Data: Lifeblood for manufacturers


Manufacturers minimise waste: all aspects of the process from cradle to grave are analysed for cost and process efficiencies. However,  one of the greatest assets – data – is often overlooked.

In a traditional model, most of the data such as CAD/CAM, development testing and production data are all put into deep storage once a product hits the market. If that data were used and combined with field and warranty data (as well as ongoing production line data), just imagine the potential benefits in new service models,  reduced waste or improved performance.

Just as a product can have a digital twin, so can the manufacturing facility and production itself. Not only do you have a view – fully auditable – of the product and all its components, (including where it was supplied from), but you also have a view of how the factory was operating at the time the product was made.  This means you could correlate a change in the production line to an effect in the product (for good or bad). This overlapping of many digital twins gives rise to the possibility of a digital thread that you can follow across the whole life cycle of a product and all the twins it interacts with. This is made possible by data and allows for:

Decreased production times – Incorporating development and field operational data enables more frequent iterations and the ability to refine products more quickly, creating a shorter time to market.

Customisation – The ability to deliver the ‘batch of one’ based on previous experience, combined with an understanding of the supply chain that allows rapid change in the production cycle, makes it possible to deliver smaller and smaller batches.

Improved quality – Using the thread between production data and product operational data enables product improvement based upon analysis of the product line performance data and all data from products produced on that line. This gives opportunities to improve the product and its production method by harmonising the production line to reduce waste, increase throughput and improve product quality.

Improved production setup – Creating a digital twin of the production facility as a first stage for either a new facility, or a change to an existing facility, allows a manufacturer to fully understand how production will work on the floor before investing in the physical facility and/or changes to the existing infrastructure. This ensures that the facility is right the first time so production will be available at the right quality, with the ability to ramp-up without trial and error.

Delivering on these opportunities requires IoT (including industrial) for data collection and the ability to apply analytics to drive the outcomes and benefits that affect the bottom line – such as reduced warranty claims and wasted time and money spent on production facilities.

In simplistic terms, the data can be considered in three ways:

  • Insight – looking at the data flow in real time from product or line and making immediate decisions, for example, to affect quality or stop an imminent failure.
  • Hindsight – looking at historical data from across the estate and understanding how things occurred.
  • Foresight – combining the previous two to look at predicting what may occur and what needs to be done to prevent or cause the event to happen.

Using this data can decrease the cost base and time to market whilst improving customer choice and product quality, making data and the concepts of digital twins the new lifeblood of manufacturers.

Philip Mullis headshotPhil Mullis is DXC’s chief technologist for the manufacturing, construction and services sector in the UK and Ireland. He’s a sought-after advisor to the regional technical and business communities, bringing technology insight to transformative solutions that drive the outcomes that matter to the enterprise.


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