Over the past several years, all businesses have had to respond to the notion that “if we don’t embrace digital technologies, our company will be left behind.” While this is true, recent surveys have indicated that companies are recognizing the key motivational factors for completing their digital journeys have shifted, mostly a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A journey that was started to gain a competitive advantage or improve speed to market has become more about increasing employee productivity while retaining and recruiting better talent.
Converters and suppliers are seeing the need for connectivity and for becoming more efficient. New, advanced digital technologies have proved to be transformative for the companies that value connectivity. Through this collaboration, both parties can manage and support the performance of machine operations that expose process and operational weaknesses.
Businesses that operate in this connected world are experiencing fewer supply chain obstacles, increasing their chances of meeting customer demands. Remote support digital technologies have shown improved product performance that creates a greater customer experience.
These technologies also can promote innovation that will alleviate the problems we’re facing now and in the future. Applying digital twin technologies, manufacturers can design and engineer equipment within a digital environment that drastically compresses the R&D cycle, which allows manufacturers to quickly develop leaner machinery and a sourcing strategy that can overcome supply chain constraints. Converters, project planners, engineers, and others can collaborate on a working digital machine to innovate anything from a machine feature to a full-line solution with automated and remote support capabilities.
The power of digital twin technology also allows users to better prepare for new assets by maximizing the time between the machine purchase and installation. This is accomplished by using this technology to train operators and maintenance personnel on how to properly use and maintain equipment before they see it.
The enhancement of mobile applications allows training documents, parts manuals, maintenance schedules, and other manufacturer communications to be right in the palm of a converter’s hand. They offer operators and maintenance personnel the ability to scan QR codes on the machine for instructional videos, machine manuals, exploded machine parts views, and diagrams with the ability to order spare parts with a click or a swipe.
Finally, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are digital technologies that can bring a futuristic approach to machine design, remote support, and training. AR headsets enable service technicians to view what your operators or maintenance crews are experiencing for real-time collaboration. Superimposed images can be displayed by the manufacturer that offer faster communication and instructions. In a no-risk environment, VR can be used for collaborative designing and testing and enhanced project planning.
Companies need to continue to understand digital connectivity resources. Organizational leaders who realize the agility, adaptability, and resiliency offered with integration will seek out partners capable of augmenting their capabilities.
Tim Connell is director of sales at A.G. Stacker and is vice Chair of AICC’s Associate board.