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How OEMs benefit from the digital thread

An overview on how OEMs are getting benefited by today’s emerging IT platforms such as IoT, IIoT and Industry 4.0
  For years, OEMs used to manufacture using the old and ancients methods which used to take its own time and difficulty. Apart from these a lot of manpower used to go into manufacturing. It is very recently OEMs have started utililising various IT platforms like Internet of Things (IoT), Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and Industry 4.0 etc. which makes manufacturing much more easier and faster than the time it used to take to manufacture before. With good quality and greater customer demand, these IT platforms have becomes man’s best friend. Hence, we take a look at the benefits OEMs are getting with the usage of the digital thread.
Digital thread refers to the stream that comprises of a digitally connected system involving conceptualisation, design, planning, manufacturing or production, maintenance and feedback – tools and processes. These are various software and hardware modules that are connected across a common platform; however, with the advent of cloud based technologies, the digital thread is expected to be more platform independent than ever. In simple terms, it is a well-integrated process of envisioning, designing, making and analysing products and services. “OEMs are currently under great pressure to innovate, produce and manage their programs, while keeping costs low and quality and customer satisfaction high. A digital thread will enable them to build a process that will provide a seamless experience to employees, suppliers and customers alike,” says Vineet Seth, Managing Director – South Asia and Middle East, Delcam Ltd.
In the field of mechanical and plant engineering, the way in which users experience products and their manufacturers is an important differentiating feature, especially when products’ technical details are quite similar.
“Industry 4.0 creates new opportunities through merging decentralised intelligence, fast connectivity, open standards, real-time integration and autonomous behavior. That means internet enabled services, automation information gathering and transmission services, network of soft ware programmes etc. are expected to get introduced. In fact, Industry 4.0 represents the new way forward, offering exciting opportunities to those with the expertise and foresight to quickly integrate its offerings,” says a spokesperson from Bosch Rexroth (India) Pvt Ltd.
The IIoT is more of a near-term reality, and many industrial firms are striving to take advantage of its benefits. There are many different terms for IIoT, including Industry 4.0 and the Connected Factory.
In order to understand better about the advantages that the digital thread offers, it is important to look at each stage of the macro process.
ConceptualisationConcepts and ideas have been depicted by hand sketches, flow diagrams, clay models, paper crafts and many other methods. However, in the digital thread, all of these – and many other methods, can be utilised in a common interface. Most tools allow for hand sketches to be imported into the conceptualisation stage and use digital tools to refine or digitise these hand sketches to lay the foundation for the design stage. Similarly, ideas from alternative methods can now be easily digitised using various hardware or software combinations. New age advancements in computer hardware has also enabled the use of styli and haptic devices to input concepts directly into the digital thread by means of real-time sketching, sculpting and brushing. Through an online collaborative platform, feedback and approvals can be sought from internal and external stakeholders at every critical step.
Design, simulation and prototypingDigitised concepts from the conceptualisation stage become building blocks or the foundation of the design process. “Curves and other mathematical information created in the concept stage, in a digital thread allow designers to use the information to build upon or assist in feature creation of a CAD model. In a digital thread, both stages use a common file format to avoid confusions as well as allow for a tighter integration between the two stages. Using this common file format, designers are able to save considerable amount of time in building up the first CAD model and use simulation and validation tools embedded in the software to validate the design,” informs Seth.
Like before, online collaboration between various stakeholders allow design changes, corrections and simulation to ensure that the design is accurate. A physical prototype can also be produced quickly using many modern methods such as 3D printing or clay milling to enable customers to have a “look and feel” of the product.
Manufacturing and inspectionCarrying on from design, simulation and prototyping stage, various tools in the digital thread are now able to quickly setup processes and templates that will allow the designed components to be physically produced using one or more methods. CAD models for example, become the input information for both additive as well as subtractive manufacturing and the digital thread provides NC output to relevant machines to physically produce the final components. Assembly plans and auxiliary processes can also be scheduled in parallel to reduce lead times and ensure just-in-time manufacturing. The digital process is also able to monitor the productivity as well as down-time of each machine to help decision makers in taking timely actions.
Seth adds that finally, a completely connected system or a closed loop system will also help in monitoring product behaviour during its lifetime thereby providing invaluable inputs to the design stage.
Significant amount of electronic and communication capabilities are being built into various manufacturing equipment including CNC machines. These capabilities enable users in several ways: • Machine to machine communication• Online compilation of data for automation• Online monitoring of machines and utilisation• Remote diagnostics• Maintenance.
At present, India has started adopting the digital thread but it is at its nascent stage. With various initiatives by the government and Prime Minister urging the world to ‘Make in India’ and the good response received at the ‘Make in India’ event, India is all set to explore the world of digitisation in the field of manufacturing in the coming future.
L Krishnan, Managing Director, Taegutec India P Ltd says, “Current usage of digitisation is limited since enhanced capabilities will only be increasingly available as manufacturing industry modernise or add new equipment to their manufacturing facilities. However for an organisation to use the full potential of these capabilities, organisations have to prepare well. So at this stage, we are in the early stages of adoption of such technologies within the country. We expect exponential growth of its usage in the coming years.”
Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS) has recently established a new business unit to help manufacturers harness the IIoT and more rapidly deploy technologies that will allow them to better manage and analyse data, making their operations safer, more reliable and more efficient.
According to Vikas Chadha, Managing Director, Honeywell Automation India Ltd and India Leader – HPS, “In India, IIoT will enable transformation of nearly all industries. A connected enterprise significantly enhances decision making, increases security and productivity as well as improves overall collaboration across the enterprise by providing the right information at the right time, to help optimise operations. In this regard, HPS’s Digital Transformation Unit will become a key enabler in Honeywell’s setting new benchmarks in the country’s IIoT landscape.”
————————We expect exponential growth of its usage in the coming years.  L Krishnan, Managing Director, Taegutec India
————–OEMs are currently under great pressure to innovate, produce and manage their programs.
Vineet Seth, Managing Director – South Asia and Middle East, Delcam Ltd

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