About Digital Manufacturing

About Digital Manufacturing

Digital Manufacturing is the application of digital technologies as the means to plan, assess and operate a manufacturing system. Digital Manufacturing requires that the right information, is in the right place, at the right time, in the right format for the optimization of decisions and the efficient manufacture of a product.

Companies are actively looking into the use of digital technologies in their operations as the 4th industrial revolution grows across the globe (Figure A). The abundance of competing information available about Digital Manufacturing may create confusion for those seeking information.

Figure A. The Evolution of Industry

Whether you call it Digital Manufacturing, Industry 4.0, Smart Manufacturing or Smart Factory, the terms are all describing a set of capabilities that make significant use of digital processes, procedures and cyber-physical systems. Part of the confusion in the marketplace is a result of the lack of consensus about what Digital Manufacturing is and how it relates to Smart Manufacturing, Smart Factory, Industry 4.0, or simply Advanced Manufacturing. There are many attempts at a definition available, but here we simply propose an explanation what Digital Manufacturing involves.

Components of Digital Manufacturing

Regardless of the label for digital manufacturing, digitally enabled operations and design is the future of manufacturing. The combination of production with information and communications technology merges customer data with machine data, facilitates the communication between machines, and allows for autonomous management of production in a flexible, efficient, and resource-saving approach. Smart sensors are providing increasing levels of information and control of previously segmented activities, improving operation and decision making. All of the terms used to describe the objective of enabling companies to use a digitally interconnected manufacturing infrastructure to collect, analyze, and make use of the huge amounts of data manufacturing creates. The objective is to turn data insights into actions that can create competitive advantage. Digital Manufacturing empowers the optimization of performance, condition monitoring, predictive maintenance, asset management, etc. Digital Manufacturing employs a digital framework that connects devices and assets to collect data that can be processed and utilized in multiple applications. Digital Manufacturing facilitates communication, data flow, device management, and the functionality of applications.

In Digital Manufacturing capable factories, cyber-physical machines and products communicate over a network of things, often called the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), throughout the manufacturing process, exchanging data between systems and people through technologies such as sensors, data analytics, cloud computing, robotics, and artificial intelligence. This connectivity enables smart devices and is the future for manufacturing and supply chain management. Collecting and communicating information between smart devices through the IIoT is the foundation of Digital Manufacturing and the key to a competitive supply chain.

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Figure B. Make Up of Digital Manufacturing/Industry 4.0/Smart Manufacturing (Factory) Systems