While products, markets and entire technologies are changing rapidly, it is becoming increasingly important for companies to assert themselves in this environment. But how can industrial companies stay competitive? Agile actions, flexible reactions, efficient planning, faster delivery – Digital Manufacturing makes it possible. The term Digital Manufacturing is often used synonymously with ‘Virtual Manufacturing’, but what do these terms actually mean?
The Association of German Engineers (VDI) defines Digital Manufacturing as the "generic term for a comprehensive network of digital models, methods and tools – including simulation and 3D visualization, which are integrated through end-to-end data management. Its purpose is the integrated planning, evaluation and continuous improvement of all essential structures, processes and resources of the real factory in connection with the product."
In simple terms, Digital Manufacturing represents a virtual image of the real factory. It maps the processes of a factory in digital 3D models, simulates them virtually and checks whether the processes are feasible. This way, products and their production can first be planned and digitally simulated. The advantage: Early planning and optimization decrease the time needed for product development and launch and simultaneously reduce costs.
Digital Manufacturing is based on a common database: All relevant planning data is recorded only once and managed by one single database. This way methods engineers, suppliers, operators, and service providers can access the latest data from anywhere and at any time – keyword consistency of data. Tool data from the machines is read out directly via a web-based interface. Simultaneous work by different departments is thus made possible.
How digital are Germany's Factories?
Digital Manufacturing is already being used in many industries today. Their software tools are considered a key aspect of Industry 4.0 – the fourth industrial revolution. It refers to the intelligent networking of machines, people and processes.
59 % of German companies are already using special applications related to Industry 4.0. A further 22 % of companies are already planning to digitize their production, while 17 % are at least considering this step. This is the result of a representative survey by the digital association Bitkom on the digitization of German industry, for which 552 industrial companies with 100 or more employees were surveyed in early 2020. According to the majority of 94 % of the companies, Industry 4.0 is a precondition for maintaining the competitiveness of German industry today. The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the urgent need for the digitization process. "The more digital industrial companies are, the faster they will recover from the consequences of the shutdown," emphasizes Bitkom President Achim Berg.
Digital Manufacturing with HS Development & Services GmbH
But how exactly does a factory turn into a ‘digital factory”? How can processes and manufacturing plants be digitized? We at HS Development & Services GmbH help companies to find and integrate the right digital concepts and Industry 4.0 technologies. The focus of our work is on process analysis and methodology: identifying inefficiencies and implementing suitable digital solutions. The aim is to link new and existing systems in such a way that the relevant data converge in one place and can be used efficiently.
One application of Digital Manufacturing is high-precision, physically correct visualizations of processes and manufacturing plants in real time, such as those enabled by the open platform NVIDIA Omniverse. Developers, designers, and engineers can collaborate virtually in a shared environment. With Tecnomatix Process Simulate, manufacturing processes can be virtually simulated and verified in different phases and from different perspectives – using 3D data from products and resources. This allows thousands of experimental tests to run efficiently and automatically. During a running simulation, the scenario can be manipulated. In this way, data can be used sustainably, as the video of our partner NetAllied shows.
The fields of application of Digital Manufacturing are not limited to development and planning – they cover the entire corporate value chain. Consistent data along all links in the value-added chain – and its optimization – is the ideal way for more efficiency and new growth areas.
At HS Development & Services GmbH we support companies on their way to digital transformation of their factory – from the first consultation to digitization and automation along the entire value-added chain.