MT Magazine January/February 2024




opportunity to replace them with something brand new. So, what he suggests is that by starting out by transforming a line or a part of a process and getting people from various functions to work together on this project, there is the ability to more quickly get an ROI, which then can help facilitate the execution of other projects. The Importance of Digital Manufacturing Batra points out: “There’s never been more pressure to manufacture stateside than today.” Some of the pressure takes the form of the supply chain snafus that were experienced during the past few years. Some of the pressure is positive, such as the billions of dollars made available by government initiatives for manufacturing. A major challenge, however, is that much of the manufacturing infrastructure – equipment as well as people – is vintage compared to what’s happening in other parts of the world. So, there needs to be a manufacturing renaissance that is based on not only digital design and simulation tools – and Batra emphasizes that this is product and process design and simulation, including the development of digital twins – but also on a workforce that is digitally savvy.

“Top executives need to advocate for this,” he says, citing the benefits of digital manufacturing, including: • Cost advantages • Competitive advantages • Faster production • Use of less material • More mass customization “It starts with that vision,” he says. “And then it needs to be pushed.” Batra shares a surprising anecdote about software and automation use: “I’ve seen car washes that are using Industry 4.0 in a much more sophisticated way than some Fortune 500 companies.” He explains that the car wash process is holistically designed such that the brushes are “smart,” providing information about how many vehicles have been processed as well as predicting when maintenance will be required. The system monitors the amounts of soap and water that have been used to help with asset utilization. The PLC used is common to manufacturing. The automation systems bringing the vehicles through are similar. The network and software are analogous. But the difference is the vision to make the transformation and to minimize bureaucracy along the way. Nothing, Batra says, that can’t be advantageously undertaken by manufacturing operations of all types and sizes. Werner von Siemens once said, “An innovation’s importance lies in its practical implementation.” And that’s precisely the approach that needs to be taken by companies when it comes to digital manufacturing.

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