In addition to 3D designs being used to represent mechanical things, the digital parts of a product are increasing in scope and value to the physical parts. Specifically, manufacturers are embedding more software into their physical products, and creating integrated hardware and software systems. Value from embedded software is created for the user (for a more interesting experience), the manufacturers (which enables greater differentiation), and for the service technician (to help simplify service).
Rethinking planning and strategy
What does all of this mean? As market and technological forces upend many time-honored assumptions about manufacturing, strategic transformation has become a necessity, particularly as it relates to product development. According to the findings of a ground-breaking study by Oxford Economics (June, 2013), more than two-thirds of manufacturing firms are expected to undergo a significant business process transformation over the next three years, with 43 percent rating strategy and planning for products as a top factor for driving business success -- rating this more important than operational execution. In fact, more than half (52 percent) of survey respondents report that they have wrung out almost all savings in their manufacturing operations.
What are manufacturers doing to take advantage of these opportunities?
Among the steps being taken is heightened coordination of strategy and planning between engineering and service functions, which will rise from 54 percent today to 73 percent in three years, according to the survey. Manufacturers are viewing service as a value proposition and revenue generator.
According to the Oxford Economics report, Rolls Royce no longer just sells airplane engines to its customers. It has a service-based offering called TotalCare that sells only the hours that each engine is in service. From scheduled maintenance to overall management, Rolls Royce guarantees an engine’s performance by taking responsibility for its operations. TotalCare transfers the risks and costs associated with an engine being offline to the vendor, thereby making reliability and uptime major incentives for both the customer and Rolls Royce.
Another step being taken is to leverage geographically distributed product design teams to almost double global product development in the next three years. Additionally, during the same time period, balancing resources and schedules with global portfolio management is expected to rise by 50 percent and a shift toward global product platforms, in which a customizable product family sits on top of a general platform, will rise by 49 percent.
None of this would be feasible without digitization. It is the technology pillar that supports these strategic initiatives. When CAD data can be shared and used across the entire design and manufacturing organization, companies like College Park Industries are able to harness the force for competitive advantage.
College Park makes prosthetics and uses CAD models to simulate how a prosthetic will fit with each individual customer. The digitization of the data enables them to review 3D simulations in order to evaluate performance enhancements -- the kind that’s changing people’s lives.