I missed CIMdata Industry Forum this year in Ann Arbor. So, I’m catching up these days on the topic of Augmented Intelligence CIMdata discussed there. I guess, unless you lived under the rock for the last few years, you’ve heard about Generative Design. Here is a new concept is coming – Generative Engineering. To learn more, navigate to CIMdata blog – Beyond Generative Design.
”Generative Engineering” is a classification that includes tools (beyond generative design) which explore the design space and options for product configuration in some human-assisted way. The phrase also describes the process of using these tools all the way from product ideation to production manufacturing; for example, including Architecture Exploration with Functional System Modeling. We will explore knowledge and organizational requirements for businesses to effectively exploit these technologies.
I’ve got a simpler explanation about what is generative engineering could be. Think about a collection of requirements for manufacturing a specific product. These requirements can describe functional, system, economic, market and other requirements. Once you’ve got these requirements, the system is able to build a set of recommendations and instructions on how to build a product.
I captured the following image from CIMdata blog that can give you some ideas about what it could be.
I found CIMdata’s article interesting. However, it made me think about possible application and business models. Without “how” to apply it in the real world, it can very theoretical assumption. I found two possible candidates – product configurators and manufacturing marketplaces.
With an increased product complexity and an increased focus on “market of one”, product configurator is an interest application of technology to plan a combination of features, functions based on the requirements and manage it as a single product model. In different forms product configurators are already available – PLM, ERP, sales configurator, etc. Generative Engineering can be a way to take product configuration to the next level, especially in sophisticated products for large manufacturing OEMs.
An online marketplace is an interesting topic to discover and learn more these days. Outside of manufacturing, there are many examples of marketplaces. Airbnb, Upwork, Thumbtack – this is only a short list of online marketplaces I’m using in my everyday life to get an apartment for vacation, to hire engineers or to find professionals to do something in my house.
In the last several years, I can see the growing development of manufacturing marketplaces. Most of them have started as 3D printing services later expanded to other forms of part manufacturing such as CNC machining, Injection molding, and PCB assembly). 3DHubs, Protolabs, Xometry – these are just a few examples. Another vector of marketplaces development is matching suppliers and managing quotes. MFG would be my best example among others focusing on suppliers. However, I can see also a trajectory of manufacturing services marketplaces to expand in this direction.
Earlier this week, I attended the presentation by Brian Garret of 3DHubs at Digital Factory 2019 event in Boston. My favorite topic from his presentation is about instant pricing mechanism.
Generative Engineering as a Service can be an interesting coming opportunity for market places to go beyond what they do today in part manufacturing, suppliers matching and other manufacturing services. You can ask… what a minute, does it mean I can create a universal manufacturing service that is capable to take a set of requirements and build a product? Well… not so fast :). That would be an ideal future of manufacturing completely automated without people. While it is a good model for ideation, I don’t think it is going to happen anytime soon.
More pragmatic application of generative engineering in marketplaces can be an automated workflow, which can make an analysis of product requirements together with the planning bill of materials and match it with manufacturing contractors, suppliers, standard parts. It can be relying on data about other products, predictability models and other data analysis.
What is my conclusion? Manufacturing marketplaces can go beyond the current set of services for “a single part” and expand to “assemblies” or entire products using a combination of services. The categories of tools are still very vague and very many buzzwords (AI, Big Data, Industry 4.0, etc). At the same time, every manufacturing company is doing a set of very standard operations to matching suppliers, sourcing parts, optimizing manufacturing location, transportation based on a product Bill of Materials. These activities can be optimized and sourced online using advanced data management and data analytics. Just my thoughts…
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.