Creating a Customer-Responsive Manufacturing Industry

Nov. 2, 2017
How innovative new technologies and business processes can help deliver products with greater levels of customization and personalization.

Stéphane Declée is chief executive officer of the ENOVIA brand at Dassault Systèmes. ENOVIA provides solutions that allow global teams to collaborate sustainably in a social context. Integrated with design, engineering, and analysis solutions from Dassault Systèmes, ENOVIA's business solutions allow users to deploy and enforce business processes, workflows, and deliverables throughout the enterprise.

On the eve of Manufacturing in the Age of Experience, IndustryWeek spoke with Stéphane about creativity in manufacturing—and how innovative new technologies and business processes can help deliver products with greater levels of customization and personalization.

Question 1. Creativity and manufacturing aren’t necessarily two words that go together. Can you provide some examples of how manufacturing can be creative?

Stéphane Declée: Creativity is usually more closely associated with design than with manufacturing. But currently we have a number of innovative technologies that are transforming manufacturing. One is digitalization from design to production. Another is 3D printing, which is impacting both design and manufacturing. IoT, artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, and augmented reality/virtual reality for factory workers are still others. Collectively, they are impacting two things: the way companies are working internally, i.e., within their own organizations, and the way they interact within their external ecosystems and value chains, including, of course, the means of production.

To take just one of these technologies—digitalization from design to production—it is helping to create new possibilities from ideation to design, engineering, and manufacturing. What, at Dassault Systèmes, we call the 3DExperience Twin—a comprehensive three-dimensional virtual representation of a plant in operation—allows all those involved in product design and production to share the same view and perspective on the product. This platform is helping customers to transform the way they are designing products and optimize at the same time their production system. The first customer to have adopted this on a large scale is Toyota, the largest car producer in the world, which is using this digital technology to virtualize, simulate, and optimize all their shop-floor activities.

Question 2. Better yet, can you discuss some specific examples of innovation that you’ve seen out there in industry, particularly around things like mass customization (at the cost of mass production) and new business models?

SD: The old times of Henry Ford, with a single car configuration for all customers, is in the distant past now. Today, we speak about highly configured products, and even personalized products, i.e., those that accommodate specific physical or biological conditions of individuals, especially in the consumer market. Clearly, the needs of consumers have evolved.

Stéphane Declée

Nevertheless, at this point there are relatively few manufacturers that have been able to achieve this level of customization or personalization at a large scale. One company that has begun to achieve this using our solutions is Joby Aviation, which is defining new business models for personalized transportation and is developing really innovative products. They are using our platform in the cloud, which provides this small company's engineers with access to the same capabilities and experience, built into our products, which we developed from working with very large aerospace companies over the past 20+ years. They are using our solutions to produce 100% digital shop-floor instructions to build prototypes of their products.

What is interesting is when you connect this to 3D printing. Joby wanted to take advantage of additive manufacturing technologies to produce organic-shaped parts. They had the option of buying the 3D printing equipment to build those parts, which would have been quite expensive. Instead they decided to outsource this activity and find partners that would be able to produce those parts for them. They realized that finding the people with the right skills and capabilities for the different types of parts they wanted to produce, and the level of quality they required, would be pretty difficult. So they became part of the beta test of our new 3D printing service, which enabled them to reach the largest ecosystem of 3D printers covering the full typology of parts and materials that they required.

This is a good example of a company totally transforming the way they are building, manufacturing, and prototyping their products. It is not on a large scale yet. But the business model is completely different from what has been done in the past.

Question 3. There has been a lot of discussion up until now about mass customization at the cost of mass production. Why has industry been slow to fully realize this?

SD: For a long time, the two concepts were antagonistic. But there are now several trends afoot that I believe are going to enable these two objectives to be achieved, even on a large scale. Number one is that today there is a much higher demand for personalization—even for consumer products like shoes, etc.—which is becoming a key element of differentiation for customers. The other part is technology enabling manufacturers to manage very complex product configurations, initially from the engineering side in automotive, high-tech, and other sectors. Now, the same technologies are replicable for virtual representation—the virtual model of the production system. So you can now start to optimize your production system in the context of all those different variations of product, which was not possible before.

So why did it take so much time? Two reasons: number one is that, for most companies, achieving both goals requires a big transformation that needs to happen upstream, starting with engineering and the way that the production system is designed and built. The second difficulty relates to the changes that are required to the running of the production system. So, for most current or existing customers, this transformation will take time.

SCANIA is an interesting customer in this respect because, to my knowledge, they are one of the only companies—if not the only one—in the field of transportation that has developed its business based on the concept of highly configured and customized products that they can deliver in a record time. Their time from order to delivery is around eight weeks only, with almost infinite possibility in terms of configuration. They are then able to sell their trucks in a highly competitive market at a premium price compared to the competition and at a cost that is essentially the same as that to produce standard trucks. This is a good example illustrating what is possible if you apply the right architecture for the products (modularization), together with advanced configuration capabilities, coupled in a very strong, tight way, with engineering and manufacturing.

Question 4. How can executives and leaders become more creative in their own approach in order to fully leverage the potential of manufacturing?

SD: I think the first thing is they really have to understand the business impact that these transformations can bring—in the context of their own organizational business model. Today, when a product is delivered, it is actually the result of a combination of the contributions of multiple parties, an extended value chain that is involved from design to delivery.

Increasingly, there is an understanding that by coupling the ideal, efficient, and flexible factory or plant production system with a fully digitized product and production system, we can for example improve operations by reducing production costs (up to 30%) and reducing accidents (by over 25%). So we are starting to see actual, verifiable numbers today that can really measure and crystallize business value. The second thing has to do with doing things differently—not just more efficiently. When you think about 3D printing, it's not another way to do the same thing; it's a different way to do something altogether. And it is opening new opportunities for the design and manufacturing of parts that were not possible before.

Finally, there are the digital streams inside the company that connect the entire value chain with this transformation. In the case of Boeing, this is one of the key drivers of the transformation that the company is willing to undertake based on our platform—to bring flexibility and agility from engineering to production internally. They also want to completely transform the way they interact, to enable doing so in a much more dynamic and flexible way, with the entire value chain.

Question 5. Are you optimistic about the future of manufacturing? Why or why not?

SD: Yes—for several reasons. Number one is the opportunity to take the return of value of this global economic transformation toward this "experience" economy. Almost all companies worldwide will have to rethink the way they are not only designing, but producing, what they do. So there will be a massive need for transformation on the manufacturing side. Actually, we can see it already in businesses today. In the past, in many cases, people were thinking about engineering and manufacturing in two different steps or in two different streams. In most of the new deals that we are doing—SCANIA, Boeing, among others—the two are considered together. Clearly, there is very practical and tangible evidence that this transformation is happening now.

The second reason is that we have a key role to play in this transformation, and we are optimistic because, together, this is possible. What we want to be—and I think what we are already with many organizations—is a trusted advisor for them: to guide them, to work with them toward this transformation. When you see the investment that we have made in recent years, including the recent acquisitions of Apriso, Quintiq, or Ortems, we have all the pieces in place to build this dynamic, flexible, integrated system with the value chain for our customers.

The cloud is going to play a big role in accelerating this transformation because, until now, most of those technologies were the privilege of large organizations, large companies that could afford to acquire and deploy such technologies. The cloud is bringing to many companies access to technologies they were never before able to afford. And most of these companies are starting without a legacy, so they can evolve quickly because they are moving straight to the endpoint.

When you see manufacturing companies without the means of production connecting with the best people in the world, and leveraging new technology to enable their operations, they will be able to go to scale much faster than if they had to progress through the traditional business model. This will impact even the high end part of the market because this will force them to accelerate the transition. The barrier to entry is much lower today than it was 10 years ago. And that's why we are so positive and optimistic because, we think, this movement is unstoppable.

Question 6. What is the significance of selecting China as the site of Dassault Systèmes' "Manufacturing in the Age of Experience" conference? What is going on there and how does it contrast with trends in U.S. manufacturing?

SD: China, for a long time, has been the "manufacturing plant" of the world—at least in a number of sectors. Today they are mostly focused on being what you could call the low-cost manufacturing plant for the world. This is changing. There are now alternatives that can provide similar or lower-cost options than China. China's cost is increasing because China's population, Chinese society, is evolving and it is moving up the value chain. China is in the process of reinventing itself in the context of manufacturing, and that's why I think it makes sense to hold this conference there.

To learn more about the future of manufacturing and to register for Dassault Systèmes' Manufacturing in the Age of Experience conference, please click here.

Sponsored Recommendations

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of IndustryWeek, create an account today!