Engineering Reality 2023 volume 2 edition
Empowering Makers for an autonomous sustainable future
As the manufacturing industry navigates a dynamic global market, industry leaders continue to seek innovative solutions to tackle new challenges. During the recent virtual launch of Nexus, experts gathered to share their insights on the current state of manufacturing.
Stephen Chadwick, President, EMEA of Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence Division, got together with Ron Bennett, Global VP of IT at the Linamar Corporation, Stan Przybylski, Vice President of CIMdata, and Christoph Berlin, GM and Partner Architect of the Microsoft Corporation. With the launch of Nexus, Hexagon’s new open and flexible digital reality platform, the stage was set for a dynamic exchange on technology’s role in meeting industry demand.
What challenges are you facing today, as a manufacturer, in the current market?
Ron Bennett describes the challenges of implementing new technology to keep up with customer demands, coming to the market quickly, and outpacing traditional business. He states, “we need to be faster, and we need to be more efficient, accurate, and agile than ever.” He continues, “one of the things we grapple with is how do we best utilise new technology to make us better in all those things I just mentioned above.”
For the Linamar Corporation, one major challenge in creating new products for the electric vehicle market is developing a hybrid approach that effectively utilises their existing infrastructure and resources. Another challenge is knowing where and how to deploy new technologies alongside or in place of existing ones to improve time to market, product quality, and efficiency.
In your experience, is cloud-based technology useful for company-wide collaboration?
With 65 manufacturing sites worldwide, Bennett emphasised the critical role of cloud-based technology in facilitating real-time collaboration. By enabling simultaneous project work without the need to contend with file sharing, data transfer, and other technical issues that commonly arise when working across various platforms and systems, cloud-based technology has become an essential tool for enhancing productivity and efficiency in the manufacturing industry.
Bennett added, “When we look at it, we’re looking at the entire digital ecosystem. The engineering tools are one piece, but there are also all the collaboration tools they use every day ... Microsoft Teams, PowerPoints, and calls ... My role isn’t to tell them what to do; it’s to find them a better way of how to do it.”
Przybylski agreed with this sentiment, “Inherently, we still have silos that impede collaboration across different parts of the organisation. Breaking down these silos is crucial to enable collaboration and support better decision-making. That’s where digital twins enabled by a digital thread come in — they provide a vivid realisation of the impact of decisions made across the organisation.”
Enhancing collaboration capabilities and eliminating communication barriers through the power of the cloud were significant themes for the panel.
Aside from collaboration, how else are businesses leveraging cloud technology?
Cloud-based technologies are proving to be valuable beyond just collaboration purposes. According to Bennett, cloud-based technology can help companies drive innovation, drive efficiency and create more value for customers. By using advanced, cloud-based analytics tools, businesses can access insights that they might not have been able to see otherwise. This allows them to identify opportunities for optimisation and improvement — ultimately reducing costs, improving quality, and increasing productivity. In a constantly evolving global market, manufacturers must have access to actionable insights to stay competitive. Cloud-based technology is an essential tool that enables this level of access.
Bennet says, “Our goal from an IT perspective is to create a closed loop system that brings our engineering, design, testing, validation processes in line with the manufacturing process that’s in line with our quality. Then wrapping that together with our infield data around warranty and reliability and generating that total closed loop system.”
Stephen Chadwick summarises, “It’s about the right information being available at the right time to the right person around the empowerment and the freedom of the end users to do their job in the best possible way with the right data.”
What’s the role of smart data contracts?
Berlin believes using smart data contracts is the key to efficiently integrating multiple applications and systems. This innovative technology enables the dependency and tracking of one system to another, resulting in a seamless and efficient experience for manufacturers.
Berlin defines smart data contracts as “smart data contracts are all about how we actually create a dependency and tracking of one system to another.”
According to Berlin, “From a collaboration point of view, it’s about having accessible information from wherever you are and presenting it in the most suitable format for easy consumption.” He discusses how smart data contracts enable businesses to have “multiple systems and applications working together.” Berlin says of smart data contracts, “this is also the excitement of why we are here, because Nexus is really enabling those.”
What are your goals with technological advancements?
According to Berlin, the true goals of technology adoption are productivity and efficiency. “It’s not just about technology per se anymore,” he explained.” Rather than focusing on platforms, it’s about having information available and meeting the customer or collaborator wherever they are.”
To illustrate this point, Berlin drew from his own experience. “Let me be very transparent and honest with you — many developers use Macs because it is their preferred developer platform. Does this mean that we pretty much abandon other systems for Macs?” He emphasised that technology should be thought of in terms of layers and composable architectures, where separate technologies can be integrated to support what is fundamentally important to users. By incorporating different products and systems, a single experience can be created that enhances productivity and brings all aspects of work together.
How do you manage risk while deploying new technologies?
Innovation and progress often come with risks, and adopting new technologies is no exception. Bennett recognises the importance of managing the risks of adoption so that organisations can take advantage of new systems and platforms that make them more efficient. He highlights the need for a clear vision and effective communication to help engineers understand the value of technology and become more productive and creative in their work. By mitigating risks and embracing change, companies can position themselves for success in an ever-evolving manufacturing landscape.
He says, “Make sure everyone understands what that end goal is when we move technology because, in the end, technology doesn’t make engineers any less valuable or replace them. It can move them to more value-added work and make their work more creative.
What do you think of Nexus’ potential for collaboration in engineering?
Przybylski and Bennett agreed that the Nexus launch could revolutionise collaboration in an engineering environment. Przybylski noted that the platform’s democratisation of simulation capabilities makes it a game-changer. At the same time, Bennett said, “As an engineer entering a Nexus-type platform or system, it’s like being a kid in a candy store. You gain access to things you may have never had access to before.”
Berlin added, “Nexus is paving the way for a new era of collaboration and efficiency in the manufacturing industry. It’s not just about the technology or platform. It’s about meeting the customer and working better together in a world where we often don’t sit in the same office any longer.”
The future of manufacturing belongs to those who are willing to take risks, experiment, and adapt to changing times. With the launch of Nexus, industry leaders are at the forefront of this revolution, using innovative tools to integrate systems and democratise simulation capabilities seamlessly. By embracing these innovative technologies, manufacturers can not only meet the challenges of the current market but also unlock new opportunities for growth, efficiency, and innovation.