Smart Manufacturing: 4 Ways Digital Transformation Technologies are Transforming Plant Floors

At the Bentley factory in the UK, whirring noises emanate from an advanced wood turning robot crafting the wooden pieces that will form the interior decor of its luxurious cars. This ongoing process occurs at precision levels no human can match and without human supervision thus highlighting one of the transformational benefits of digital technologies.

The above scenario provides insight into a singular aspect of the ongoing digital transformation initiatives in manufacturing which is expected to deliver fully smart facilities or Industry 4.0 concepts. Deloitte describes the smart factory as the next step from conventional automated processes to a fully functional connected flexible system and digital transformations are expected to drive these revolutions.

And How?

The short answer is that the use of digital technologies such as the digital twin, simulation, data analytics, robotics, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are expected to bring near real-time automation as every asset and process within a manufacturing floor is connected through these digital systems.

For the more comprehensive answer, the case studies outlined below will show the transformational powers of digital technology, as well as, provide a glimpse into the near future of manufacturing.

Digital Transformation Drives Lamborghini’s Urus

To build its first luxury sports utility van, the luxury automobile manufacturer, Lamborghini needed an upgrade to its conventional manufacturing processes. The automaker wanted a more interconnected facility that enabled machine-to-machine collaborations, automated processes, and digital solutions that made visualizing the facility’s operations when making decisions possible.

With this roadmap in mind, Lamborghini digitally transformed its shop floor and built its factory of the future. It’s material handling systems were replaced by automated guided vehicles, sensors were introduced for monitoring, data collection, and reporting initiatives, and a digital twin was built to monitor complex operational processes virtually in real-time.

The new factory is a case study in digital transformation as it changed Lamborghini’s use of manual processes to incorporate digital solutions. According to the automaker, it’s digital transformation came with the following benefits:

  • A reduction in downtime which, in turn, led to optimized machine use and increased productivity.
  • A doubling of its production capacity from approximately 3000 units annually to 7,000 units.
  • Visibility into its operations and value chain which provided the insight needed to make better decisions.

The success of the automaker’s initiative highlights the organizational changes and the benefits that come with when digital transformation initiatives are adopted across manufacturing facilities.

Visibility into Manufacturing Supply Chains

The food and beverage industry comes with its peculiar challenges most discrete and process manufacturing sectors do not have. These challenges include a short shelf-life for its raw materials or ingredients, uncertainty in demand, stringent logistics rules, and special scrutiny from the Food and Drug Agency (FDA).

According to the FDA, challenges with meeting these guidelines and effectively managing supply chains lead to 40% wastage of the food and beverages produced globally. To meet these challenges, a manufacturer of quality chocolates, TCHO, turned to digital technologies to better understand its dynamic supply chain.

The chocolate manufacturer integrated the use of a supply chain planning software to capture demand data, track its supplies, and available inventory. With the digitization initiative, the manufacturer was able to predict its expected demands and meet them without wasting ingredients or having to sell its products at reduced prices to eliminate waste. In this example, digitally transforming its record-keeping and management process led to:

  • A drastic reduction in ingredient waste by using historical demand data to execute demand forecasting tasks.
  • Visibility into operational supply chains and ingredient inventory which helped with scheduling and meeting customer orders.

Shop Floor Planning to Increase Employee Productivity

CKE Holdings Inc., the owners of the Hardee’s and Carl Jr’s chain of restaurant sought to reduce downtime, the wait-lines across its restaurants drive through, and overall efficiency levels in its restaurants. To accomplish this task, the enterprise intended to redesign its shop floors and layout to improve employee efficiency.

The restaurant employed the use of virtual reality and digital technology to create diverse plans and test scenarios. The virtual ecosystems that were created integrated available shop floor data, the current arrangement, and kitchen designs to analyze why downtime was prevalent.

With these digital transformation technologies, CKE Holdings were able to come up with new design plans for its restaurants which is expected to optimize employee performance and reduce wait lines across its franchises. The benefits of applying digital transformative solutions in this case include:

  • Affordable solutions to execute advanced planning and testing procedures before physical implementing new ideas.
  • Insight into the causation factors of downtime which provides the data needed to take specific actions to reduce it.

Robots Bring Precision and Speed to Medical Device Manufacturing

The medical device manufacturing industry which produces medical packaged units and support devices is governed by standards that must be followed to the later. This is due to the sensitive nature of the devices produced within the industry and their application.

A medical device manufacturer struggled with packaging as its conventional form fill sealing machines worked slowly and took so much space on the shop floor that adding others was impossible. To increase its throughput by speeding up the packaging process, the manufacturer turned to robotics and the robot systems they provide.

A Mitsubishi Scara robot with 4-up tooling which automated the packaging process was designed and built for the manufacturer. The robot came with a length of 1.5 meters which when compared to the 20-meter length of conventional sealing machines was negligible. Thus, the manufacturer was able to have multiple robots handling the sealing process and this transformation came with the following benefits:

  • A 15% improvement to the overall equipment efficiency level of its operations.
  • Improvements in the quality of its sealing and medical device packages.

A Reality Check for Leaders in Manufacturing

The digital transformation of the manufacturing sector brings huge benefits at the organizational level, facility level, and shop floor level of the sector.  With digital transformation technologies, manufacturers who have been able to solve age-old problems get an edge over the competition.  This means now is the time to consider integrating digital transformation technologies to drive change and deliver revenue growth within your facilities.

As the case studies of CKE Holdings and Lamborghini shows, a digital twin provides near real-time business insights into complex process across all facility operations. You can learn more about applying the digital twin to enhancing your manufacturing process by requesting a demo today.

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