Manufacturers need to look to a new era that focuses on enhancing process through digitization, as China moves up through the value chain. This was the key message from Dassault Systèmes’ Manufacturing in the Age of Experience conference in Shanghai, which opened Tuesday. Attended by more than 1,700 manufacturing professionals, the conference included insight from a keynote speaker at Chinese giant Huawei, case studies of manufacturers innovating their processes, a live demonstration of the latest in 3D and VR technology, and analysis of China’s shifting manufacturing industry.
Key takeaways from the conference included the benefits of digital continuity, the need to use real-time data and the challenges of shifting to automated processes. Speakers told the audience how their workforce had become more efficient after introducing digital processes, and that the use of new virtual technology had allowed greater levels of creativity.
“If we do every piece of innovation in the physical world, the cost will be very high; but in the digital world we can try every different combination to find the result we want,” said Lebing Xia, Vice President and CIO at Fuyao Group. “This change has allowed us to experiment, and improve our innovation and creativity. It also allows us to detect at a very early stage any potential problems in the design or manufacturing process.”
In China, manufacturers are looking to move from mass manufacturing to a new era of digitally informed production. McKinsey & Co Partner Tony Tan outlined the opportunities facing manufacturing companies, particularly with regards to Made in China 2025; a national plan to move China’s manufacturing industry up the value chain through use of technology like cloud computing, Big Data, and the Internet of Things. However, Tan warned that research by his firm had found that less than 6% of companies they surveyed had a clear roadmap of how they were going to introduce digital processes, although 76% saw it as an opportunity to improve competitiveness.
Delegates in Shanghai were able to experience the latest in this new technology at Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE Playground, which showcased new virtual technologies and allowed delegates to try the cutting-edge technology for themselves. Four executives from Dassault Systèmes joined together on the stage to give a live demonstration of the company’s latest 3D and virtual simulation applications on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, including the ability to gather and interpret real-time data, digitally reassign staff, and program virtually.
Several companies outlined lessons learned in transforming traditional companies into modern manufacturing companies. Delegates heard the story of global steel producer HBIS Group Tangsteel Company, which has been focused on the digitalization of their company over the last three years, and was the only steel producer recognized by the Chinese government for their smart manufacturing system.
“Digitization really boosted the performance of the company - now we can better schedule the inbound flow, the delivery of the products, and the workflow,” said Zhenrui Zhao, Director of Information and Automation at the group. “We can instantly take into consideration changes to the market price, the on-time and down-time of the machines, and even tell customers exactly which production line is making their product.”
Chunming Liu, from the 10,000-strong train producer CRRC Tangshan Company, outlined how his company in a traditional industry relying heavily on human labor had been shifting to a higher level of automation, using a Manufacturing Operations Management system, digitizing all paperwork and integrating new systems across product, assembly and examination lines.
“We have to embrace new thinking and new methodology, rather than dwelling on the previous thinking as a state-owned enterprise,” Liu told the conference. “Rather than selling products only, we need to sell products and services together.”
Although every company is on a different stage towards their digital journey in China, the Manufacturing in the Age of Experience conference in Shanghai was packed with delegates from companies of all sizes, keen to see the potential benefits for their companies of new virtual and 3D systems.
“Consumers today don’t want to buy products - they want to have experiences,” concluded Guillaume Vendroux, CEO, DELMIA, Dassault Systèmes. “So we have to reinvent the way we construct the supply network around the product. We need to be able to instantaneously adapt the supply chain to the consumer’s demand. We have to go to the next generation, use 3D solutions to explore reality based on real-time data. This is the path to excellence and we should not wait.”