A New Era of Intelligent Machinery

By Alyssa
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What if we could teach machines how to learn the way humans do?

While robots are not new to production lines, they are becoming increasingly vital in manufacturing. According to the International Federation of Robots, by 2019 there will be an additional 1.4 million industrial robots in factories around the world.  While some people are concerned that robots will take away human jobs, many feel instead that robots will open up new ways of working and entirely new types of products and services.

Robots take on increased importance as we move into a ‘production of one’ environment where – to meet demands for highly customized products – production lines must become highly adaptable in order to crank out a wide range of products.

Flexibility is now more important than efficiency in a production line,” notes Philippe Bartissol, Vice President, Industrial Equipment, Dassault Systèmes.

So, how is it that industrial robots can have the necessary impact – while still protecting human jobs?  The answer: deep learning.  Deep learning algorithms are already everywhere. It’s how your email system filters spam and how those online ads target you.  In the industrial equipment industry, deep learning will fuel momentum of artificial intelligence (AI), and this allows manufacturers to be faster and more flexible – and ultimately please their demanding customers.

These futuristic robots will be able to automate more tasks, freeing humans to do other work.  They’ll also be able to learn, adapt and teach themselves new skills just as humans can do.  And importantly, new technologies will make it much simpler to program robots – any manufacturing worker will be able to program simply by mimicking the activity to be performed; no specialized or extensive technical know-how required.

Dassault Systèmes, in conjunction with CNBC Catalyst Content Studio, created an in-depth look at the future of robots, machine learning and AI and how this will transform industrial equipment.  Check out the videos and articles here.  Then come back and tell us: do you think robots and humans can live in harmony in future factories.

Managing the Long Life of Industrial Equipment

By Catherine
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By Catherine Bolgar

conveyer belt

Industrial equipment lasts a long time—the average age of current equipment in the U.S. is a decade, though some equipment might work for 20-30 years. During that time, it gets customized, modified and modernized, presenting a challenge of tracking those changes to avoid a repetition of previous design errors, as well as to ensure maximum reuse or recycling of parts.

A number of innovations are helping companies manage the task. Product lifecycle management (PLM) systems track equipment from cradle to grave, including the bill of materials (BOM), engineering attributes and other parameters. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), which deploys sensors in equipment, can enhance PLM by gathering data about how the machinery has been used. And new paradigms for ownership are shifting the risk.

“You may have very little documentation, or everything necessary—even a 3D product model,” says Justin Rose, Chicago-based partner at the Boston Consulting Group.

When you have a 3D product model, you can update it in the virtual world, manage design changes, manage performance and design conditions.”

Multicolored pipes in a boiler roomFor example, the model will note whether the equipment has changed owners or locations, when and how it has been serviced, the rate at which it consumes energy and other inputs.

While 3D models are still in “early stages of adoption, companies that have very complex pieces of equipment, or expensive capital equipment, are investing the time to build a 3D product model,” Mr. Rose says. “For other companies, if they’re going to refurbish equipment, or if it’s a complex million-dollar-plus product, they might build a 3D product model to support execution of that service.”

But like any tool, the key to realizing value from such models is to get all the individual stakeholders to maintain it year after year. “Sometimes you see more turnover, or an aging workforce, and not having a 3D product model or not using it creates a real risk to the viability of the enterprise going forward,” Mr. Rose says.

The IIoT offers new ways to track how industrial equipment is used—from vibrations to heat to environmental conditions and more. “It’s possible to provide services such as preventive maintenance or monitoring energy consumption,” says Daniele Cerri, research fellow at the Polytechnic University of Milan, in Italy.

However, companies don’t always make the most of the data. “Technology enables a large amount of data collection, but providers of industrial equipment often don’t have a business vision of how to use this data,” he says, and cites an example of one company that produces movement equipment with embedded sensors. “They do it to copy their competitors, but they don’t know how to use that data on their products.”

In addition, the data may be stored in different software in different databases. “People may use too much time to find where the data are located,” Mr. Cerri says, adding that digital platforms that gather and analyze the data can help manage the information and deliver real insights.

Makers of industrial equipment and their customers sometimes have conflicting interests, Mr. Cerri says, because customers “are jealous of their information and don’t want to share it with providers, even if they can obtain more effectiveness and efficiency during the utilization of the equipment.”

By using standardized, modular design, equipment makers can customize equipment quickly to meet customers’ new requirements, Mr. Cerri says.

industrial equipment with pressure gaugeStandardization also aids with reuse or recycling of parts. Often machine bases can be reused “because they’re quite standardized,” he says. “It’s good cost savings and good environmental impact savings.”

Standardization and modular design also can help with another trend: industrial-equipment makers retaining ownership of the equipment itself and selling use as a service, billed hourly, for example. Modularization would help them easily adapt machinery to individual customer needs and make upgrades.

Companies already following this model use advanced analysis, 3D modeling and simulation tools to predict when it needs maintenance, especially because failure in fast-moving machines can cause much more damage beyond the failed part itself, BCG’s Mr. Rose says.

“If equipment goes down, they have to make the customer whole somehow,” he says. “It’s a strong motivation for them to keep it maintained and up and running.”

 

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

The Rising Power of the Industrial Internet

By Alyssa
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It’s no secret that over the last 20 years our daily lives have been massively transformed by the internet. The same can’t be said for intelligent industrial systems, but this is now rapidly progressing.

On Dassault Systèmes’ LinkedIn community, Future Realities we asked our members to submit questions about how the internet is changing industry. WSJ Custom Studios filmed Dassault Systèmes VP of Industrial Equipment, Philippe Bartissol, addressing the top questions.

PB

We invite you to check out the 3 minute video now.  Topics include how manufacturers can quickly create the customized products consumers demand, how data taken directly from industrial equipment can help predict – and therefore avoid – failures and expand the life expectancy of the equipment and how software can introduce flexibility into the manufacturing process.

PS – if you aren’t a Future Realities member, it’s easy to join the community – just visit here and request membership on the top right hand corner.  There are nearly 25,000 members from around the globe who come to discuss current and future trends.  Come share your opinion on the next big thing!