I was catching up on some of the social media reading over the weekend. My attention was caught by Deloitte’s The Future of Work website providing some futuristic insight on how work will be changing in the manufacturing digital future. Here is an interesting passage, which speaks about leveraging digital tools.
Leveraging the digital toolbox. Along with the move toward automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence, manufacturing workers are increasingly relying on digital tools to effectively complete their work. As the 2018 Global Human Capital Trends study shows, tools such as collaboration platforms, work-based social media, and instant messaging can increasingly support the communication necessary for higher productivity.6 We have created a “digital toolbox” for each of the personas to exemplify the types of tools a future worker can leverage to perform their daily work.
As digital transformation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution continue to redefine manufacturing jobs of the future, leaders and workers alike need to embrace a work environment that is expected to blend advanced technology and digital skills with uniquely human skills, to yield the highest level of productivity. Understanding how work might change can help the industry as a whole prepare for a future that promises to be transformative.
The article is also publishing some examples of futuristic roles with a preview of how they can be included in a future digital manufacturing environment. Check them out. My favorites were Digital Twin Engineer and Predictive Supply Network Analyst.
What Technologies Will Be Important To Create Digital Manufacturing Environment?
Creating a new digital worker environment requires a lot of new technologies to be pulled together to make it happen. CIMdata consulting gives you an idea about what is needed – Top 12 Trends and Enablers to Unlock Every Digital Transformation by Peter Bilello, CEO and President of CIMdata is a great prospective on the technological toolbox of future manufacturing. Check this out. Here is an interesting passage that speaks about what are the main forcing factors of digital change:
What this means is that complex and continually changing marketplace requirements demand up-front, cross-domain connectivity—all with the appropriate and easily accessible model-based data constructs. This complexity can only be tackled with cross-functional activities and investigations to root out the unknowns and then nail down wise solutions that are optimized from a complete system of systems perspective.
My favorite part in the toolbox of technologies is Bills of information (BoI), which in my view presents the foundation of digitally presented information models.
The Bill of Information (BoI) is a comprehensive and structured approach to managing product data. This data construct mimics Bill of Materials (BoMs) that tally every component, instance, source and cost of a product’s parts. A BoI will also include supporting data like requirements, process definitions, options and variants, as well as decisions and their associated rationales. Fundamentally, the BoI tracks everything going into a product or service and their virtual counterparts (as in digital twins, see below).
Compiling everything representing a physical product (or service) into one logical BoI structure can be a challenge. And PLM can be a big help. A BoI must link each and every component, sub-component and every variant with unique views, serial numbers, suppliers, analyses, test data, materials, tooling and much more. Variants and components often have their own BoMs, sometimes dozens of them, with no two alike. Nevertheless, compared to a stack of BoMs, the BoI simplifies and speeds up handling product-related data.
Digital Gap – How Digitally Transform People’s Minds?
While Deloitte’s work was very impressive and interesting, it made me think about the distance it will take to make the switch in the industry from current engineering and manufacturing practices to this futuristic environment.
Earlier last week, I was talking to one of the very large industrial companies, which is specializing in the development of highly sophisticated autonomous vehicles with large supplier-based and advanced engineering activities using a variety of tools. We discussed how to organize and digital thread of information across multiple processes involving internal and external product development and lifecycle management.
What caught my special attention is how much the company processes are related to the current form of data representations used in the design, engineering, and manufacturing. The conversation was mostly about how to make files produced by design environment (CAD) available to relevant contractors in the right schedule and revisions.
This conversation was not unique and I experience multiple such conversations in the past few months. All of them are focused on how to make the current “design media”, which is mostly file-based (CAD files) available across the network of company connections.
Unfortunately, such data experience and toolbox demonstrate how far are manufacturing companies from the point where engineers will be able to switch to their digital roles in product lifecycle management. It includes multiple tools to perform tasks such as engineering BOM management, supply chain management, and manufacturing BOM structure where the engineering department, contract manufacturers, and sales bill of materials are presented and analyzed to help future digital thread workers to do their tasks.
I call such a problem in the engineering and manufacturing environment a digital gap. This is a gap that exists in all manufacturing companies to make people start thinking and working differently.
What is my conclusion?
New digital tools have the capability to introduce new and powerful changes to engineering and manufacturing businesses. The foundation of all these tools is data that is collected, created, and presented in a meaningful way helping companies to make data-driven intelligent decisions about different types of activities – in design, production planning, maintenance, and others. The biggest challenge in this journey is how to allow manufacturing companies to make the switch to a predominantly “document” oriented environment where companies are focusing on transferring documents about the design, RFQs, and other pieces of information to this futuristic future role-playing offered to Deloitte. The starting point of all these data-driven activities is to create a new form of data platforms that are focusing on digital information, presenting a digital twin user experience (instead of CAD files assembly and parts) and Bill of Information (instead of file portals with file packages shared between companies). This might sound like a small change, but it is a foundation for creating a new digital user experience for future manufacturing companies. Just my thoughts…
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital cloud-native PDM and PLM platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.