Boston-based software provider PTC held its annual conference Liveworx last week in the New England capital. This year was the opportunity to present some real industrial case studies of players who have already implemented some of PTC’s digital solutions. We met with a few of these industrial players who talked about their digital transformation.
Business is competitive and our goal at LiveWorx is to fill you up with big ideas about innovation in the digital world that will help you think about better ways to get work done.
PTC’s CEO Jim Heppelmann kicked off the Bostonian event with these words. And cited a bunch of acronyms as the key innovation drivers of the digital transformation he has been promoting the past few years. AI, AR, IoT and PLM are the keys to the innovation of our digital world and Heppelmann was there to give a clear message: the industrial enterprise should quickly get a move on if they haven’t yet. But some have already started their digital transformation and they were at Liveworx to let people know.
Beneteau and the PLM Strategy
PLM is one of the main drivers of the digital transformation and the backbone of an industry 4.0 strategy. And this did not go unnoticed by Beneteau Group. The French yacht manufacturer recently selected PTC’s PLM (product lifecycle management) solution Windchill to handle its digital thread. For the French group, this new strategy aims to offer digital continuity throughout the entire product lifecycle of a yacht, from design to development and factory production, by providing accurate digital information to the production line. Bertrand Dutilleul Global CIO, Beneteau Group explains:
When we manufacture boats we generally use a lot of papers and the operators at the plant level do not have access to all the information regarding the boat. They don’t have a comprehensive view of the product. With a PLM solution, there is a constant transfer of the information about the boat. The operators at the factory level will have the exact digital data, including all changes and variations the customer might ask for. We want to fill in the gap between the R&D design and conception teams and the manufacturing teams and this is how Windchill helps us.
Mr. Dutilleul expects this new strategy will raise productivity as well as product quality, and shorten time-to-market. Mass customization is also a key element of this digital transformation.
Using this PLM solution only makes sense if each boat we produce is different. Otherwise, once you have designed the boat, you launch the production of 10,000 units and it is done. What is difficult to handle in our industry is that our customers want specific products, with specific options, colors, materials, design. Each yacht we make is different which means the operators need a lot of information to deliver a quality product. With a unique data-source solution, we will be more agile and able to accept orders with short delivery times. It will increase the quality of the product we deliver because the operators will always have up-to-date accurate information and they will make fewer errors.
Volvo and the Augmented Reality Strategy
Augmented reality was another buzzword during the event. AR is a necessary part of evolving towards an intelligent factory. It can improve training as well as processes. This is what appealed to the Volvo Group. The company has started testing AR in one of their French factories to improve their truck engine quality control processes. In one plant, each Volvo engine requires numerous quality checks (40 checks, 200 quality assurance (QA) variants) which have to be completed in a few minutes, and the engines have 4,500 different information variants. The task is quite laborious and is mostly paper-based. For the company, maintaining a constant data flow is crucial for operational efficiency across the value chain. This is why Volvo selected PTC’s Vuforia Suite to improve the quality control of their truck engines, allowing QA workers to access the latest configurations in real time, explains manufacturing Technology manager Geoffrey Blanc:
We saw the potential of Vuforia because it brings us the data continuity we are looking for.
This solution consists of 3D data and QA information virtually overlaid on the real engines. The operator can access the virtual data with a headset such as HoloLens and is therefore able to track any flaws on the engine.
The solution should be deployed by 2020 in 20 Volvo factories. It will be used for quality control but not exclusively. Assembly tasks and training could also benefit from AR, says senior Research and Technology Development Manager Bertrand Felix:
As we know, the trucking market is subject to significant variations. For us, flexibility in the plants means how fast we can implement new shifts in production to follow the market. And a new shift, especially at night, necessitates new people. At Volvo, the training of a new task takes between 5 and 12 weeks to allow the operator to know all the 4,500 variants. Our mission is to move the training times to 2 weeks thanks to the digital thread and AR.
Changing the Way We Work
Will it be easy for industrial enterprises to connect to the digital world and accept changing processes? Beneteau’s Dutilleul has hope:
The new generation accepts that information systems could change the way we work. What is key is to truly involve the people that use the data and do pilots to test the best ways to do things. It is only like this that the processes can change.
For Betrand Félix and Geoffrey Blanc, the best gateway to adopting new solutions such as AR is training.