Perfect harmony: The digital manufacturing revolution continues

Technology has changed myriad sectors over the last few years. Strings of complex code have replaced hammer and nail, with more people’s careers dictated by how handy they are not with tools, but computers.

Naturally, the world of engineering and design has been at the cutting edge. After all, 3-D computer-aided design (CAD) environments are the place where a plethora of concepts are first dreamt up. However, just how far can the revolution go?

The next wave of tech

Research from McKinsey & Company suggested that there is set to be a number of technological breakthroughs in the manufacturing sector over the next few years. Rather than all new solutions, it will be the case that many of the innovations which are on the fringes today increase in maturity.

For example, the research company cites virtual and augmented reality tech, fully autonomous robotics and artificial intelligence as some of the innovations that will lead the digital charge. However, there’s another asset that many companies continue to overlook: Data.


A wasted resource

In any area of modern design and production, waste can be incredibly costly. While the most forward-thinking companies have gone to great lengths to ensure they get the most from physical materials, many aren’t harnessing the power of information.

One oil and gas extraction company was found to be wasting 99 per cent of its data.

For example, McKinsey & Company suggested that one oil and gas extraction and engineering company was wasting 99 per cent of its data.

So, how are other companies responding?

Well, the research used the example of fashion company Zara. It is well known for taking the ideas of its designers and putting them on the shelves of its myriad multinational stores within a few weeks.

Moreover, at its physical locations, radio-frequency identification technology is being put to good use. Every item in a Zara store has a unique number assigned to it. Consequently, thanks to technology, an inventory check takes a couple of staff members a few seconds, whereas it may have taken dozens of people several hours in the past.

The example is an intriguing one as it shows how digital is not only changing the manufacturing process of the company, it’s also helping to better its end-to-end customer experience.

Are enough companies braced and ready for the digital manufacturing revolution?Are enough companies braced and ready for the digital manufacturing revolution?

The cost benefits

While digital manufacturing can ultimately deliver better products to consumers, there are tangible, financial benefits for companies that can leverage them, too. Research collated by Capgemini Consulting found that manufacturing companies that actively adopt digital tools can cut costs by as much as 30 per cent.

However, the findings also surmised that digital technology in manufacturing is still in its nascent stage, with the market needing to show signs of significant growth, if all of the players within it are to make the biggest gains.

Moreover, at present, many companies are sceptical and are stopping short of a full roll out of the most innovative solutions. For example, while many now encourage designers to flex their muscles in the 3-D CAD design space, few are twinning the results with fully autonomous production lines.

China leads the revolution

That could soon change in Asia Pacific, as China in particular is looking to fully embrace the digital manufacturing revolution. In fact, figures published by Research and Markets suggested that digital manufacturing in the country will expand at a compound annual growth rate of 8.5 per cent to the end of 2019.

The economy in China has gone through a period of fluctuations of late, but the manufacturing sector remains as one of the jewels in the country’s crown. If more companies across Asia Pacific – and the world for that matter – can sustain similar levels of growth in digital manufacturing, both they and their consumers will likely feel the benefits.

Designing or manufacturing with digital in mind? Contact us at SOLIDWORKS to see how we can help inspire engineering innovation and improve every aspect of your product development.