SHANGHAI—With user costs rising and automation still not at the optimum level in China, the best option for pulling small and medium enterprises along on the smart manufacturing journey is cloud technology, Huawei Technologies’ He Fred said here today at a conference titled Manufacturing in the Age of Experience.
Dassault Systèmes, the French software firm that is hosting the conference, in part to promote its 3D Experience platform, invited He, Huawei’s VP global ecosystem and business development cloud business, to speak to a packed room of manufacturing executives—dangling before attendees the chance to play with the firm’s software. He spoke in Mandarin, and Dassault provided simultaneous translation into several other languages.
The public cloud will have a deep penetration rate in China, He said. And apart from public cloud services, “custodian” cloud services will help meet “different needs at different levels, he added.
Huawei is eager to spread its understanding of manufacturing digitization, He said, noting that that it can be summarized as “real time, on demand, all online, DIY and social,” or ROADS.
“This is the target we hope to reach at the end of the day.”
To that end, Huawei worked with Dassault to establish “a fully digitized plant” that connects IT, design and manufacturing operations, for starters, He said.
Now the company is working to duplicate its new quality standards at all of its partners in the supply chain.
Already, the “digital fusion of design and manufacturing” has greatly shortened the trial production and verification period at Huawei, he added.
Twins arrive just in time
Helping frontrunners like Huawei work to evangelize cloud technology up and down the product value chain are digital twins.
Guillaume Vendroux, CEO of Dassault’s DELMIA product brand, supplemented He’s comments by outlining the emergence of a true globally economy 17 years ago and said that when the digital twin emerged, it showed “a very good way forward”—for a time.
It’s not sufficient today, he said, “because we don’t want to just buy a product; we want to have experiences.
“We need to adapt again [and] reinvent the way we construct the value chain around the product,” Vendroux said. “We need to be able to on the fly … adapt the provider of services to usage the customer wants.”
Vendroux mentioned a common theme aired at Dassault conferences: the value network, which could be summed up as feeding the market with highly customized products.
Build to order is no longer good enough, he said. “Manufacturers need to build to my order. And it cannot be done in the Excel files of 2000; we have to go to “3D Experience twin” [from Dassault]. This is the way we will be able to explore all the options we have.
“This is available today. The frontrunners are moving ahead and changing the market. We need to be with them.”
In an interview following his presentation, Vendroux said the “3D Experience twin” is superior to the digital twin notion that emerged about 20 years ago (and became a buzzword about six years ago) in that it “allows you to explore futures—that is to imagine where the current flow of action is taking you…”—and to “execute upon the future you have chosen.”
The older concept simply represented a sort of “digital sandbox” in which designers and engineers in manufacturing were able to play together and “converge faster on the definition of the product,” he said.
With the 3D Experience twin, he added, “I can choose one of those futures and say, ‘OK, I’m going to configure my workshop that way and do things this way, and this is the trajectory I want to take considering the context in which I am.’ And then I use the manufacturing operation management system to orchestrate my production in order to follow the direction I’ve chosen.”
Problem solving and innovating on tap
Before attendees moved into a nearby room at the conference to get their hands-on demos, Garth Coleman, marketing VP for Dassault’s ENOVIA product brand, showed examples of swift problem solving inside factories, thanks to the collection and crunching of real-time information from equipment in use.
One series of images showed how a 3D model of a part that needed milling to smooth a surface helped shop floor workers “dig in” to see exactly where an issue was and resolve it—with alacrity.
Importantly, because the 3D Experience software Dassault sells digitally connects everyone in a company from the boardroom to the shop floor, it helps manufacturers and university researchers innovate, Coleman said.
As an example, Dassault is collaborating with engineers at Wichita State University on a multiple robotic advanced manufacturing (MRAM) cell, he said.
“We are working to develop the manufacturing cell of the future. Using the 3D Experience platform, we are able to integrate and program virtually MRAM cells with multiple manufacturing technologies and incredible flexibility—so that one day you are able to do some manufacturing on a composite fuselage and the very next day reconfigure that so that you can do some manufacturing, say, for a wing on a drone aircraft,” Coleman said.
“This is the kind of thing that at Dassault Systèmes we are excited to do—work with a top state university to train the next generation of engineers using real industrial projects like MRAM cells so that they can build the factories of the future.”