Artist's manufacturing concept

Designing for…Everything?

June 21, 2022
It’s finally time to take the plunge into manufacturing’s digital age.

One of the areas Machine Design’s content team has explored in 2022 is the relationship between design and operations in a modern manufacturing plant. And as fundamental as that sounds, there are a wide array of ways to take that concept.

There is product design, which must fit within the parameters of process design. Whether we’re discussing a car or the fuel to propel it, the product and the process have to be aligned in order to achieve the organizational goals.

But in an increasingly volatile age of economics and environment, there are other design considerations. The product must be designed for efficiency and effectiveness as the end of the manufacturing line, but it also must have a lifecycle that can be managed and optimized. The manufacturing process itself must be efficient to preserve scarce capital and reduce costly downtime.

All of this occurs amid the most seismic shift in manufacturing technology in a generation. The advancement of robotics, artificial intelligence, sensors and analytics have given both the design and operations teams powerful, scalable new tools to better control the throughput of goods. Implementing these changes requires both a capital investment and a change in both the hiring and training of manufacturing personnel in an age when both human and financial resources seemed stretched to their limits.

In short, the challenge goes beyond designing for operations. The process and system design teams must design to optimize everything.

Fortunately, the tools are available. Major suppliers and OEMs are seizing on this surge in technology to turn these tools into dynamic systems that identify operational opportunities and point the way toward a better system, all while maintaining the flow of materials through the process.

Today we can better utilize maintenance staff and better direct line workers by providing the right data in the right context. Our recent coverage of the Automate Conference in Detroit and the ARC Advisory Group event in Orlando looked at how data is being refined and focused through AI to produce extraordinary insights.

But the start of that focus begins in design. It is here where the future is shaped and formed. It is no longer enough to be wading in the shallow water of digitization. It’s time to dive into the deep end of the digital age in manufacturing.

As Craig Resnick, VP of consultancy for ARC Advisory Group told an audience at their recent conference, “There’s never been a more important time to accelerate the digital transformation. We don’t have a technology issue; we have an implementation issue.”

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