The Future of Digital Industry?

Manufacturing is facing a critical point. The brave factory teams continuing to produce all the essential goods we rely on – the masks protecting medical workers, the ventilators saving the lives of the most vulnerable, the toilet paper missing from our local grocery shelves and the food sustaining our families – are racing to keep production going and their people safe at the same time. They are distributing hand sanitizer en masse, staggering operator shifts to reduce contact and trying to get everyone who is non-essential out of the factory. Amidst massive uncertainty, one thing is crystal clear: business-as-usual is no longer an option. Now is the time when the digitalization of the factory floor becomes critical for survival.

The trend towards mass product customization, supply chain globalization and factory automation has changed everything in the last decade for the industrial sector. Whether it’s called Industry 4.0, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or Smart Manufacturing, the digitalization of the factory floor – defined here as having real-time, remotely accessible digital collaboration systems in place to support manufacturing operations – has been slowly yet inevitably inching forward. Still, in a sector incurably marked by its commitment to tradition and the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality, for every manufacturing enterprise that bought into digital transformation, many more lagged behind.

But COVID-19 has changed the game. The global pandemic has highlighted not only how unexpected changes in demand and supply can throw the manufacturing sector into chaos, but how only the most flexible producers with the right tools in place to 1. understand what is happening and 2. adjust their operations accordingly will be able to survive these challenges. Now, it is no longer a question of whether or not plants need to digitalize, but whether it can be done in time. Here is where the Engineering team is ready to help. Regardless of what you produce, the time to start thinking about how to organize yourself in order to restart operations is now. Together with our expertise, you can find a way to move forward in spite of the virus. Together with our solutions, you can take back control. The future of your business depends on it.

A Digital Arsenal for Manufacturing Success in the New World

The main areas that we believe all manufacturers must focus on immediately in order to reestablish operations and ensure business continuity in the world after COVID-19 are: 1. manufacturing process visibility, 2. manufacturing process control3. operational flexibility, 4. data security and 5. safety and support for essential onsite personnel. These are the areas in which manufacturers need solutions most urgently, where we believe the greatest technology investments will be made, and where our Digital Industry team will focus our work moving forward in order to help our customers get back to business as soon as possible.

We are proud to present a digital arsenal of tools to ensure manufacturing success in the new world:

  1. Augmented Reality for Virtual Remote Collaboration.
  2. Social Distancing & Contact Tracing for Workplace Safety.
  3. The Digital Twin for Manufacturing Plant & Process Simulation.
  4. Manufacturing Intelligence for Remote Performance Monitoring.
  5. Advanced Forecasting & Planning for Flexible Manufacturing.

1. Augmented Reality for Virtual Remote Collaboration.

A key challenge that manufacturers will have to address is how to enable virtual collaboration with essential workers in order to provide the remote support they may need to successfully complete their tasks in the factory. This applies to shop floor operators, maintenance specialists and anyone else required for production operations to be executed. From OverIT, a company of the Engineering Group, SPACE1 is our proprietary platform that leverages Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR) and Virtual Reality (VR) to support modern technicians working in the field and in the plant. Through an AR-enabled device, such as a tablet or smart glasses, SPACE1 enables manufacturers to empower their people from afar, digitally delivering the resources they may require (e.g. documentation, videos, interactive 3D models, step-by-step resolution procedures, work instructions, live on-demand expert guidance, etc.) to manage even the most complex or unfamiliar tasks at work. By broadening the capabilities of your technicians, creating an innovative work experience and helping them execute their tasks more quickly and efficiently, SPACE1 enables all companies to leverage the benefits of AR, MR and VR, regardless of the industry or market in which they operate. Learn more.

2. Social Distancing & Contact Tracing for Workplace Safety.

Smart Proximity is a sensor-based platform developed by Engineering with the specific aim to help companies get back to business quickly while protecting their workforce at the same time. Smart Proximity helps organizations monitor, control and predict potentially harmful behavior in the workplace, whether it be in the office, factory, construction site, warehouse, shipyard or any other location. Each worker wears a sensor embedded in a smart bracelet, badge or card. The sensors operate in real time, sending warning messages (via vibration, sound or light) to workers who do not maintain appropriate safety distances. Data related to the breach of social distancing requirements is stored in a central platform to be used for trend analysis and contact tracing. If an operator informs the company of contamination, the system will generate a report that identifies every person who has been in contact with him/her and so must also be quarantined. Our Smart Proximity solution relies on several components to constantly monitor safety distances, enable communication between sensors, carry out advanced analytics, store critical information and protect personal data. The solution leverages existing WiFi infrastructure, which means no antennas, low infrastructure costs, quick scalability and even quicker installation. Our Smart Proximity solution can be up and running in your factory within a matter of weeks. Learn more.

Smart Proximity from Engineering Group

Source: Smart Proximity – An Integrated Platform for Social Distancing and Contact Tracing from Engineering Group

3. The Digital Twin for Manufacturing Plant & Process Simulation.

In the world after COVID-19, social distancing procedures will add constraints which manufacturers will have to consider when restarting operations and bringing their people back to the factory. They will need to adapt their production lines and processes to adhere to safety regulations, while still trying to optimize performance and maximize (or even ramp up) throughput to meet customer demand. Plant and process modeling with the Digital Twin enables companies to create digital replicas of their real-world systems, processes and facilities in order to simulate the impact of new constraints, such as physical distancing between operators, a lack of human resource availability, variations in demand or a lack of raw material availability. Different scenarios can be tested and analyzed in the virtual model to validate feasability and minimize risks before making changes in the actual plant. Due to the time, effort and costs involved in implementing real-world changes (especially the wrong ones), simulation will be a very valuable tool for those who want to ensure that they are making decisions that will lead to the desired outcome for their people and their business. In the last five years, our Digital Industry team has formed one of the leading practices in the industrial simulation tech space in North America. Our specialists help organizations strategically employ simulation to study manufacturing processes and systems, giving their teams the information and tools needed to drive real improvements. The example below shows how simulation can help planners evaluate the impact of social distancing on a production assembly line. Learn more.

4. Manufacturing Intelligence for Remote Performance Monitoring.

With only essential workers at the factory, plant and business managers will need to have digital solutions in place which allow them full visibility into what is happening on their production floors. They will need remotely accessible analytical information about the performance of their machines and the overall efficiency of their factories and supply chains. Otherwise, they will not be able to react quickly to disruptions or have the data needed to make smart decisions for their operations and business. Manufacturing Intelligence (MI) systems – which rely on the unification of data from different sources such as IoT devices, manufacturing systems (e.g. MES) and business planning systems (e.g. ERP) – can provide this type of performance visibility and control. MI systems monitor the factory’s entire infrastructure, enabling users to understand which machines are not producing to specifications. Workers have access to this information in real time, so issues can be addressed as they occur. At the enterprise level, MI systems can be used to benchmark and compare production runs or to predict various plant operations. Our Digital Industry team specializes in designing and implementing Manufacturing Intelligence tools for Industry 4.0, from lightweight Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) shop floor monitoring applications to fully integrated enterprise-level MI. Also, our industrial Cloud, IoT and Edge Computing technologies enable us to ship a device to a plant which automatically connects to your machines without ever having to set foot on site. We have also developed a proven methodology leveraging RPA for the rapid deployment of such solutions, which can be up and running in just a few days. Customizable dashboards monitoring downtimes, work-in-progress, OEE and other relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can then be accessed by your authorized users via a web-based interface on any device and from anywhere. Learn more.

5. Advanced Forecasting & Planning for Flexible Manufacturing.

The current health crisis has already disrupted the global supply chain in many ways. Manufacturing warehouses are no longer able to maintain safety stock levels, new orders cannot be fulfilled, contracts are on the verge of being broken and many production plants around the world are shutting down. But in some industries, such as CPG and Food & Beverage, manufacturers are not only being required to continue to produce, but are being stretched far beyond their limits. Demand for their goods has grown exponentially in an extremely short amount of time, and they are struggling to meet it. For these companies, flexibility in production has become absolutely critical for survival. How can they adjust operations and optimize production while taking their actual capacity and these new constraints into account? Advanced Production Planning and Scheduling tools offer a solution for manufacturers trying to understand what is happening in order to adjust their operations quickly and intelligently when facing unexpected changes. In the face of incredible demand, companies can use manufacturing capacity planning tools to evaluate which products to prioritize, which products to produce and which products not to produce. They can accurately project their inventory stock levels in order to maximize customer satisfaction and production capacity. The scalability and flexibility of our offering for Sales & Operations Planning covers Demand Forecasting, Inventory Planning, Resource & Supply Planning and Advanced Production Scheduling, and it is already helping our manufacturing customers during these uncertain times. Learn more.

Siemens Opcenter Advanced Planning (Preactor APS)

Source: Siemens Opcenter Advanced Planning and Scheduling (Preactor APS)

Engineering “The New Normal” Together

In the face of crisis, our mission remains unchanged. Engineering USA has been on a digital transformation journey to make the future of manufacturing possible since we opened our doors on day one. And in this moment of crisis, our work has become more critical and valuable to ensuring the capabilities of the manufacturing sector and the well-being of the global population than ever before.

We believe that digitalization will be the differentiating factor between the businesses that have to shut down operations and those whose factories will have the efficiency, flexibility and productivity needed to continue and compete in the future. Our digital arsenal has been tested and approved, and we are ready to deliver it in order to help you get back to business, restart operations and keep your workforce happy and safe at the same time.

Our team remains steadfast, united and equipped to walk with you, supporting every step you will need to take to ensure the success of your business. We will overcome this bump in the road together and come out stronger and better than ever before. We are engineers, we are Engineering USA!

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