Overcoming the Fears of Digital Transformation

Overcoming the Fears of Digital Transformation

Sep 20, 2017

By Anthony Bourne, Industrial Equipment News Manufacturers need to think carefully about how they position IoT and other disruptive technologies, and how they communicate the benefits. Digital Transformation (DT) is coming of age. In the recent Digital Change Survey commissioned by IFS, 80 percent saw themselves as “enabled, enhanced or optimized” to leverage DT. Even more impressively, 89 percent said they had “advantageous” or “adequate” funding in place for digital projects—a clear acknowledgment that the time of disruptive technologies is here. But why are businesses investing? Where do they see the big profits? And how successfully are they selling digital change throughout their organizations? Beyond Efficiency The survey found that over a quarter (27 percent) of companies say digital transformation makes them more competitive. Additionally, 29 percent see the main benefit as accelerating innovation and 28 percent feel that growth opportunities in new markets are the primary advantage. Companies using digital transformation to ask far-reaching strategic questions—like “can I use it to get myself a bigger share on the market, or increase my product portfolio?”—are making the most of the long-term, strategic opportunities. They’re sensing how it can transform even seemingly small tactical decisions into key strategic differentiators. But these companies are in the minority. The largest group in the survey, 47 percent, still see the main benefits of DT as “improving internal process efficiencies”, which makes me wonder: do companies really see the full potential? Innovation can make or break a company, and study after study foregrounds it as a C-level priority. So why doesn’t it appear to be a driver for digital transformation? Considering technology investments, this could mean that the majority of funds are invested in making internal processes more effective and thereby failing to enable innovation. Improved internal efficiency as the key reason to explore DT is, in my view, too short sighted. It fails to exploit the strategic benefits and makes it more difficult to win the understanding and commitment of the staff. Overcoming Fear of Change Despite plenty of good news, the survey still reveals that 42 percent of respondents view aversion to change as the main barrier to digital transformation. Companies need to think carefully about how they position...

Automation, Robotics Are Key to Manufacturing PCB…

Automation, Robotics Are Key to Manufacturing PCB…

Sep 15, 2017

“Automation, Robotics Are Key to Manufacturing PCB Assemblies” By Mark Langlois, Design-2-Part Magazine Assembling a printed circuit board requires more than steady hands Robots aren’t just a cheaper assembly method—they’re almost required because some components are the size of ground pepper. Not coarse ground, either. “Today, in the end, automation is essential to manufacturing printed circuit boards,” said Accu-semblyPresident John Hykes, who founded the California firm in 1983 by making motion detectors with hand-held soldering guns in the family garage. He recruited the whole family, who turned out 100 to 200 of the detectors a week to start, and about 1,000 a week within a year. Accu-sembly added automated machines within a few years of the firm’s founding, Hykes said in a telephone interview with D2P. First, the company worked with surface mounted components. It learned and added components with leads. Then came ball grid arrays, which had to be X-ray inspected, and Accu-sembly automated the process. Accu-sembly (accu-sembly.com) operates today in a 30,000-square-foot factory with 100 employees in Duarte, California. The company’s markets include aerospace, industrial, commercial, and automotive businesses. As an electronics manufacturing services provider, Accu-sembly manufactures custom printed circuit board assemblies. In support of this, the firm provides design for manufacturing review, procurement and supply chain management, and testing services. Accu-sembly manufactures printed circuit board assemblies that meet IPC-A-610 and J-STD-001 class 2 and class 3 requirements. It can place the smallest 01005 (0.4mm x 0.2mm) chip components and large high pin count BGA devices. Its manufacturing processes are also suitable for placing tiny micro BGA devices as well. Hykes said in an emailed response that most of its products begin with surface mount device installation using fully automated assembly lines. “This includes solder paste screen printing, robotic P&P (pick and placement), and reflow. Our equipment and processes allow us to place large complex BGA (ball grid array) devices, as well as the tiniest parts and micro BGA devices. Through hole assembly is managed with a combination of wave soldering, selective wave soldering, and manual assembly. Post assembly inspection includes both automated optical inspection and X-ray inspection as necessary. Functional test routines using customer specific equipment is offered, along with flying probe electrical test...

Self-Driving Cars’ Prospects Rise With Vote by House

Self-Driving Cars’ Prospects Rise With Vote by House

Sep 13, 2017

By Cecilia Kang, The New York Times WASHINGTON — Lawmakers in the House took a major step on Wednesday toward advancing the development of driverless cars, approving legislation that would put the vehicles onto public roads more quickly and curb states from slowing their spread. Under the bill, which was approved by a unanimous voice vote, carmakers can add hundreds of thousands of self-driving cars to America’s road in the next few years. States, which now have a patchwork of rules regulating the vehicles, would have to follow the new federal law. The House vote sets the stage for a battle between safety advocates and companies that make the largely unproven technology. Automakers say the vehicles could greatly reduce roadway fatalities and help their businesses, but many safety advocates say they are not ready for wide deployment. The next steps will come in the Senate, which is expected to consider a similar bill soon. Lawmakers who support the legislation said the country’s confusing regulatory environment was hampering the driverless-car industry’s prospects. “Self-driving cars have the potential to save lives especially when the majority of fatalities are caused by human error,” said Representative Debbie Dingell, Democrat of Michigan. “The question is whether we are in the driver’s seat and not to cede it to China or India.” Auto and technology giants, including Ford Motor, General Motors and Waymo, Alphabet’s driverless division, have pushed hard for the new law. They have also pressed regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to clarify safety guidelines covering self-driving technology. Elaine L. Chao, the transportation secretary, is expected to announce revised guidelines for the vehicles next week in Michigan. In recent years, dozens of states have passed laws related to self-driving safety, some of which carmakers view as too heavy-handed. The companies have, for example, fought proposals in California, Michigan and New York that would require driverless cars to be electric-powered and to contain steering wheels and brake pedals. “The reason why Congress is doing this is that there was a growing concern of a vacuum created because N.H.T.S.A. hadn’t acted and the states were acting in N.H.T.S.A.’s place,” said Marc Scribner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning research group in...

Improving Supply Chain Efficiencies Through Digital…

Improving Supply Chain Efficiencies Through Digital…

Aug 28, 2017

“Improving Supply Chain Efficiencies Through Digital Manufacturing” By Robert Bodor, Manufacturing Business Technology The rise of digital manufacturing is helping companies large and small reduce risk, get to market faster, trim costs and be more agile. These improved operational efficiencies through digital manufacturing show how this digitalization is changing the economics of the manufacturing supply chain: One that’s more resilient to market risks, more responsive to opportunities, and more competitive. Fortune 500 giants as well as savvy startups — in industries such as automotive, aerospace, and medtech — are moving in this direction. Some studies show that nearly a third of more than 2,000 industrial companies have digitized their supply chains and nearly three-quarters are on track to do the same over the next several years. And why not? Reported benefits include more growth, greater profitability, and lower costs. Reducing Risk Digital manufacturing companies integrate modern software technology with physical manufacturing—software tells hardware what to do. This automation happens throughout the manufacturing process and is especially key at the front end, during a product’s development phase. This early, conceptual stage is where the manufacturing supply chain truly begins. A digital, automated approach allows industrial designers to gain almost immediate design feedback and costing analysis, which enables rapid prototyping design iteration and a quicker development cycle. When working with a supplier, for instance, designers submit 3D CAD models of their proposed part or parts directly via a website. Web-based software analyzes the CAD model, writes the model’s build code, and then virtually manufactures the part, giving designers nearly instant feedback on the manufacturability and production costs of their designs. Gaining this design and production-cost analysis can have substantial overall cost benefits further down the supply chain, thereby reducing market risks. Manufacturing Accelerated: Faster to Market A second operational efficiency enabled by digital manufacturing is an especially pivotal one: the ability to move more swiftly to market. In most cases, this speed ultimately leads to a faster path to revenue. Design analysis and price quotes can be obtained within hours, which will naturally lead to parts that can be delivered within days. In other words, a reduced design and development cycle means a faster move to production...

Innovation 101 for Manufacturers…

Innovation 101 for Manufacturers…

Aug 22, 2017

“Innovation 101 for Manufacturers: Harnessing the Power of New Business Models, Technologies, and Ecosystems to Bring Value to the Marketplace” By Mark Shortt, Design-2-Part Magazine Going out and seeing what your customers are up against on a daily basis is essential to solving their unmet needs, a pre-requisite for innovation. But manufacturers can also plant the seeds of innovation by establishing a culture that encourages collaboration, play, and experimentation. A new digital age is dawning in manufacturing, steadily making its mark from product design to factory floor operations, and even to finished products that convey data back to the manufacturer. Fueling this transformation are a host of powerful tools—data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and dynamic software algorithms—that quicken product development cycles and expand the functionality of products in areas like new materials, 3D printing, electronics manufacturing, automobile manufacturing, and mobile autonomous robots. Using an approach called generative design, engineers today can solve part design problems with the aid of algorithms that enable them to explore a greater range of solutions, including some that are counter-intuitive to traditional thinking. Algorithms are also employed to make mobile, autonomous robots smarter and more adaptive to changing environments in a manufacturing facility (see “Mobile Autonomous Robots Are Built for the Long Haul”). And digital manufacturing apps are now available for shop floor personnel. “We have a set of digital technologies that are exponentially advancing in terms of price / performance, and that is creating increasing opportunity for manufacturing firms to harness some of that capability and potential to deliver more value to the marketplace,” said John Hagel, co-chairman, Deloitte Center for the Edge, in an interview at the Exponential Manufacturing Summit in Boston in May. “At one level, the potential is exponentially increasing. So far, the actual capability is, at best, linearly increasing. So there’s a widening opportunity gap there.” Generative Design Gives Engineers More Solutions to Explore  For the last three years, Autodesk, Inc. has been incubating a technology that takes a different approach to computer-aided design (CAD). Instead of specifying points and lines in a CAD tool, engineers who are using Autodesk’s generative design tool can rely on artificial intelligence to solve for them. “Traditionally, a designer or an engineer...