This article first appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of The Record.
Manufacturers in today’s world will, on some level, use technology to support certain aspects of their operations. Let’s face it – they’d be remiss not to, given the benefits modern technology can bring.
But the scale and nature of these technologies within company ecosystems varies hugely. While some manufacturers will have their finger on the pulse and adopt the best available technology for their business as soon as it becomes available, for the last decade or so, many have plodded along with legacy systems that do a certain job, but perhaps don’t allow a company to reach its full potential.
“What has happened in manufacturing over the last ten years has been nothing short of amazing,” says Fred Thomas, global industry director for the DELMIA brand at Dassault Systèmes. “There have been pressures on manufacturers to reduce cost, increase quality, become more flexible with regard to responsiveness to customers, and take a more global approach to marketplaces. In most cases, manufacturers have responded very well to all these demands, but they’ve had to respond within the context of what they’ve had to work with from a systems and technology standpoint.”
Thomas says that many companies produce ‘miraculous work’ with old systems that often contain disparate solutions that were never intended to work together, especially on a global scale.
“We’ve reached the limit of the miracles that can be performed with these legacy environments,” he explains. “Now we have what some have called the fourth industrial revolution, and the introduction of all kinds of technological advancement – the industrial internet of things, cloud and big data, for example. But there’s a lack of alignment between the new technologies that help manufacturers take things to the next level, and internal ecosystems that really aren’t relevant or in any condition to embrace all this technological advancement.”
It is here where the idea of ‘digital continuity’ through a business platform is key.
“In its simplest form, digital continuity is the idea that there’s a source of digital information that is unique, authoritative and consistent across the entire lifecycle of a product,” Thomas says. “From the original product ideation, through design and build of the product, and the service life, it’s the idea that there is a singular source of digital data that can be relied upon by anyone using it in that value stream.”
Thomas says that disparate, legacy systems may contain vast amounts of useful information, but companies can’t access it easily, which prevents them from creating consistent product plans, or finding new ways to enhance quality or be more flexible. With a single source of truth accessible through a unified environment integrating all disciplines within an organisation, companies can reinvent themselves and become a best-in-class manufacturer on a global scale.
“Adopting a platform approach built around digital continuity essentially allows you to break down silos in your business,” he says. “You have the ability to facilitate collaboration between engineering and manufacturing. That accelerates every part of your business. It’s a velocity driver, so you can move innovations from the conceptual stage to the marketplace in a fraction of the time.”
Thanks to the higher levels of flexibility digital continuity provides, it’s also easier to deliver not only personalised products, but also personalised experiences to customers.
“Delivering a personalised approach really requires a highly agile, flexible, digitally consistent capability that really can’t be achieved with siloed, legacy solutions,” Thomas says. “You need an organisation that is geared to delivering products that meet the personalised requirements of your customer base. Our belief is that the more you can do that for different markets, the quicker you’ll rise to the top.”
Thomas says that the technology available to companies today is causing many to rethink their entire business model.
“Mobility, as embraced by automotive manufacturers, could be seen as a poster child for redefining your business when looking towards the future,” he explains. “As an example, a car company may look at its business model and say ‘yes, we’re a car company, but are we something bigger? Are we a mobility company?’ For companies to redefine themselves, digital continuity is a core concept that needs to be in place so that kind of innovation is supported with consistent, authoritative information about where they are today.”
At Dassault Systèmes, Thomas and his colleagues are actively working with customers to help drive this new innovation cycle.
“The DELMIA brand powered by the 3DEXPERIENCE platform represents a comprehensive approach to manufacturing that supports every facet of both the virtual and real world of products and processes,” he says. “Customers are now moving their strategic digital continuity plans forward and embracing all the innovation in the marketplace.”
Thomas adds that from a manufacturing standpoint, Dassault Systèmes works with customers to enable innovation in the virtual world, and convert that into delivery in the physical world.
“Customers can increase the velocity of their whole manufacturing cycle, and do so much with modelling and 3D simulation,” he concludes. “They can accelerate and facilitate the learning phase when building a new product or factory, helping to save costs and time, and then move to the physical world when it’s ready to execute. We bring the completeness of our capabilities in manufacturing across both the virtual and the real world.”
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