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5 for Friday: Digital Transformation by any Other Name, and How to Make it Work

June 16, 2023
Machine Design takes a look at the week past, and a look ahead to the issues facing the design and manufacturing sector.

1. We Call It “Digital Transformation” Because…

We have been writing a tremendous amount about “digital transformation,” which is one of those ideas that sounds amazing and forward-looking, as all ideas should be. But rigidly defined, digital transformation should actually be described as “disruptive change.” Not everyone likes change and very few people like disruption.

Yet here we are in the midst of the disruptive change that is essential to achieve digital transformation. And as speakers at this week’s Realize Live event presented by Siemens (#Realize23), the pace is quickening. One speaker discussed the “velocity of change,” and I think that’s the question that really confronts the industry. We have to change, but how fast do we really want to go?

2. One Answer is in the Data

One area of struggle in achieving velocity of change is structural. The data is out there, but not everyone knows what to do with it. Dale Tutt, the VP of industry strategy at Siemens, noted that sharing data remains is stuck in pre-change operational structures.

“Customers are telling us they are still dealing with silos,” Tutt told the Siemens audience at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. “Many of them talk about air gaps between activities and applications and they end up manually moving data, and that becomes a maintenance issue. Teams are spending as much time managing data as solving problems for their products.”

Tutt offered one example with the Airbus 380, one of the world’s largest commercial airplanes. There are 290 miles of wire in Airbus 380. That’s 12,500 lb. There is the challenge of wiring complexity.”

3. One Answer is in What the Data Means

Brenda Discher of Siemens said in an interview with Machine Design that using programs such as artificial intelligence is an engineering tool that can be utilized in some dynamic ways. “The real value in AI is creating business value out of the data and then infer something needs to be optimized somewhere,” said Discher, the head of communication for Siemens Digital Industries, and senior VP for business strategy and marketing of Siemens Digital Industries Software. “It can give me multiple iterations of data, with inherent knowledge built in. It gives back some interesting ideas, but it still doesn’t take the engineer out of it.”

4. One Answer May be Sustainability

One of the challenges with a broad, buzzy concept like sustainability in manufacturing is that it is often seen as an operational issue as opposed to a design issue. But speakers discussing sustainability at recent events have all quoted this piece of data from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation: “80% of a product or system’s environmental impact is influenced by decisions made at the design phase.” That makes design teams the linchpin of the sustainable future of products.

Eryn Devola, the VP of sustainability at Siemens, noted in an interview with Machine Design that sustainability needs to be at the forefront of future design strategies. “Sustainability is another set of outcomes out of that design process,” Devola said. “It’s another layer of complexity. One of the things we’re looking at is motors and drives. What does the disassembly process look like?

“Let’s be clear about sustainability: it’s a ‘what,’ not a ‘how’ These are pieces can get you closer to the ‘what,’” Devola added. “Sustainability is about getting the most out of every product I’m building,”

5. A Diversity of View on Diversity

Machine Design, in collaboration with the Endeavor Business Media Design & Engineering Group’s WISE (Workers in Science and Engineering) initiative, assembled a panel of association leaders to reflect on progress made in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts. Though their value propositions differ, our experts each delivered a state of the union on their investments and pointed the way on where to go from here.

Our roundtable consisted of Monica Moman-Saunders, professional engineer and fellow, ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers); Dr. Roberta Rincon, associate director of research, SWE (Society of Women Engineers); and Jackie Mattox, founder, president and CEO, Women in Electronics

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