We hear so much about digital manufacturing transformation that many companies think they’re doomed if they haven’t completely transformed their businesses yet. But guess what? While a lot of those “poster child” companies touted by software vendors have digitized some or even all their processes, many of them forgot about the transformation part.
Sure, simply digitizing a process may make it go faster, or reduce errors, or provide the other benefits touted by the pundits. But digitization is not the point.
Transformation is the real point of digital manufacturing transformation.
Technology is Only a Tool
You need digital manufacturing transformation technology to make it happen, but you also need the imagination and the organizational adaptability to undergo a true transformation. You can digitize a process without changing it, but that’s not a fundamental transformation.
Let’s say you add some bar code readers or data collection devices to your shop floor to collect production data. Maybe you display some graphs or electronic Andon boards at the head of the line. That’s a start, but it’s not a transformation. It may even qualify as digitization, but there’s no transformation involved. The underlying process is still the same.
But now let’s say you decide your company wants to undergo true digital manufacturing transformation in its production processes. For that, you’ll want to connect your equipment directly to your enterprise applications, so the system reaches out and taps team members on the shoulder when there’s a problem. Missing inventory? Product specs drifting toward the upper or lower limits? Equipment reaching a preventive maintenance threshold?
Solutions for True IIoT
Your team shouldn’t have to roam around the factory carrying a clipboard or even an iPad to know what’s going on. Using a tool like ThingWorx from PTC streamlines the process of keeping the team informed by connecting directly to your equipment and providing instant, real-time feedback.
Even better, ThingWorx can be connected to equipment on your customers’ sites. If you need to monitor your customers’ usage of consumables, you don’t have to worry about connecting to a portal, checking the status in person, logging into their ERP or SCM systems, or even waiting for an email. Those are all digital methods of managing a process, but there’s nothing transformational about the solution. Instead, let your products monitor their usage of consumables, and reorder through the IIoT connection whenever items run low. That’s a process transformation, and it’s a service worth paying for.
Digitizing manufacturing processes is good, truly transforming manufacturing processes is great.
Digitally Transform Prototyping with AR
How about digitally transforming the lengthy and expensive new product introduction process? You could create physical prototypes using advanced manufacturing techniques like 3D printing. Then you could run focus groups or plan a roadshow to see how customers respond to the changes. Sure, 3D printing is digital, but using it this way isn’t transformational, it’s just different.
Making this process transformational could look like using IIoT to print the prototypes at your customers’ facilities, but even greater transformation would be achieved using AR, like Vuforia, to watch them interact with a purely digital prototype. Faster. Cheaper. Probably even fun, and definitely transformational.
Transforming Product Design
How about engineering design? Many 3D CAD systems, provide viewers that can be installed on systems so non-users can see and provide input on designs in process. This helps with allowing customers and suppliers to provide feedback on new designs, but it’s not transformational. You can accomplish the same thing by emailing a document package back and forth. The process may be faster, but again, it’s not different.
Another problem is that most viewers only operate with a limited number of CAD systems, and they may require users to load a program on their own computers. That isn’t streamlining things for the customer or supplier.
But PTC’s Windchill can open and interact with every CAD file format in use today, and it doesn’t require users to install a viewer. Your suppliers can see designs in the cloud. Customers who aren’t engineers can markup drawings or add comments and suggestions. Plus, it helps manage products throughout their entire lifecycle. It’s true collaboration, flexible and secure, without limitations.
The problem with digital manufacturing transformation for many companies is they have a huge investment in technology already, and much of that technology is designed to do one task and just isn’t very adaptable. When the software vendor says, “Here is the best—or only—way to perform that process,” just know you aren’t really undergoing a digital transformation. You may be upgrading or replacing, but you aren’t transforming.
Invest in digital manufacturing transformation solutions that can adapt to your organization’s unique needs.
Digital Manufacturing Transformation Can be Scary
Digital manufacturing transforming involves a leap of faith. Like Star Trek, you must “boldly go where no one has gone before.”
Think different, but not just for the sake of being different. Forget how you do something today. How would you do it if there was nothing in place to hold you back?
Be willing to jump over the edge, dive into unknown waters. To change. Adapt. Boldly go forward where no one has gone before.
But before you make the leap, look for technology that supports your journey. Digital, sure. But also, adaptable, collaborative, and transformative.
To learn more about how NxRev can support your digital manufacturing transformation, contact us today.