Smart manufacturing allows a company to extract information and drive it into manufacturing operations, including CNC programming or inspection and assembly processes. This information formulates a digital twin at the product level.

In machining, manufacturers are asking for additional content, sensors and feedback on how production and manufacturing processes are executing, for leveraging into the manufacturing digital twin.  For example, suppose an inspection process is used when making the machining tool.  Adding that inspection data from the machine tool creates traceability from design to manufacturing and a closed-loop process based on a high-fidelity digital twin. The next crucial step is linking together the digital twin of the product with the digital twin of the machine.

The Manufacturing Industry – Process and Trends

A comprehensive solution assists to realize every step in the manufacturing process: idea creation, developing the product via machining, executing in manufacturing, and extending across the entire service life based on the digital twin. This enables machine manufacturers and designers to both create value, drive down cost and compress delivery schedules. Moreover, it allows for closing the loop faster between manufacturing operations and engineering.

The manufacturing industry is in a continuous process of change due to these trends:

  • Connectability – Customers expect machines to communicate with the other machinery in the plant via a machine builder (OEM).
  • Adaptability – With all the information generated by sensors and capabilities, smart machines can recognize changes in upstream products and processes and adjust to these dynamic operating conditions. This is a type of artificial intelligence for machinery, which creates customer expectations for highly flexible machines capable of producing multiple types of products.
  • Predictability – An increasing emphasis is on the simulation and predictability of a machine’s performance in the field requiring a high-fidelity digital twin of the machine. This process is more complex with higher speeds, more significant use cases and more sophisticated machinery.
  • Extendibility –Another key trend is extending the life of a machine in the customer facility, with predicted maintenance and adaptive performance. The objective is to create more value for a manufacturing customer and to optimize the cash flow.

Another major shift in utilizing a smart manufacturing approach is production-as-a-service, where customers buy machine capacity instead of investing in purchasing machinery. This emerging dynamic is primarily happening with equipment manufacturers that lease machines. The difference is in paying for performance only when the machine is being used.

Therefore, the OEM has a vested interest to ensure that the machine is always running optimally. If the machine needs to be upgraded to meet production requirements or requires general service, the OEM is responsible for correcting those performance improvements or downtime issues and incentivized to get it back up and running quickly to continue the cash flow.

As you can see in this brief overview, manufacturing is seeing radical changes in the dynamics of both hardware, products and processes based on rapid technology advancements.

About the author:

Bill Davis is the acting Industrial Machinery and Heavy Equipment Industry leader for Siemens Digital Industries Software. His experience and insights have been acquired from a career spanning 30 years in engineering and operations management with machinery and heavy equipment companies.  Bill holds a master’s degree in Business Administration from Marquette University, with a concentration in Operations Management and Strategic Marketing, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Milwaukee School of Engineering.

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