Virtualizing the Digital Factory

By Alyssa
Share on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

Imagine your team designs an innovative new seat for a car. Everyone is excited about how it will improve driver and passenger experience. But when it is ready to put into production, the mood plummets: the seats won’t fit into the car.  You are left with the choice to redesign the manufacturing or redesign the product.  Whichever you choose, you are losing production time, driving up costs and missing out on selling time in the market.

There is a better way. Manufacturing has two critical phases – planning how to manufacture a product, and then executing that plan. Leading manufacturers are applying immersive virtuality (iV) technologies at both points.

Much has been made of the role of iV in design. But iV also can play a critical role in manufacturing.  It is imperative to know during the design stage how the product will be manufactured…or if it’s even possible.  And since errors made when designing a product can easily be replicated during manufacturing, innovative companies are recognizing that applying iV – with its ability to allow 3D models to be examined at life-size scale – can help problems to be spotted more readily, before production begins.

We invite you to read “Error-Free Manufacturing” in the latest issue of Compass to discover more – including an example from Embraer – about how applying iV technology can impact the manufacturing process by helping to plan and simulate production.  You’ll also learn about the emerging role that augmented reality (AR) is having on the factory floor by drawing data from the manufacturers’ industrial information systems – including PLM – to create a virtual product guide to allow workers to complete tasks with greater speed and accuracy.

Next-Generation Factories Need Next-Generation Engineers

By Alyssa
Share on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

 

As manufacturers prioritize the search for new ways to eliminate waste and raise productivity, technology is a critical piece of the puzzle.  The Industrial Internet of Things, robotics and additive manufacturing – to name just a few – are increasingly vital to the success of both products and the bottom line.  Factories of the future – also known as Smart Factories or Industry 4.0 – are marked by humans and technology working together in a way that seamlessly combines the virtual and physical worlds.  But…are the humans in this equation up to the task?

Many experts argue that answer is not yet, and that engineering education needs a fresh approach in order to meet the skills demanded by this new environment.  Entirely new business models are emerging as the virtual world becomes more tightly integrated with the physical world.  The next generation of engineers must be taught in an interdisciplinary way, so that they understand not just their specific area of expertise, but how it fits into the other disciplines it takes to bring a product to market in the fastest and most effective way.  They also benefit from an approach that mimics that virtual collaboration and cross-cultural teams that are found in the working model of most organizations today.  If students are not educated in a way that considers the global, interdisciplinary teams that are a hallmark of the modern factory, they’ll have to learn on the job which drags down productivity.

Compass magazine recently explored these challenges in an article entitled, Factory of the Future.  Check it out to read about innovative programs being established at educational institutions around the world – specifically Germany, France, India and the US – in order to turn out next-generation engineers.  It takes a look at how more school programs are bringing in current manufacturing practitioners to learn more about what is needed in their businesses, and help design learning environments that can best prepare students for the high-level technical skills as well as the collaboration mindset needed to excel in today’s factory model.

Dassault Systèmes is proudly partnering with some of these institutions to help them train future engineers on the digital technologies and business processes that they’ll need to work in these future factories.  Check out a recent program with l’Université de Lorraine.

What do you think tomorrow’s engineers most need to learn before entering the workforce?  Are there some specific skills that should be taught that would benefit your organization or your country’s manufacturing goals?  Let us know in the comments below!

 

 

Images © Ute Grabowsky /Getty Images) and ©iStock

Made in China 2025

By Catherine
Share on LinkedInTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+

By Catherine Bolgar

made in China red square isolated stamp

China’s latest Five-Year Plan, dubbed “Made in China 2025,” aims to modernize its manufacturing sector, transforming it into an innovative, high-quality, high-technology global competitor within a decade.

China is losing international competitiveness right now,” says Helmut Wagner, professor of economics and president of the Center for East Asia Macroeconomic Studies at the University of Hagen, Germany. Foreign direct investment (FDI) has shifted to other countries, such as Vietnam and Cambodia, because Chinese wages have risen faster than productivity, he says.

To avoid the middle-income trap, China needs to advance from being the “world’s workbench,” making cheap products, to providing higher-level products and services that eventually can compete with those from highly developed countries, he says.

“So they will try to build an ambitious initiative to restructure the whole of Chinese manufacturing by 2025. They want to be in the mid-range by 2035 and the world’s leader in manufacturing by 2049,” the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic, Prof. Wagner adds.

The gradual process reflects how much Chinese manufacturing needs to change if it wants to compete on quality and not just on price, the way Japan and then South Korea evolved to become high-quality manufacturing powerhouses.

IndustrialChina’s government identified 10 key manufacturing sectors to focus on: information technology; numerical control tools and robotics; aerospace equipment; ocean engineering and high-tech ships; railway equipment; energy-saving and new-energy vehicles; power equipment; new materials; biological medicine and medical devices; and agricultural machinery.

The government is taking a top-down approach to improve quality, Premier Li Keqiang said. “We will formulate high standards to spur the upgrade of ‘made in China’ goods,” Mr. Li was quoted as saying in one of China’s daily newspapers. The government also will funnel investment into the key sectors.

“They have always thrown money at this issue, and a lot of engineering talent as well,” says Scott Kennedy, director, Project on Chinese Business and Political Economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington think tank.

If China were a small country, this would be an extremely risky way to try to approach things,” Dr. Kennedy says. “But their view is that ‘we’ve got millions of companies, a large market and even if only one in a thousand yields a substantial technological or commercial breakthrough, that might be good enough…’ If they continue on this path, they are more likely to be a very inefficient high-tech power.”

While most other countries have climbed the income ladder by moving into services, China doesn’t want to give up manufacturing. Instead it aims to follow the German example and shift toward a high-end industry, Dr. Wagner says. “Germany was successful by focusing on manufacturing and industry, even after having become a developed country.”

Germany’s relative economic health in the 2008 global financial crisis made China look again at the German model, called Industry 4.0. China wants to do much the same by integrating the Internet into industry to improve efficiency, and by increasing automation.

“But if they totally move toward automation, they will create a labor problem,” Dr. Kennedy says. “The right mix for China isn’t the same as for a country with fewer workers.”

Investment is just one part of the equation. Innovation also requires an educated workforce and protection of intellectual property.

China sends about 500,000 students to universities around the world, while 37 million study at home. China wants 20% of its population to have higher education by 2020.

However, Dr. Wagner says, “when you don’t learn to think creatively but just to repeat, then maybe you will be a good engineer—but it’s hard to be as creative as the Americans.” The challenge, he adds, is to allow enough free thinking for innovation in technology while limiting it to avoid political unrest, which the leadership fears.

“You cannot order innovation,” he says. “You have to create an environment for people to jump up and do what is necessary.”

Innovation comes not only from companies but also from the military and research institutes, where people are pursuing such goals as national security or pushing the bounds of knowledge, such as in pure science, Dr. Kennedy says. China is entirely comfortable fostering military-based and research institute-based innovation while also proactively guiding commercial innovation.

Institution-led innovation may be necessary in a place where the legal framework for intellectual property protection—while stronger than in the past—remains weaker than in much of the world. “The risks of a business model based on innovating and filing your intellectual property, licensing it and building a business off it are still higher than manufacturing and assembling something [that] someone else invented,” Dr. Kennedy says.

Intellectual property rights and investor protections will be key to attracting foreign investors.

“Nothing will happen without foreign investment,” Dr. Wagner says. “Foreign investors have been the most important factor in China’s success in the past 20 years. Will there be enough foreign investors willing to give away their technological know-how to future Chinese competitors? Success will depend on how restrictive the Chinese government will be with foreign investors.”

 

Catherine Bolgar is a former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe, now working as a freelance writer and editor with WSJ. Custom Studios in EMEA. For more from Catherine Bolgar, along with other industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion on LinkedIn.

Photos courtesy of iStock



Page 1 of 1512345...10...Last »