We know digital engineering is going to change everything for manufacturing – but how exactly? And what do businesses need to do now to make sure they’re best-placed to take advantage?
Manufacturing 2075 is an ambitious project aimed at motivating manufacturers globally to act now and ready themselves for the long-term, to develop and secure their operations in the changing context, as well as using digital engineering to help address some of the grand challenges faced by the world (such as sustainability, energy production and food security). As technology leaders at Cranfield University, we’re in a position to rally ideas and insights and help equip the sector for the future.
The Manufacturing 2075 event on December 5th will bring together industry leaders alongside representatives from Government to explore the key issues to be faced. This will include the roles and limitations of Artificial Intelligence, how businesses can best exploit the data-rich environment we find ourselves in for improving manufacturing processes and securing new markets. There will also be a session on changing consumption patterns and the need for new products – the implications for industry of the different lives we will lead, the ways in which the very nature of being ‘human’ will be different.
Fresh thinking, uninhibited by industry conventions, is an essential part of Manufacturing 2075, and this is stimulated by involving groups of local sixth-form students. They will be in their mid-70s in 2075, many of them grandparents. A workshop will focus on how their lives will have changed, their community and wider society, what their needs will be as consumers and what this means for manufacturing.
Digital engineering will also bring unfamiliar problems. For example, the impact on resourcing, work environments and relationships between employees and technology; and overarching it all, the prospect of more widespread and complex cyber attacks from increasingly sophisticated opponents. Both areas will be covered by industry experts.
There are pressing issues that make it vital to be addressing the digital engineering challenges now. The nature of digital manufacturing means more of a level playing field for businesses globally, meaning more competition and more varied competition for the UK and an acute need for organisations to find and establish their USPs. IT skills shortages – both generally for programming software and data analysis and in specific areas of cyber-security – will undermine the sector’s digital development.
The future of manufacturing will be based around collaborations, meaning it’s crucial that whole supply chains and not just the biggest industry players are adapted to the digital context. Getting manufacturing SMEs on board will require leadership, the right skills and perhaps most of all, investment. Where is that going to come from? It’s perhaps not the gulf that it looks. The model is already there from past leaps in technology, the shift from paper materials to CAD/CAM for example. What’s needed is for OEMs to take charge of their supply chains, provide the initial lead and energy, setting an example that can draw Government recognition and support.
Professor Raj Roy, Director of Manufacturing, Cranfield University