Digital transformation: evolving manufacturing communication
Andrew Borland, Industrial Engagement Manager at VEC, explains how technologies have revolutionised communication for competitive edge and growth.
Digital engineering technologies are expanding the boundaries for business, enabling manufacturers to make a paradigm shift in their product development and manufacturing processes and enhance their commercial offer.
Those which have embedded advanced technologies into their long-term business strategy have seen production times sped up, risk reduced, efficiency enhanced and operational costs cut.
The potential impact is significant – The Made Smarter Review estimates that digital adoption could lead to a 25% increase in productivity for UK industry - but the benefits are not purely operational. Improved client relations are another key factor to consider.
Advanced modelling, simulation and visualisation have the potential to revolutionise the traditional 2D design approach, creating virtual tools which allow a customer not just to see their product in the making, but to experience and influence the process at multiple stages. This serves to close the gap between both customer and product, and company and client.
Game engine software applied in the engineering environment means sophisticated, highly realistic simulations of a product can be created and viewed by the client from the prototype phase onwards, via a standard PC or across platforms. Informed decisions about design modifications can be made in the virtual environment before any physical model is manufactured. Cost efficiency is an obvious benefit, but it also lends the manufacturer a responsiveness and flexibility that are invaluable in terms of customer service and satisfaction.
This enhanced communication comes irrespective of geographical location. New markets are therefore opened up to companies keen to extend their commercial reach. The lack of motorway miles is another important consideration for those with a commitment to reducing their carbon footprint. The use of a visual medium overcomes language barriers allowing new export dialogues to be opened to drive international export growth.
Focus on these wider factors and digitalisation becomes not simply a means to make operations more efficient, they can give even the smallest business added competitive edge over bigger players.
For more information on manufacturing topics - please take a look at the latest edition of Manufacturing Global.
IMF: Variants Can Still Hurt Manufacturing Recovery
After a year of on-and-off manufacturing in the US, UK, and the eurozone, demand for goods surged early last week. Factories set growth records in April and May, suppliers started to recover, and US crude hit its highest price point since pre-COVID. As vaccination efforts immunise much of the US and UK populations, manufacturers are now able to fully ramp up their supply chains. In fact, GDP growth could approach double-digits by 2022.
Now, the ISM productivity measure has surpassed the 50-point mark that separates industry expansion from contraction. Since U.S. president Biden passed his US$1.9tn stimulus package and the UK purchasing managers index (PMI) increased to 65.6, both sides of the Atlantic are facing a much-welcomed manufacturing recovery.
Lingering Concerns Over COVID
Even as Spain, France, Italy, and Germany race to catch up, and mining companies pushed the FTSE 100 index of list shares to a monthly high of 7,129, some say that UK and US markets still suffer from a lack of confidence in raw material supplies. Yes, the Dow Jones has made up its 19,173-point crash of March 2020, and MSCI’s global stock index is at an all-time high.
Yet manufacturers around the world realise that these wins will be short-lived until pandemic supply chain bottlenecks are solved. If we keep the status quo, consumers will pay the price. In April, inflation in Germany reached 2.4%, and across the EU’s 19 member countries, overall prices have increased at an unusual pace. Some ask: Is this true recovery?
IMF: Current Boom Could Falter
Even as Elon Musk tweeted about chip shortages forcing Tesla to raise its prices, UK mining demand skyrocketed; housing markets lifted; and the pound sterling gained value. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), however, cautioned that manufacturing recovery won’t last long if COVID mutates into forms our vaccinations can’t touch. Kristalina Georgieva, Washington’s IMF director, noted that fewer than 1% of African citizens have been vaccinated: “Worldwide access to vaccines offers the best hope for stopping the coronavirus pandemic, saving lives, and securing a broad-based economic recovery”.
Across the globe, manufacturing companies are keeping a watchful eye on new developments in the spread of COVID. Though US FDA officials don’t think we’ll have to “start at square one” with new vaccines, the March 2021 World Economic Outlook states that “high uncertainty” surrounds the projected 6% global growth. Continued manufacturing success will in large part depend on “the path of the pandemic, the effectiveness of policy support, and the evolution of financial conditions”.
Mathias Cormann, secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) concurred—without global immunisation, the estimated economic boom expected by 2025 could go kaput. “We need to...pursue an all-out effort to reach the entire world population”, Australia’s finance minister added. US$50bn to end COVID across the world, they imply, is a small investment to restart our economies.