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What Is Digital Manufacturing & Why Does It Matter?

What Is Digital Manufacturing?

Digital manufacturing is an integrated approach to manufacturing in which computer systems are used in all aspects of manufacturing services, supply chains, and processes, from design to production.

This boom in manufacturing advancement is also referred to as Industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Let’s explore the current trends in digital manufacturing to see how this technology is shaping the future of manufacturing.

Rise of Digital Manufacturing

With the advent of private 5G and IoT, more manufacturing companies are embracing new technologies to enhance their performance, improve staff safety, and make better business decisions.

In the past, data lived in silos across the enterprise leaving valuable information on the table. For example, before IoT sensors manufacturers couldn’t monitor older analog machines or consolidate different data streams into a single monitoring platform.

As cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and private cellular communications became more accessible, manufacturers were able to harness this technology to improve their manufacturing process. Today we see IoT sensors deployed at scale across manufacturing plants, fully orchestrated from a single console and controlled through private 5G networks.

We also see more manufacturers relying on 5G-powered autonomous robotics and system automation to help improve efficiency and create safer working environments. 

Benefits and Challenges of Digital Manufacturing

Digital manufacturing can be complex to implement but is well worth the investment in the long run. Let’s touch on some of the key benefits and challenges manufacturers face in digitizing their processes.

Digital Manufacturing Benefits

  • Reduced costs. Improved visibility and automation help reduce downtime, unnecessary risk, and inefficiencies within your manufacturing process.

  • Improved operational efficiencies. Leveraging automated processes can streamline product workflow allowing businesses to improve their time to market and reduce outages.

  • Eliminate data silos. Unified data collection, processing, and transformation provide companies with unique insights into their business processes allowing them to innovate and pivot in ways otherwise not possible.

  • Improve staff satisfaction and safety. Technology such as predictive monitoring can help improve the troubleshooting process and eliminate dangerous tasks, allowing employees to work more safely and efficiently. 

Digital Manufacturing Challenges

  • Dealing with stakeholder pushback. Stakeholders and even employees can resist change when a new technology or solution is proposed. Digital manufacturing is a large endeavor often requiring stakeholder cooperation.
  • Privacy and cybersecurity management. Digital manufacturing requires a robust security policy to help keep data safe while ensuring all regulatory standards are being met.
  • Closing the skill gap. New technology often comes with a skill gap that can take time to close.

Three Dimensions of Digital Manufacturing

To best understand how digital manufacturing works, we can break down its three dimensions. These dimensions work together to support the smart manufacturing process and help manufacturers understand the importance of collaboration between each group.

Smart Factory

The smart factory dimension focuses on connecting hardware, resources, staff, and systems together in a way that allows for real-time data collection. During this stage, manufacturers often use developer APIs and IoT sensors to share and collect data that can be processed into actionable insights.

Manufacturers also use private 5G to connect all of their IoT sensors to edge servers automation platforms. Privately owned 5G networks give manufacturers full control over their cellular data and privacy while also making it much easier to integrate into their internal applications.

Once established, this data collection happens automatically and lays the groundwork for automated processes and remediation. For example, if a temperature sensor indicates an HVAC unit is failing, it can create a maintenance ticket and automatically turn on the backup until the target temperature is reached.

Digital Thread

The digital thread dimension follows the product through its design, sourcing, production, and life cycle to ensure that the digital form of the product matches the physical product. Engineers, quality control, and management are often closely tied to the digital thread process. The digital thread framework enables collected data to remain available and up to date throughout its creation, revision, and sale.

Value Chain

The goal of the value chain dimension is to optimize the processes you have in place by improving customer satisfaction, producing better products, and streamlining process integration These optimizations also carry over to how data is shared and handled across different departments and systems.

Companies can optimize their value chain by standardizing systems such as ERP, data collection, and device orchestration. By creating repeatable processes with congruent systems across an enterprise, manufacturers can benefit from a highly automated and efficient manufacturing process. 

Future of Digital Manufacturing

Digital manufacturing has taken leaps and bounds in just a few short years, especially with the advent of private 5G. As more enterprises incorporate augmented reality, robotics automation, and IoT into their networks the demand for deterministic wireless will continue to rise.

5G allows digital manufacturers to reliably connect all of their sensors, devices, and staff to a centrally managed console no matter where they are. Unlike other wireless technologies, 5G offers ultra-low latency connections with a wider range of both indoor and outdoor coverage.

The private 5G model gives manufacturers full control over their cellular budget, privacy, and resource allocation. Private 5G enables organizations to design their digital manufacturing network on a highly reliable network infrastructure that they control.

Celona 5G LAN Solution

Celona partners with digital manufacturers to provide private 5G cellular wireless networks as a seamless turnkey 5G LAN solution for their manufacturing processes.

As part of a Celona network, private cellular access points can be quickly deployed throughout an enterprise facility, enforcing service-level objectives to key IoT applications and enabling proactive monitoring of throughput and latency requirements. 

By adopting cloud networking principles, a Celona 5G LAN makes implementing private cellular wireless for IoT architecture and systems an out-of-box experience. With its ability to directly integrate with enterprise network security policies, its onboarding can be done alongside existing wireless and IT infrastructure, without interrupting business operations.

If you’re aiming to improve your digital manufacturing operations, Celona can help. Check out our private cellular wireless network planner to estimate the size of your 5G LAN indoors and outdoors, or test-drive our unique solution.

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