Closing the Gap on Digital Manufacturing

The concurrent engineering required for new product designs between design engineering and manufacturing engineering has always been a critical focal point for manufacturers to shorten time-to-market, accelerate time-to-volume and minimize cost of production.

Today, collaboration between product design (computer-aided design, or CAD) and manufacturing processes (computer-aided manufacturing, or CAM) is a robust process due to the tight integration between CAD and CAM and the emergence of extended Product Definition Management (PDM) and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) systems.

There has not been a corresponding level of tight integration between CAD/CAM and production management. The benefits of exchanging information between the product definition domain and production management, however, are becoming clear as manufacturers move to a collaborative environment.

Manufacturers are under pressure to accelerate the design, production, and marketing of new products to retain customers and gain new ones. Subsequently, manufacturers have made enormous technology investments in enterprise software and factory automation. As a result, virtually all industries have seen impressive productivity gains, but companies must continually seek new ways to improve their numerous business processes to gain that critical competitive advantage.

Toward that end, leading companies such as Boeing, DaimlerChrysler, and General Motors are pursuing a vision of digital manufacturing, encompassing everything from initial design through production and service. This will be addressed through a digital information pipeline that will automate numerous processes and manage by exception, with integrated, tight feedback loops to optimize production resources and improve product quality. Increasing attention is focusing on the hand-off between the design process and manufacturing production planning, an area traditionally defined by manufacturing processes unique to each company and an area rife with proprietary solutions to link the two activities.

Two leading PLM suppliers, EDS (www.eds.com) and IBM/Dassault (www.3ds.com/en/), have recently launched new programs to integrate design and production processes. Recently, IBM partnered with Rockwell, Cisco and MRO Software as part of its automotive initiative, while EDS partnered with Tecnomatix to address the automotive and electronics verticals and Visiprise for highly regulated industries.

These partnerships bring potentially powerful solutions to market that may significantly accelerate the migration to digital manufacturing. But these partnerships are quite different, with EDS taking a tighter, more design-centric approach and IBM going for more of an infrastructure play.

EDS’s partner, Tecnomatix, with its eMPower solution, can act as the “system of record” for production, from planning to execution. In turn, Tecnomatix is adopting EDS’ PLM Open platform for tight integration with EDS. This allows design and production teams to collaborate more readily within a common framework, thereby accelerating production process planning and execution. With Visiprise, EDS will target highly regulated industries such as aerospace and defense, and life sciences.

IBM has put together seven vertical industry groups, two of them focused on manufacturing—specifically, automotive and electronics. These groups seek alliances that leverage IBM’s full solution suite from consulting services through hardware (servers) and software (WebSphere, MQ Series, DB2, and others).

Advice to users

Both EDS and IBM are investing heavily to bring solutions to market that will more tightly integrate design and manufacturing. These solutions, while relatively new, offer real promise. Manufacturers in all vertical markets should monitor these developments. Manufacturers should first look to software suppliers for solutions, rather than build proprietary solutions in-house. Apply the 80/20 rule: If a supplier’s solution meets 80 percent of your need, adopt it. The long-term savings will more then make up the lack of 100 percent functionality.

John Moore, jmoore@arcweb.com, is vice president and general manager, Enterprise Advisory Services, for ARC Advisory Group.

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