Written by Dimitrios Saranteas, IMEC Technical Specialist
In 1953, Honeywell introduced the T87 Round Thermostat - a ubiquitous and easily recognized device due to its classic round shape. It was easy to manufacture, easy to install, reliable and easy to use. To this day, Honeywell still manufactures a variant of this thermostat (the CT87 is the current model).
In 2011, a small company in California called Nest Labs launched their Learning Thermostat. It was designed to be programmable, self-learning, and Wi-Fi-enabled. Control and data from its sensors would be accessible to the owner over the internet so they can make more intelligent decisions for operating and optimizing their home’s energy use.
It was a “Thermostat Revolution” intending on disrupting a static industry that hadn’t fundamentally changed in over 60 years. The catalyst was that the founder of Nest had envisioned his own digitally enabled roadmap for controlling his home’s temperature. For lack of any viable solution, he created it. Today you can take a trip to your local home center and be inundated by the numerous smart home devices such as thermostats, locks, smoke detectors, and door bells.
Today, manufacturing around the world is going through its own well publicized 4th Industrial Revolution. Here in the US, this is defined as Digital Manufacturing and Design (or DM&D) as noted by the DMDII in Chicago:
DM&D is the ability to connect different parts of the manufacturing product life-cycle through data, and utilize that information through a methodology to make smarter, more efficient business decisions.
Much like the home owner that has many options for enabling a “Smart Home”, a manufacturing company is now able to intelligently connect equipment, processes, and people digitally. This results in data empowered enterprises and actionable opportunities across the entire product lifecycle and value stream.
Most importantly, the cost and access to this methodology is unprecedentedly low (and will continue to drop). Like in the Smart thermostat example, there are many DM&D options available to digitally enhance product requirements development, design tools, manufacturing operations, and product usage in the field. Many of those solutions are being developed in partnership with DMDII.
As you consider a digitally enabled enterprise, remember to treat data and information as you would any critical business asset: measure, document and manage essential attributes such as value, risk and cost.
There are some easy ways to see whether you’re “Right and Ready” for being more digitally enabled. Take some time to ask self-evaluative questions as it relates to how data is used at your company:
- What are you doing (or not doing) digitally today?
- Do you create, receive, manage, and/or transmit product data partially or entirely in digital form? Is your data siloed or can different functions in the organization access it easily?
- Do your internal machines, people, and processes speak with one another digitally?
- Are you being asked by your customers or suppliers to be more digitally enabled?
- Are you losing out on business and market growth opportunities by not being digital?
- Do you need to train your workforce on digital manufacturing technology?
Like any good roadmap, it helps to know where your organization currently is before heading off on a (digitally) transformative journey. There’s no wrong or right answer in the above. Ultimately the map needs to align with your company’s operational, strategic and growth goals. The technology and solutions will help drive towards those goals; not goals in and of themselves.