We are all about Digital. Digital music, digital photography, digital business and, of course digital manufacturing.
For several years, we have seen manufacturers that were in the process of ‘digitizing’. They were scanning existing manufacturing documentation and storing it in online repositories. End users could then view these documents on terminals in PDF format, using a ‘paper-on-glass’ solution. They could even view these documents on mobile devices! Was this beneficial to these manufacturers? Certainly. They achieved hard financial benefits:
- reduction of paper, toner, copiers, printers
- elimination of non-value-added publishing and distribution tasks.
… but was this digital manufacturing? Not so much…
So, how do you know digital manufacturing when you see it? Gartner defines digital manufacturing as follows:
Digital manufacturing orchestrates the virtual and physical domains to concurrently manage product and process design, production execution, and continuous improvement in order to plan and operate manufacturing as an integral part of a value network.
The first misconception about digital manufacturing is that digitization of content is the key element. Certainly, the creation of the ‘digital twin’ is important, but the real key is in the phrase “orchestrates the virtual and physical domains to concurrently manage …” it’s the orchestration of the process and execution that provide the real value of digital manufacturing.
What tools are available to support this orchestration? There aren’t many, but this is becoming and area of focus, especially for PLM and ERP vendors. Gartner identified two complementary technologies that can provide significant benefit to digital manufacturing.
- Manufacturing Process Management (MPM) – An MPM framework is an architectural approach to governing the integration of the virtual and physical manufacturing worlds. It streamlines the processes and supporting workflows from design to production, and continuously improve design for manufacturability in discrete industries, as well as process robustness in process industries.
- Model-based Manufacturing (MbM) – MbM refers to the creation and use of 3D and digital models to design, plan and validate manufacturing processes, systems and factory layouts. Using MbM involves referencing these models to deliver recipes and product designs to factory automation devices, and to deliver key information on products and processes, to the workforce.
MPM frameworks are interdependent with MbM applications. MPM supports synchronizing content across product life cycle management (PLM), ERP and manufacturing execution system (MES) applications. This impacts the content that workers in the factory access with MbM software. Likewise, MPM captures product, process, and factory modifications and activities supported by MbM software.
The nascent application technologies supporting MPM and MbM have made measurable progress, but still have a long way to go. You can learn more about MPM and MbM, and how they can impact your digital manufacturing journey in the following research notes:
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