BDO & Nokia: Understanding Digital Design in Manufacturing
Typically used in the research and development (R&D) modelling phase, “a digital design is the multi-dimensional graphical representation of a product, user interface (UI) or user experience (UX) in software where it can be virtually tested using industry standard graphical tools for function, usability and visual clarity and attractiveness before going into production,” explains Dave Nowoswiat, Enterprise Marketing Manager at Nokia.
Using such algorithms and modelling to aid in the design, validation and testing of products, Maurice Liddell, Principal and Senior Client Executive, BDO Digital adds that by “applying algorithms and modelling to manufacturing, manufacturers can analyse processes, optimise planning and manufacture components.”
Whilst this concept may seem new, Liddell questions as to whether it really is? “There have been concepts around for many years, starting with the basic CAD capabilities and being able to do 2D drawings, then moving on to the 3D drawings and modelling; transitioning from a wireframe to solid modelling.”
So what Are the Best Use Cases for Manufacturers?
When asked this question, both Liddell and Nowoswiat agree that digital design capabilities can help manufacturers to optimse and reduce overall design times and new product introductions. “In our Oulu factory where 4G and 5G radio base stations are produced, there are new models being delivered to the production floor all the time. Digital designs of new models can be easily validated and tested for manufacturing before the actual units are produced,” says Nowoswiat.
Adding to Nowoswiat’s comments Liddell says: “I started my career in the automotive industry, and if you take a look back then at the overall timeframe from concept to getting the vehicle manufactured, it took about five years. That is because there were a lot of different unconnected manual processes and there was no digital thread of the whole design processes. Whereas now, being able to design a 3D model of a component and conduct some scenario analysis that can be fed back in to make modifications to the design before even committing to building a prototype for testing. This evolution has reduced the timeframe for an element of the cycle that always took a long time. Now we can shorten a lot of that by designing digital concepts, as well as digitally analysing and modelling before going to the first product stage.”
Across the board, many manufacturers in the automotive industry can benefit from digital design capabilities. Liddell emphasises that there are sectors that this concept will be imperative for, for example - Aerospace. “When manufacturing in aerospace there are very low tolerances, so for things like high performance jet engines where precision is required, this capability will be imperative for manufacturing those products and doing so safely. I also see this capability being applied when doing more basic tasks like dentistry to model prosthetic teeth which are created with a 3D printer. I also see it being used to maximise the use of sheet based raw materials to be able to optimse the use and minimise waste.”
Other benefits of digital design for manufacturers include productivity - “digital design provides manufacturers with a ‘blueprint’ to help them reduce the product life cycle time from R&D to prototypes to full production. This allows them to bring a product to market in less time than their competitors,” says Nowoswiat - as well as optimising processes and safety.
“Taking a look at the overall assembly line or a plant layout you can go through the modelling and simulation of operations of that plant and determine the best positions to put your stations whether it's welding or an additive station. Being able to simulate the movements or products from one process to another, as well as being able to design the plant to minimise the crossing of paths between artificial movement and human movement, that's a huge safety element. But then it also provides the ability to take a look at potential product failure, for something that could be in a product that is harmful. I think it's critical to be able to do that type of simulation ahead of time,” adds Liddell.
The Technology Behind Digital Design
“In digital manufacturing, digital twins – which are virtual representations in software of products or processes – are created by using digital design as one of its inputs,” explains Nowoswiat. “This is critical to manufacturers, as digital twins allow proposed changes in the product or process to be tested and optimised before they are implemented. Digital twinning is not a singular event, but an on-going process to collect more data from multiple sources to further improve the virtual model. This results in continuous improvement in both quality and productivity.”
As this concept evolves, Nowoswiat is seeing technology such as private 4G/5G metoworking, cloud computing, AR/VR, and machine learning being implemented as manufacturers digitalise their operations on the journey to Industry 4.0. “In particular, industrial grade private wireless solutions are being implemented which offer manufacturers the flexibility to change the layout of the machinery and boost productivity. The local edge provides computing power for advanced data analytics and machine learning,” he adds.
Other innovations that Liddell is seeing when it comes to digital design include the end-to-end digital thread and simulations. “So this digital thread, being able to go through the concept to design, to modelling, to manufacturing, and then into sales and customer feedback, this information from this can be fed back in and be immediately usable in the digital design of a particular component. So I call this the full feedback loop into the design, and that complete life cycle is something that's fairly new.
“But one of the other things that we're seeing a lot of focus on is centred around simulation and being able to bring that right into the design cycle. So being able to design a component, and run simulations to see how it will operate in the real world helps to identify any flaws or shortcomings that can then be readdressed in the design before you've ever manufactured a component. We're seeing this simulation being used across sustainability. Manufacturers are one of the biggest producers of carbon, but being able to simulate and model the carbon generation and not just the process, but the components too, and then being able to feed that back into an organisation’s ESG programme to measure against that, I think is something that will be amazing to see evolve,” says Liddell.
Best Practices for Adopting Digital Design Capabilities
As manufacturers digitally transform their organisations, Nowoswiat expects there to be challenges in implementing these changes and potential resistance. “Therefore, it’s important to ensure that everyone from management to the workforce understands the reason for the changes, so that the full benefits of digital design and digital manufacturing can be realised,” he says.
Adding to Nowoswiat’s comments Liddell adds: “The one thing is ‘don’t try to boil the ocean’. It’s still always start small, but think big. Be able to have the end goal in mind, but initially focus on trying to optimise a particular line or quality issue. A lot of the time organisations try to tackle too much at once, and they get caught up. Change management is also important. It can be perceived as a large expense without having return on investment to build a business case. So starting small, and utilising pilots helps to advance the vision."