OpenText: Manufacturing Changes Across AI & Sustainability

After COP28, Manufacturers Can Expect to See Developments in Digital Twins, AI and Sustainability, Says Mark Morley, Senior Director at OpenText

Mark Morley, Senior Director, Product Marketing at OpenText, shares his insights into how digital twins, AI and sustainability will impact the global manufacturing sector in 2024. 

How do you see AI trends playing out in manufacturing in 2024?

“AI is the big one. The main area this will impact in 2024 is taking digital product twins to the next level. Manufacturers have been using digital twins for years already, but generative AI (Gen AI) will be another step-change in how users interact with those digital twins.

“For example, Gen AI will allow engineers and maintenance teams to literally have conversations with their products. The ability to monitor, control and adjust physical equipment through a 3D virtual representation will transform through life support models. Through the digital twin, AI will learn how the physical model should be operating in real life and fine-tune for optimum performance based on historical data, making the digital twin process better than ever.”

How does making information more available help manufacturers?

“Even though it’s such a global industry, manufacturing has typically struggled to break down siloes and share data efficiently between systems. As the industry has digitised, systems for ERP, PLM, WMS, TMS and other B2B integration solutions have sprung up. 

“In 2024 we will see more extensive digital backbones being introduced across global manufacturing operations which in turn will allow digital threads to be established between manufacturing, engineering, and process-based information systems. Weaving this digital thread into the organisation through a combination of APIs and other integration technologies will allow information to be exchanged seamlessly between different systems. To tie it back, these digital threads will be critical to the successful deployment of AI tools, as all information needs to be aggregated into a central data lake for processing and analysis.” 

What are your thoughts on the ‘forgotten man’ of technology, the metaverse?

“The metaverse has fallen out of the headlines a bit, but it’s still got huge potential, especially in manufacturing. Augmented Reality has seen an accelerated interest during 2023 with the service support sector leveraging it for maintenance purposes. Taking industrial digital twins into the Metaverse will likely accelerate in 2024 as companies realise the benefits of using the Metaverse to test digital mock ups of products, to train service technicians in how to maintain complex equipment and for business leaders to test certain ‘what if’ scenarios to see how their business or supply chain operations will perform. There is a debate as to whether VR or AR will succeed but it really depends on the use case and which technology users feel most comfortable with. The Metaverse will likely define a new form of content management system as each 3D object will have data and other assets associated with it that will need to be managed efficiently.”

How does all this play out against the backdrop of sustainability? 

“Consumers are forcing manufacturers to rethink how they design, build and maintain their products.  Manufacturers are starting to embrace the Circular Economy by designing new products so that they can be recycled more easily at end of life. Next year we’ll see more movement towards better monitoring of processes and external trading partners for ESG compliance, as more countries follow Germany’s lead on ensuring that companies are accountable for how they source materials and goods. 

“Connecting all trading partners to a common business network will help emissions tracking across the supply chain, but it may require new EDI document standards to be developed to allow emission values to be captured at each stage of the supply chain. The technology is certainly available to help improve the monitoring and tracking of ESG and SCOPE 3 emissions and 2024 will see new supply chain technologies and processes emerge to achieve this.”

Manufacturers expect to see more developments in that area in the wake of COP28. What other trends will you be keeping an eye on?

“I think the main one is an ongoing one, rather than a new one: migration to industrial clouds. In 2024, we’ll see an acceleration towards industry specific clouds for different sectors across manufacturing. So, whether you are operating in the automotive, high tech or process sectors, new industry-based clouds will appear that contain pre-built adapters to allow you to seamlessly integrate with any ERP, PLM or B2B environment. 

“They will contain pre-defined process templates to ensure that information flows according to specific business rules, as well as the industry standards required to operate effectively, whether that is embracing ODETTE supply chain standards in automotive or IP protection regulations in high-tech. Industrial clouds will transform how companies archive, integrate, and derive insights from industrial information flowing across their internal and external business ecosystems.”

In 2021, Morley spoke with Manufacturing Digital to discuss ethical purchasing in manufacturing. “Businesses cannot ignore the desire from consumers to be able to purchase goods and services ethically. This requires ensuring sustainability is enforced throughout the entire supply chain - from manufacturing to final delivery - as well as really understanding the specific needs and desires of your customers,” he said. 

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