The Factory of the Future

On the occasion of the Drive the Factory of the Future event on April 12th, 2018, Guillaume Vendroux, CEO of the DELMIA brand, revisited the subject of the digital transformation of industrial operations to understand the challenges it brings and to get a concrete idea of what the factory of tomorrow will look like.  The following is a translation of a blog post that originally appeared in our French-language blog.

Today, we’re confronted with a need to drastically change our industrial practices. As a result of globalization, markets are always growing, but investments remain limited. This means more production using our existing assets. Manufacturers absolutely must find drivers of productivity.

Conversely, manufactured products are becoming more and more complex due to greater richness and diversity. Manufacturers are therefore caught in a vice between productivity and complexity, and if nothing is done, this dual pressure turns into problems with quality, product maintenance, and logistical breakdowns.

We have to redesign the model to be best prepared for production, and to be as efficient as possible when carrying out this production.

The virtual world of the future factory must allow us to break out of this restrictive framework and reach a higher level of productivity and anticipation. Creating models for our industrial operations won’t be what allows us to anticipate problems. We will achieve this through confronting this virtual model and the reality of execution using real-time data from the field.

What does this mean for manufacturers and all of their employees?

The digital transformation of the industrial world is not simply digitizing the practices we used before; it goes much deeper than that… It means changing our practices to maximize their efficiency using the power of the virtual world.

Much more than a technological project, digital transformation is a plan to transform a company that delves into the depths of its processes.

It’s a real company revolution, centered more on practice and the way people will be integrated into all of these processes than on simply factoring computers into the equation.

It’s a major redesign of our model; that’s the true digital revolution.

Digital transformation doesn’t take place to the detriment of operators; on the contrary, it’s there to help them work more comfortably and with the greatest possible efficiency. When it comes to this transformation, people are at the center. We must make each operator understand their role in the company’s value chain and give them all of the information they need to make the right decisions. We will then automate the repetitive tasks with no added value. We’re not just talking about physical robotization, but also automation of processes to allow for better decision-making and have the agility required to resolve problems effectively.

The same goes for managers: they are no longer the only ones with information and the ability to make decisions. They become the facilitators for their group’s performance. There is a real change to their role, but it does not in any way devalue them. From now on, they’re responsible for activating the levers that’ll allow their team to perform their operations correctly based on information that comes to them directly.

And for those who don’t digitize their industrial operations in the next 5 years…

These manufacturers will find themselves in a peculiar situation because they’ll lose out to their competitors in terms of response time. These modern approaches are much more efficient, and that’s what makes them so valuable. Those who don’t dive in and start this transformation in the next few years will miss the mark completely.

We’re already seeing industries today that could have been considered artisanal, such as luxury, that are investing heavily because they too are faced with the same problem of customization, expectations of perfection, etc.

The classic artisanal methods are no longer providing them with the economies of scale that they desire, so those who do not take the plunge will, at the very least, see extremely limited growth, or may even find themselves in great danger due to their lack of agility when compared with the competition.

Adopting this digital transformation is a method of getting back on track faced with the competition coming from other international markets such as Asia.

Let’s take the example of one of our French aerospace customers, who is adopting a digital transformation strategy with Dassault Systèmes: they intend to reintegrate the manufacturing that they had subcontracted out until now, because vertical integration will make them more efficient.

Dassault Systèmes has a unique offering on the market because we’re the only company to offer a solution that works all the way from product engineering to execution. We know how to create a close connection between the workshop and the design studio, but above all, we offer full integration of processes on our 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

Manufacturing has a central place in this era of industry-led renaissance.

This digital transformation of manufacturing operations can be likened to a renaissance driven by industry because it puts these same operations on center stage, thereby giving the system’s players a role with greater added value.

End customers will be able to define the product they want, which will be available in record time for use in an environment they themselves have defined. Their satisfaction, in a broad sense, should grow, and those famous user experiences will be enhanced all the more.

The manufacturer serving this customer will be able to maintain a competitive position in the market using a model with extremely high standards. They will be able to move further, more quickly, offering higher quality at lower prices. They will be able to preserve their margin and profitability while retaining the ability to serve the ever-evolving market almost instantaneously. 

Digital transformation is an intense industrial renaissance. Don’t sit on the sidelines; gain an understanding of how the digital world will allow you to transform your factory for greater efficiency at every level of your industrial operations.

Today, we talk about the “workforce of the future” when referring to all teams that’ll be able to make decisions and quickly take action thanks to the new systems of the future factory. Providing assistance, educating, improving team expertise; this is the value-added role for managers in the industrial renaissance.

Alyssa Ross

Alyssa Ross

Alyssa is a Communications Director on the Dassault Systèmes Corporate Publishing team. She’s been part of DS for over 16 years, in roles ranging from public relations to marketing programs. Twitter: @DS_Alyssa