progress will be an integrated, digital supply chain.

“The Current and Future State of Digital Supply Chain Transformation,” by Capgemini Consulting, GT Nexus and Infor, reports on a study that surveyed over 300 executives from some of the largest global manufacturing and retail organizations across North America and Europe, and found that:

  • Currently, only 15% have access to data from their extended supply chains, and just 23% of those that have access, actually analyze that data for decision making purposes
  • Almost 50% of respondents admit that right now “traditional” methods such as phone, fax, email are still the dominant ways to interact with supply chain partners
  • Only 23% say that the majority of data from the extended supply chain is analyzed and used for decision making, but in five years, that number is expected to jump to 68%

Most research studies conducted on the topic so far have examined Digital Transformation within organizations, or between organizations and their customers. This new research project is the first of its kind that explores the current state and future of Digital Transformation especially between organizations and all of their partners across the extended value chain.

The study surveyed 337 executives from some of the largest global manufacturing and retail organizations across Europe and North America.

Key findings of the research study include:

Digital Transformation of the Supply Chain is important

  • 75% of respondents say Digital Transformation of the supply chain is “important”
  • 50% say that Digital Transformation is “very important”
  • 70% say they have started a formal Digital Supply Chain Transformation effort

Progress has been slow so far

  • >30% of respondents said they are “dissatisfied” with progress so far
  • Only 5% are “very satisfied”

Key technology enablers have been identified, but are not widely used yet

  • Supply Chain Visibility Platforms/Tools (94%), Big Data Analytics (90%), Simulation Tools (81%) and Cloud (80%) are seen as the biggest technology enablers of Digital Supply Chain Transformation
  • But 48% of respondents admit that right now “traditional” methods such as phone, fax, email are still the dominant ways to interact with supply chain partners

Dramatic changes are expected within just five years

  • Today only 15% of respondents say that the majority of data from the extended supply chain is accessible to their organization. In five years, that number jumps to 54%
  • Today only 23% of respondents say that the majority of data from the extended supply chain is analyzed and used for decision making. In five years, that number jumps to 68%
  • Five years from now, 95% of respondents expect more processes with suppliers to be automated
  • Five years from now, 94% expect to receive more real-time status updates from across the entire supply chain

The expected benefits of Digital Supply Chain Transformation include, but go well beyond cost reductions for logistics, inventory and maintenance, improvements in customer service and higher overall equipment effectiveness. Perhaps more importantly, Digital Supply Chain Transformation is expected to dramatically improve an organization’s agility. Agility is necessary to respond to changing market conditions, to new market entrants that can threaten existing business models or to unexpected supply chain disruptions. Such disruptions have already caused major harm to the financial performances and reputations of countless organization over the years.

Mitigating the impact of these unforeseen disruptions has become a main priority and a major driver behind the need to digitally transform. But according to the study, current levels of collaboration and visibility across the network are still low. That limits agility.

“75% of respondents say Digital Transformation of the supply chain is important, but a massive gap exists today between where companies are today and where they expect to be in just five years from now,” said Mathieu Dougados, Senior Vice President, Capgemini Consulting. “Transformation initiatives inside the four walls of the enterprise pose significant challenges within themselves. But in today’s globalized and outsourced world, Digital Transformation can only be successful if companies approach it with a holistic view of their entire value chain. That value chain can include hundreds of partners. So connectivity between partners, cross-company access to data, and the use network-wide analytics become the key focus areas.”

“Supply chain transformation is a massive undertaking that requires leadership and vision at the C-level, and a holistic transformation approach that fosters automation, connectivity, data sharing and collaboration across the entire value chain,” said Kurt Cavano, Vice Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer at GT Nexus. “This survey showed that manufacturers and retailers clearly have an idea of where they need to be and what digital technologies will get them there in the next five years. But it’s going to be a real sprint given the current reliance on outdated, analogue technologies such as phone, fax and email to collaborate and execute in the global supply chain. Meanwhile, risk of supply chain disruptions runs high, with an expensive cost to pay.”

Digital Manufacturing Technology Leads To Agility

Production Operational Continuity

The overriding benefit we provide to enterprise business as operators of producing plants is production operational continuity—maximum output, greatest efficiency, best product margin.

Too often we get so wrapped up in our technology discussions that we forget the objectives. It’s not all about technology. It is all about using the appropriate technology to help build better businesses that serve customers well.

Editors face another problem writing articles about the industry. Marketing communications professionals delight in lining up interviews with appropriate people in their companies. The person interviewed has a story to tell. But most editors (I guess, I wasn’t one) have the theme and outline of the story already in mind, and they also have limited space. Therefore, they are looking for quotes they can pull out to support their theses, while the actual quote may only be a paragraph gleaned from a 30-45 minute interview.

So, Tim Sowell of Schneider Electric recently talked about an interview:

Basically the editor wanted to understand about “big data” being applied in a particular industry, again it was someone with a technology concept the market is throwing about vs really understanding the business / operational challenge the industry is facing.

But Sowell pointed to his recent theme about business needs:

  • Operational Continuity: Maintaining their producing plants at the maximum output, with greatest efficiency, and best product margin
  • Agility: to supply the market with the correct product at the right quality, and right price and the right time in an every dynamic market
  • Asset Management/ Utilization: This is both fixed, mobile capital assets (non breathing assets, such as plants, trucks, ships) and the human assets (breathing assets).

I have been writing a long white paper focusing on these issues from an interoperable standards point of view. We’re looking especially at the lifecycle of critical assets. These observations from Sowell reflect the trends we’re experiencing.

We find that, as globalization increases, the buying and selling of capital assets increasingly happen, introducing of challenge of  how do incorporate existing systems, automation, and practices into your overall value chain to provide the above “Operational Continuity” and “Agility”. Same when the asset is sold how you disengage it cleanly especially with IP in the products and process. Combine this with the dynamic Human Asset landscape where human assets are moving regularly between plants and locations. Causing on a site not to have the required experience to make decisions, but people are in a role of having to make the decisions. YES the asset world for both capital assets and human assets is shifting form traditional stability in both classes for the last 20 years to one of both dynamic.

He makes a crucial point. The importance of tying lifecycle asset management to operational continuity.

What are you doing with asset management?

Digital Manufacturing Technology Leads To Agility

Automation and People-They Do Go Together

Automation and people. Some people think that they are opposed to each other. A zero-sum game.

As I developed the editorial focus of the old Automation World, I wrote about how they actually go together. In the very first issue, I interviewed a Lean practitioner. I had to convince him. He told me that automation was bad. People could do better every time. Wait, I responded. Let’s not go overboard here. There are definitely things I’d rather have a machine and automation do for both consistency and safety reasons.

Sometimes a job is just boring. People lose attention. Either quality or safety suffers.

Smart Work Mindset

timSowellTim Sowell’s latest blog post reminded me of that old discussion. The difference is, well aside from about 100 IQ points and that he’s contemplating while watching the Pacific, that he’s updated the idea while taking it to another level.


[At] one company I was engaged with last week their thought pattern was still about replacing the personnel on the plant, going to total automation. While I agree with automation, it is required for consistently and velocity of production. But I struggle with agility.

Two days latter I was at another company and they were all about empowerment of people. They wanted to automate process and operations to free up people to add complimentary agility and “out of the box” thinking.  As one C level said to me, our market is changing as fast as we ever seen.

Stepping back and looking at both these companies the second company was more automated than the first, and the second was investing in automation more than the first. But their attitude was to gain consistently and free up people from repeatable tasks, and increase the responsibility of people, and empower people to make decisions fast.

The diagram below really depicts what I started to introduce last week, and what this second company believed in.

Agile World Tim Sowell Schneider

Notice how he has applied the idea to agility. The automation mindset looks for consistency over a longer production run. The foundation of Lean is respect for people (and how their ideas improve the process). Sowell’s second company was “all about empowerment of people.”

He continues with the thought:

The key thinkers in the industry are not looking to dependency on 1 to 2 people, they are leveraging the concept of “crowd sourcing” thru a active community of people. As we look at the operational/ automation world of the future the key pillars will be:

  • Ability to capture knowledge and intelligence into the system to automate process, and operations. Key is this is not just traditional automation in PLCs/ DCS etc, it is capturing repeatable knowledge and decisions. So the system must bread a culture of contribution and use natively.

  • Ability to have a community of workers who can share collaborated “naturally” with ease, no matter the location of the users and state. Foundational to this is  the ability trust the information, the measures so a common understanding of the situation, and basis for decision can be made.

Check out his blog. It’ll make you think. And that is a good thing.

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