5 Steps for Creating a Digital Factory

9 August 2022autodesk, Autodesk Construction Cloud, Digital Transformation, Manufacturing


5 Steps for Creating a Digital Factory

If you’re considering going digital in your manufacturing process, this is how Autodesk describes a digital factory: “a shared virtual model of key factory characteristics—such as geometry, behavior and performance—that displays the convergence of all digital networks in the facility and its operation.”

This digital representation can accumulate data from the structure, systems, assets, and processes and provide insights. With these insights, you can maximize efficiency and productivity of every asset in your factory. From design to build and management, real-time collaboration enables intelligent decision making and better outcomes.

Image: Autodesk

This type of digital transformation is giving manufacturers like you a way to be more resilient through smart manufacturing. Similar to the design-build process of building information modeling (BIM) that is driving the construction industry, smart manufacturing uses data to enable a more productive design-make workflow.

Automation and process management bring new ways to connect factory processes. Digitization enables manufacturers to meld the physical factory with the digital realm.

If you’re interested in creating a digital factory, contact Applied Software today and talk to an industry expert.

Setting up a digital factory is best achieved in steps:

  1. Plan – Begin with logistics and laying out the operation. Break down your workflows step-by-step to determine each station location, equipment placement and the configuration that would maximize productivity. Simulate the movements of people, machines and materials. This helps decide the most efficient space allocation and eliminate bottlenecks. Designers will also integrate suppliers/vendors into the digital coordination of the factory.
  2. Design – After planning, you will have a conceptual framework to design your digital factory. While engineers determine the layout of the physical space, other stakeholders will get involved for their specialty – from electrical and HVAC teams to suppliers and consultants. Each will design their specific area using the same plan.

Digital design allows installation issues or clashes to be seen early in factories, which can have large machinery and many moving parts. The goal is to have fewer build and operation errors.

Factory visualization; image: Autodesk
  1. Confirm – At this stage, stakeholders can review the design and confirm that the layout will work. Using virtual reality can help everyone visualize the factory layout and suggest changes if necessary. Design and intent can be reconciled, indicating clashes and other issues in advance.
  2. Build – Construction of your digital factory can be coordinated using BIM. The BIM process enables multiple stakeholders—architects, engineers, contractors, subs—to collaborate and reduce the chances of budget and schedule overruns. Adding a platform like Autodesk Construction Cloud to the process provides a common data environment and a single source of truth for everyone to work from. The build process can be organized and streamlined through a detailed construction sequence. BIM tools can be used to coordinate logistics. Visualizations will simulate the layout. Workflows and movement throughout the factory space can be tested. Once everything is installed and the stations are connected together, your factory can be powered up.
Smart factory; image: Trend Micro
  1. Operation – When it goes into production, your digital factory begins to generate a feedback loop with insights that other people and programs can take action on. A virtual representation of the digital factory – a twin – can be used for an overview of the entire operation, including the impacts of decisions. With this tool, you can continually optimize your factory throughout its life.

If you are a manufacturer, you know the daily challenges of a factory. From an unpredictable supply chain to production interruptions to variable consumer demand, being able to adapt is a business requirement these days. If you take advantage of smart manufacturing through digital transformation, you gain the resilience you need to face the challenges and rise.

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