Digitalization is the integration of digital technologies into engineering and manufacturing process by switching from traditional process into a new form – digital. However, “digital” is a very confusing term. Think about the driving process and how digital environment can impact it. In the past we were driving using paper maps – completely analog form. We bought maps and kept them in our cars. Now think about scanning this map in a “digital” form and placing them on our mobile device or computer. This map is completely digital, but…. you can rightfully argue – this is not a digital environment. So, an important lesson – digital means something more than just getting data (in my current example – map) and converting it into digital form. There is something beyond that – digital process that connects multiple digital islands – map, current location of your car and information about places you want navigate to. That would be much better, but still not enough. Add to this an information about traffic and you can get closer to a modern digital driving environment.
A Quick Recap of Recent Trends in Manufacturing Technology to Think About 2017 speaks about digitalization in inventory management and supply chain.
According to the Global Dispatch, traditional inventory management operations will change in 2017. Inventory management will become more reliant on advanced computer analytics systems to manage inventory in real time. This will eliminate shrink from theft, damages and errors during shipping, reducing overhead and improving operations. Moreover, companies will be able to manage warehouses more efficiently by eliminating overstocking or understocking issues, and new technologies, including 3D printing, will make customization of inventory needs easier.
IChannel article The top three trends driving the factory of the future brings an interesting perspective on how digitalization can change the factory. My favorite passage speaks how real time data integration between silos can improve processes.
For many manufacturers, production planning is often a live exercise, driven in part by bespoke, complex and last-minute requests disrupting regular schedules. To consistently deliver to high standards, manufacturers are investing in agile tooling and design processes. While this can slash production times, there’s more to be done when it comes to perfecting planning tools to work your assets.
Manufacturers can learn from the advantages of incorporating simulation in the design process by applying the same technique for managing factory facilities. These tools aren’t available yet but soon manufacturers will be able to create a simulated digital twin of the factory. In doing so, bottlenecks and inefficiencies can be smoothed out to improve the working factory.
It made me think about forming a new “digital everything” infrastructure that will have an ability to change manufacturing environment in the form some other digital technologies changed our everyday processes such as driving, shopping and traveling. Digital everything is an interesting and important trend to watch. But it is also a very critical to look into holistic processes and data handout between silos. Operational technology will be connected to PLM and engineering and the efficiency of the connection can impact manufacturing company efficiency in a major way.
For years, inventory management was a company management function. MRP and later ERP systems were focused on how to manage inventory for a specific company and how make components available in an optimal way to the company for assembly and manufacturing. New digital PLM environment is going to change the inventory function completely. The information about product available in a digital form will allow to reset processes from mimicking traditional processes to rethinking them from scratch. And the reason for that is a gigantic volume of information available online.
What is my conclusion? Think about manufacturing as a driving process from A to B in which is an idea of the product and B is physical product sold to user. It would be a mistake to think that digitalization is only about how to make existing information available in a digital form to support an existing process. The literal meaning of digitalization gives an apparent idea of how modern technology will change existing world by apply new ways of communication, gathering information and providing it to people and organization in a form of a new digital workflow. Just my thoughts…
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Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.