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Digital Transformation in Industrial Manufacturing with AM IN & POST Covid-19 Crisis

By, Abhishek

The manufacturing sector is a major part of the economy as it accounts for nearly 16% of the global GDP in 2018. As a result, the government across the countries primarily focuses on encouraging the manufacturing sector. Certain initiatives in emerging economies to promote the manufacturing sector include Make in India are taken. The initiative seeks to move up the manufacturing value chain by utilizing innovative manufacturing technologies or digital manufacturing.

The study on the impact of COVID-19 on the global manufacturing industry is classified into automobile, food & beverage, chemical, machinery, electrical and electronics, metal, aviation, pharmaceutical, and medical equipment, and others. The electronics industry is being significantly affected due to the COVID-19 epidemic, as China accounts for nearly 85% of the total value of components utilized in smartphones and nearly 75% in the case of televisions. All critical components, such as printed circuit boards, mobile displays, LED chips, memory, open cell TV panels, and capacitors are imported from China. Most of the Chinese factories were shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, in January 2020, Chinese vendors have increased component prices by nearly 2-3% owing to a shortage of supplies due to factory shutdown. Therefore, it has negatively affected the electronics manufacturing sector across the globe.

In Europe, most of the automobile companies and electronics manufacturers have temporarily closed their factories or minimize the production output, which results in loss to the global trade. For instance, Daimler and Volkswagen declared recently that they will temporarily shut down the production of vehicles and engines at its factories in Europe due to the coronavirus outbreak. The initiative is aimed at the safety of their workers. The closure of factories by major automobile manufacturers resulting in a loss in automobile production, which in turn, is affecting the automobile sector in Europe.

The companies getting affected by the coronavirus outbreak include Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., Ford Motors Co., Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., BASF SE, and the Boeing Co. Some of these companies are shifting their production facility to the countries with less COVID-19 epidemic. For instance, in March 2020, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. declared to shift some portion of its domestic production of smartphones to Vietnam coupled with the fastest growth in the spread of coronavirus in South Korea. This aims to minimize the potential effect of coronavirus on its smartphone manufacturing operations.

This pandemic effect is driving a major transformation in manufacturing industries across the globe. This gives birth to adoption and significant use of digital manufacturing technologies such as Additive Manufacturing.

As we are preparing the industrial sector for Industry 4.0 with the digital industrial revolution including Artificial intelligence, Industrial IoT, Big data & analytics, robotics, and Additive manufacturing. Making industrial manufacturing smarter by adopting these technologies for digital transformation.

The current crisis demands smarter, efficient, and fast ways to produce parts significantly in compliance with industrial standards. Transforming manufacturing sector needs rapid innovation in term of product development cycles to iterate and validate designs faster, shorter lead time to market by producing things faster without dependency on traditional manufacturing processes including longer design cycles for product development, production planning, and execution including designing molds, mold making, tooling's, fixtures, CAM.

Less inventory in term to save huge on space and physical inventory with the adoption of on-demand manufacturing and digital inventory. Distributing manufacturing across several locations can play a vital role in more efficient supply chains which benefits in terms of logistics from global to the last mile, manufacturing from offshore to local.

Additive Manufacturing for Digital Manufacturing Transformation

  • Rapid Innovation & Faster Product Development Cycles

  • Production enablers: Conformal cooling molds, jigs, fixtures, end of arm tooling and many more

  • Shorter time to market

  • Batch Manufacturing with predictable demand planning

  • Security to legacy parts

  • Digital Inventory & On-Demand Manufacturing

  • A more efficient supply chain with local manufacturing

  • Reduced Carbon Footprint

Additive manufacturing can play a very important role in manufacturing transformation with digital manufacturing starting from faster product design & development within a few days to actually prototype those designs and to validate it. Once it is validated we can directly go for batch manufacturing with multi-jet fusion and other production series 3D printing technologies with predictable demand planning and market acceptance of product with more customized and better efficiency products. AM can add values in terms of current production lines with making jigs & fixtures, end of arm tooling, grippers, forming tools, custom work holdings. Mold making with conformal cooling with AM can significantly add benefits for shorter cycle times and less warpage with increased shot life. Quality control and inspection can be made faster with an inspection fixture using CMM efficiently with shorter inspection tool setup time.

Additive manufacturing has it's own benefits as it is tool-less manufacturing, all other standard manufacturing processes like tool fabrication, CAM, mold making are obsolete. AM is easy to go solution from CAD to final part production. AM bridge the gap between your conceptual ideas and final product to market. The traditional manufacturing demands high initial investments for the setup of shop floors with production lines, assembly lines. When it comes to AM you can directly go from you CAD to batch manufacturing final parts within very less time. Several startups end on investing high in mass manufacturing with traditional manufacturing without provision to update design because of already setup production strategy and higher mold costs. Startups can choose AM with predictable demand planning and producing parts in batches, which will help to have market feedback and provision for design changes based on feedback, this will boost the startup economy. Decentralizing manufacturing with AM increases the efficiency of the supply chain and reducing dependency on offshore imports and manufacturing.

With the help of design for additive manufacturing, we can get feasibility over traditional manufacturing constraints and can improve product design with generative designs & topology optimization. This results in improving the functional efficiency of parts with material saving and simplifies and consolidated complex assemblies. This helps hugely to reduce carbon footprint.

Process capability and machine learning are making AM machines more smarter and reliable with consistent repeatability and accuracy. With the ability of a process to produce output within customer's specification limits.

Thus Adopting Additive Manufacturing inhouse will drive the digital transformation in manufacturing with rapid innovation, quick product design & development cycles, faster production cycles, decentralized manufacturing, reducing breakdown times & vendor dependency, boosting the startup economy with predictable demand planning saving in huge initial investment, digital inventory, improved supply chain efficiency & higher capital efficiency. This helps the manufacturing sector with increased productivity with quality products, driving digital transformation in industries, and making it Industry 4.0 compliance.


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