4 Must-Have Tools to Digitally Transform Your Manufacturing Business in 2023

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In our recent article on “The 5 Biggest Trends in Manufacturing for 2023,” we outlined the fundamental shifts occurring in the digital manufacturing industry and discussed short- and long-term trends. 

As a reminder, these five trends were:

A Struggling Economy: Recession or no recession, economic activity will slow in H1 2023. High inflation will increase the costs of raw materials, energy, transportation, and wages. Ongoing supply chain insecurity will result in a significant reduction in GDP.

The War for Talent: The Great Resignation continues, and competition for workers remains fierce. 1 in 5 workers is considering switching employers within the next year, according to a PwC report.

An Aging Workforce: 25% of the manufacturing sector’s employees are 55 or older. The Boomers are retiring, and the younger generation is not attracted to manufacturing.

Increasing Customer Expectations: B2B buyers are demanding engaging, personalized, flexible, and convenient customer experience–the type they get from B2C.

The Rise of PaaS: Product-as-a-service is poised to shine as it sells a product’s services and outcomes rather than the product itself, enabled by IoT, AI, and predictive analytics.

While the rise of PaaS may be a cause for celebration for those with IoT capabilities, other trends in the manufacturing industry represent challenges that require solutions. This article will explore those solutions.

We’ll pinpoint the four must-have digital tools to make a part of your digital transformation initiative for your manufacturing business. With these digital tools, you can weather the storm and emerge with a digital foundation to thrive when the economic climate inevitably improves.

The following are the tools we will discuss. Consider these four tools as integral components of an effective digital transformation strategy rather than isolated solutions. 

  1. Simulation: The use of computer models and algorithms to predict product behavior.
  2. CPQ: An immersive buyer experience that triggers automated engineer-to-order workflows.
  3. CAD Automation: The ability to auto-generate rather than manually create time-consuming design files.
  4. Data Management: An effective way to store, share, and manage your data–the thread that ties all your digital transformation initiatives together.

Essential Tools to Digitally Transformation Your Manufacturing Business

1. Simulation

Simulation software technology uses computer models and algorithms to analyze products and production systems. It provides the greatest value at the product conception stage when making design improvements and rectifying mistakes are considerably less expensive.

With simulation, manufacturers can predict how products behave under various stresses and conditions. It’s less time-consuming and resource intensive than physical testing and reduces the need for physical prototypes. 

Why Is Simulation a Must-Have in 2023?

  • Better Products: When competition is fierce, at home and abroad, simulation can help you design better products with less expense and launch them faster than ever.
  • Less Risk: Simulation lets you test products more thoroughly under a broader range of conditions than you could in the real world. Products are, therefore, less likely to fail and cause reputational damage, which spreads rapidly online.
  • Agility: Rapid testing increases your agility and responsiveness to shifting customer demand and changes in the business landscape.
  • Efficiency: Simulation of assembly lines, factory layouts, and equipment behavior helps optimize production, increasing throughput and operational efficiency while reducing waste.

2. CPQ (Configure, Price, and Quote)

Manufacturers that sell complex, configurable products know how slow, boring, and error-prone the configure, price, and quote (CPQ) process is for customers and how manual tasks put a strain on sales reps. They should also be aware that CPQ provides the solution, making the buyer’s journey fast, engaging, and accurate while reducing the burden on sales teams. It’s a win-win!

With a robust CPQ solution like Tacton, users configure products with a 3D visual product configurator. They use a web-based interface to visualize products before they’re manufactured, selecting features and options and seeing the results of those changes on-screen.

On the back end, CPQ calculates prices and generates real-time quotes. It can also create design and manufacturing files and route them to the appropriate people, places, and machines, dramatically reducing lead times. 

With the right CPQ software, manufacturers can automate the entire engineer-to-order process. CPQ captures data on the front end, validates its accuracy, generates the necessary drawings and files, and sends all the information to a fully autonomous production facility.

Why Is CPQ a Must-Have in 2023?

  • Personalization: Today’s customers want to configure products to their exact requirements and will pay more for the privilege. With CPQ, manufacturers can let customers “Have it your way,” increasing satisfaction, loyalty, and deal sizes.
  • Differentiation: Visual product configuration creates an immersive B2C-like buying experience that surpasses your competitors and helps you grow market share.
  • Self-Serve: CPQ automation reduces the requirement for skilled labor. Configuring, pricing, and quoting products is straightforward and can often be done by customers through self-serve.

3. CAD Automation

In many manufacturing businesses, the bulk of an engineer’s day is taken up by creating CAD files, many of which go unused. Of course, this transactional work is a terrible use of valuable engineering time that would be better spent innovating. It’s also no fun for engineers.

By automating CAD, your engineering team can eliminate the need for manual drafting and design, resulting in a significant productivity boost. A streamlined manufacturing process reduces errors and accelerates production times, improving customer satisfaction. 

Furthermore, CAD automation implements common protocols and standards that ensure designs are consistent and compliant while facilitating effective communication and collaboration among engineers (that’s a lot of “Cs”!)

Why Is CAD Automation a Must-Have in 2023?

  • Attract Talent: The war for talent means manufacturers have to prioritize employee satisfaction and engagement. CAD automation frees engineers from their jobs’ most tedious, repetitive parts, improving engagement and retention. Digital transformation helps attract digital-native engineers, who are particularly hard to come by.
  • Responsiveness: CAD automation makes manufacturers more agile and responsive to rapidly changing customer preferences.
  • Integration and Automation: Integrating CAD with CPQ and other core systems facilitates end-to-end automation. 

4. Data Management

Data management is the foundation of digital transformation. It’s the thread that connects your people, processes, and systems. Without adequate data management, departments soon become siloed, inefficient, and vulnerable to security breaches. 

“Data management” sounds a bit fuzzy. It’s something we can all agree is a good idea, but nobody can quite pin it down. Fortunately, companies like Autodesk have spent decades thinking about data management and creating solutions like Vault PLM that make data management attainable for any manufacturing business.

Vault PLM makes organizing, storing, maintaining, and protecting drawings, documents, and other files easy. Features and benefits include:

Single Source of Truth: Vault serves as your centralized data repository, ensuring everyone (depending on their user privileges) has access to the most up-to-date information. This centralization improves collaboration and reuse.

Version Control: With PDM software, multiple users can work on the same files simultaneously with no conflicts. All changes are tracked and added to a revision history, enabling users to roll back to any previous version at any time.

Change Management: Engineering teams can create automated workflows for submitting, tracking, and approving engineering change requests (ECR) and engineering change orders (ECO).

Why Is Data Management a Must-Have in 2023?

    • Industry 4.0: Effective data management is required to implement any Industry 4.0 technology. 
    • Efficiency: Engineers and designers spend a stupid amount of time searching for files, working on outdated data, or recreating drawings they know exist but can’t find. To boost operational efficiency, you need a single source of truth.
    • Big Data: Manufacturers often have ample data to aid decision-making. Only this data is not conveniently located or presented in a usable format. With data management software, manufacturers can improve the quality of their data by eliminating corrupt, incomplete, and duplicated files and classifying relevant information. Once structured correctly, management can extract valuable insights, identify trends, detect patterns, and better understand their manufacturing operations.
    • Security: Manufacturers can set access controls and permissions, encrypt files, identify suspicious activity, and backup data securely to protect themselves from the risk of cyber-attack or data breaches.

The Next Step? Talk to KETIV

At KETIV, our mission is to revitalize American manufacturing. How? Through digital transformation initiatives that boost profitability, increase flexibility, and foster connections. If you’re interested in learning more about how simulation, CPQ, CAD automation, and data management can be implemented in your organization, our team of manufacturing consulting experts is ready to provide valuable advice and support on your digital transformation journey. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us today.

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