Despite the promises of digital manufacturing for industry 4.0, you could implement all kinds of cutting-edge solutions in your manufacturing operations and end up more or less where you started with only a higher technology bill to show for your efforts.
That may sound shocking coming from a software vendor, but it happens all of the time. Why? Because decision makers frequently confuse “digital” as being the end goal versus the means to achieving more specific operational goals. The fact is that having the right mindset about digital manufacturing technology can make a huge difference in the value you achieve from it. Before delving into that more deeply, however, let’s quickly revisit the definition of digital manufacturing for industry 4.0.
In practice, defining digital manufacturing isn’t as clear cut as you might expect. If you run an Internet search on the term, you’ll find a lot of different definitions from technology vendors trying to sway you toward their way of thinking and solution. The definition on Wikipedia reads as follows:
Digital Manufacturing is an integrated approach to manufacturing that is centered around a computer system. The transition to digital manufacturing has become more popular with the rise in the quantity and quality of computer systems in manufacturing plants. As more automated tools have become used in manufacturing plants it has become necessary to model, simulate, and analyze all of the machines, tooling, and input materials in order to optimize the manufacturing process. Overall, digital manufacturing can be seen sharing the same goals as computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM), flexible manufacturing, lean manufacturing, and design for manufacturability (DFM). The main difference is that digital manufacturing was evolved for use in the computerized world.[i]
Concepts related to digital manufacturing are also always evolving and expanding. Recently, some of the loudest buzz is around Industry 4.0. Terminology and definitions aside, however, it’s important to recognize a few things:
The third bullet above is critical to remember. Many manufacturers have gotten into a technology “arms race” of sorts where they get caught up in initiatives to implement the latest and greatest technologies. And although many of these technologies have strong value propositions and make good business sense on some level, they may not be what’s needed to address important operational issues or even move operations in a better direction. A business value mindset, on the other hand, is focused on key issues and goals.
Ultimately, success in implementing digital manufacturing for industry 4.0 technologies requires a strategic business value mindset that considers a few critical questions:
Once you’ve answered these questions, then it’s appropriate to start investigating and selecting manufacturing technologies that could address needs or support desired capabilities. And that will put you on a road to success rather than some unknown value destination. Here is a recent briefing we wrote around digital manufacturing operations.
Read our next blog in the series on the topic of digital readiness, ‘Are Your Manufacturing Operations Really Ready for Digital and How Do You Know.’
Dploy Solutions is a digital manufacturing for industry 4.0 solution to help you move down the digital technology path and ensure you are extracting value from investments while optimizing operations. Contact us to learn more about our KPI Management, Strategy Deployment, Business Analytics and Factory Floor Connectivity capabilities.