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Beyond Industry 4.0: Getting To Tomorrow’s Manufacturing Solutions Today

For Dassault Systèmes DELMIA, what many see as the manufacturer’s nightmare of growing consumer expectations for mass customization and speed of delivery, they see as a golden opportunity.

They’re a software and services company specializing in digital manufacturing management and advanced manufacturing simulation. It’s their goal to leverage the digital world to make sure that the design of new industrial systems is up to the task of their modern-day purpose. DELMIA is one of Dassault Systèmes’ brands, and is an acronym for “Digital Enterprise Lean Manufacturing Interactive Application.”

Manufacturing’s new purpose, according to Dassault Systèmes DELMIA’s CEO Guillaume Vendroux, is to be ready for the latest in consumer expectations: “We’re entering a new era, called the Age of the Experience,” he said. According to Vendroux, what customers want now is not just a product, but a highly customized rich and complex experience, with a “series of one” (built to order for the individual) that’s available quickly. And their tolerance level for “pain” (anything short of the experience they expect) is lower than ever before.

But in everything from basic automotive to aerospace, and supply chains of all stripes, said Vendroux, “it’s a problem that today’s companies just can’t ramp up.” As they try to meet new expectations with old thinking, they run into new problems. “You start to see a lot of quality recalls, even with the high-quality companies,” he says. The problem is that the new expectations run counter to traditional manufacturing methods aimed at high-volume uniform production of standardized goods. The solution Dassault Systèmes DELMIA offers is to optimize the manufacturing process for the new industrial reality – and to do it not only before a single product is made, but before even a single production machine is purchased.

The first step is in design. The optimization process starts with their modeling software. DELMIA’s Digital Manufacturing solutions – based on Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform – let manufacturers “see” their plant and their supply and product flows in a 3D simulation before it’s ever built in real life. Even details such as product changeovers and routine maintenance can be modeled as part of this up-front design optimization process. Every aspect of production can be detailed beforehand, which is important in the next phase as well. The design phase includes everything from fabrication methods to ergonomics to process and production planning. In the end, the entire production concept is analyzed and modeled beforehand to figure out the optimum way to supply the plant floor and manufacture the product, with a focus on build-to-order and Lean production methods, and extending throughout the supply chain.

The second step is execution. Having made sure that the plant design is right before construction, the optimized model can interface with the right data straight from the production area to monitor actual manufacturing in real time – a virtual twin of the physical plant. “I can anticipate my problems because I’m connected to the shop floor, and I have the [pre-designed] model so I can see any deviations,” said Vendroux. “We believe that data is worthless unless it is used in the context of the model.” He likens this to driving; where old manufacturing management systems only allowed you to navigate “looking in the rear-view mirror” using historical data, the virtual twin on the Dassault Systèmes platform allows manufacturing managers to see ahead and adjust to avoid problems before they occur.

The final step is collaboration and optimization. This pulls all stakeholders together for ongoing optimization of both the model and the actual production environment. “To do that, we need to work in a highly collaborative way,” said Vendroux. This means actively involving not just the typical manufacturing and engineering personnel, but the business-end functions as well, such as marketing, sales, and human resources. And the biggest key of all is that all these functions are looking at the same data from the production floor. “What we want to achieve – and this is paramount – is to capture all the manufacturing data in one model,” Vendroux said. This provides “digital continuity” – a common set of operating processes – that is then used by all stakeholders in an ongoing Kaizen (improvement) effort. These tools are common not just among functions, but among location, facilitating effective global manufacturing management.

Vendroux stresses two other points. The first is that this vision is fast becoming a reality. “This is the vision Boeing is going after – in fact, they want to do more than manufacturing,” he said. The companies on the forefront of these advanced methods of production planning and management are those that are feeling the most pressure and the greatest threats. Aerospace is an obvious example, given the competitive environment across the world, and new business threats from China and elsewhere in Asia. Automotive is another, with fast-shifting consumer preferences and rapid technological innovations to keep up with. Honda is already using the 3d simulation package to bridge between product development and manufacturing plant design.

The second is that this is not Industry 4.0. Vendroux sees that as nothing more than “adding robots, connecting them together, and tracking their data.” He believes we’re already seeing the end of that era, which began five to ten years ago. “It was just adding more fancy tricks within existing silos,” he said. “This is the start of a new era.”

Read the full article in Forbes.