The buzzwords driving the manufacturing sector these days are all associated with something digital: Factory of the Future, Smart Manufacturing, Industry 4.0… What do these phrases mean and how do they benefit Small and Medium-sized Manufacturers (SMM) – which, contrary to the tag, collectively form majority of the industry?

What does a digital transformation mean when it comes to manufacturing?

These are all Digital Manufacturing and Design (DMD) concepts of how to use digital technology to collect and leverage information to increase efficiency of a manufactured product right through its lifecycle. For a manufacturing unit, DMD leads the way…
  • To a holistic, integrated approach of combining data and software to put in place controlling systems
  • Processes that can create, analyze, and optimize a product’s design and manufacturing processes
  • To support the product right through its maintenance and end-of-life phases

What is stopping you from investing?

A survey on factories of the future by PWC Germany revealed:
  • 98% of companies expect to scale up efficiency with augmented reality solutions and other digital tools in 2020 and beyond
  • 91% of industries are investing in digital factories in Europe right now
  • 90% of management believes that digitization offers more opportunities to their companies

Automation and data analytics have a proven track record of increasing efficiency at each step of the DMS cycle, allowing manufacturers to use data to make real-time decisions that further optimize processes.

And yet, SMMs hesitate to make this transition because they worry over cost, ROI and believe that…

  • Smart manufacturing principles cannot be applied effectively to SMMs
  • Digitalization is costly, ROI uncertain and
  • Implementation with existing legacy infrastructure and manpower is not possible

All of the above points can be promptly checked ‘false’ because thoughtful and correct implementation can open doors to n number of business collaborations, give access to expertise across multiple disciplines throughout the supply chain that can engage stakeholders engage in real-time process optimization.

It pays to hang on to digital threads

Large manufacturing units or OEMs, often create a digital thread using a simulated virtual product and connect everyone across the supply chain – right from the raw material supplier to the customer using the end product – using one integrated network so that everyone shares data and information to tweak the product to provide the best value. OEMs such as Amazon and large automobile companies, such as GE are known to link various digital silos into vertically integrated enterprises.

Why adoption is important

The simple fact is, if you are not a part of the virtual network of the above biggies, you stand to lose out on growth, revenue and other opportunities that design tools and methodologies can bring your way. To grow and unlock new opportunities, SMM need to
  • Believe and invest in Industry 4.0.
  • Find ways to get integrated into larger OEM’s software/processes.
  • Be able to add value to the supply chain via digital manufacturing tools to optimize production.
  • Stay connected in the design thread to reap the benefits of new technologies that the OEMs will bring in.

In such a scenario, SMMs that rely on traditional and manual production methodologies may lose out to competitors who have embraced digital transformation

Conclusion

Adopting automation does not need an exorbitant investment these days. A few smart tools and the right OEM partner can help SMMs scale up exponentially and provide value all along the supply chain by going for data-driven planning of production, automated data exchange and analysis, and cybersecurity enterprise protocols. By adopting DMD tools, SMMs can tackle both need and demand quite efficiently. Remember, SMMs that can optimise performance, maintain quality control and stick to cost-effective yet quick manufacturing processes will own the future.

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