Not too long ago, the digital transformation was science fiction. Not anymore. And it’s coming to manufacturing, big time. Of course that’s not breaking news, but for a guy like me who wrote term papers in college on a typewriter and had to go to the library to look things up, it is still hard to wrap my mind around digital manufacturing.
I got a big dose of it at a Siemens press conference held at the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute in Chicago in early August. DMDII is a manufacturing R&D hub and a member of the Manufacturing USA network of Institutes. Siemens is a big supporter of DMDII, which is developing into a digital manufacturing showcase.
Raj Batra, president of the Siemens USA digital factory division, gave an overview. “The intensity of digitalization has never been stronger,” he said. “When we started talking about the digital twin in 2007, which then was the integration of automation and PLM, companies thought it was hype and couldn’t imagine how to make it work [a digital twin is a model of a manufacturing process that can run what-if simulations]. A decade later, a lot of companies know they must embrace digitalization.”
Batra defined digitalization as taking intelligent devices, creating a bridge between the virtual and real worlds, and turning it into business value. He noted that there will be 1 trillion connected devices by 2030, up from 8 billion today.
That’s a lot to take in. Like all new technology, adoption of digital manufacturing will take time. It will start with big manufacturers, like GE, then filter down through the ranks. There probably aren’t too many mom-and-pop machine shops creating digital twins today. But it will happen.
Siemens held a second event later that day to open their new training center in Elk Grove Village (IL). A presentation there focused on Siemens’ efforts to bring job shops into the digital fold by developing a system that uses conversational programming to create digital models. Maybe it’s time to think about getting on board that digital train.
On a side note, I’d like to welcome Candace Roulo, our new managing editor. Candace joins ME with nearly two decades in trade publishing, and we’re happy to have her on the team.