Ian Risk explains why digital engineering is crucial to improving productivity and efficiency, ensuring the industry makes the best use of available space
As the world gradually recovers from the pandemic, the automotive industry has entered a period of unprecedented change. Technological advancements such as artificial intelligence (AI), as well as changing consumer behaviors including increased demand for newer car models, have changed the industry.
In the face of continued supply chain disruptions due to regional COVID lockdowns and global chip shortages, automakers are undoubtedly feeling the economic strain of a rapidly changing world. The need for automakers to embrace Industry 4.0 and digitization is crucial to maximizing profitability and efficiency during this time, while supporting net zero ambitions. By harnessing the power of combined and connected digital engineering technologies, such as AI and factory simulation, automakers can accelerate design and manufacturing; reshape the way they manage their operations, interact with customers and deliver products.
The key to increasing production capacity while reducing costs in factories lies in digital engineering. A poorly designed factory or production line can limit production and slow down processes, while an efficient layout can have a positive impact on overall profitability by facilitating increased flow of labor and material while minimizing the carbon footprint. . However, finding the optimal layout can be extremely complex. Especially when a multitude of factors have to be taken into account, such as manufacturing time, cost, waste and energy consumption as well as the workflow between machines or stations.
A mathematical solution provides the best way to establish a baseline for the plant layout or production line and assess whether it is capable of supporting demand growth. Numerical and model-based engineering allows companies to evaluate alternatives through the creation of a virtual environment that can interact with design solutions.
By harnessing the power of combined and connected digital engineering technologies, such as AI and factory simulation, automakers can accelerate design and manufacturing; reshape the way they run their operations, interact with customers and deliver products
Technological developments in computing power, digital simulation and visualization technologies have advanced significantly in recent years and can help demystify this process. Frameworks can be designed to generate design solutions, optimizing layouts and workflows between a series of rooms or machines on the production line.
Once built, these simulations require minimal input. With a requirements-driven approach to design, facility layout goals and constraints, such as more efficient workflow combined with limited space, can be incorporated to help determine the optimal configuration . Then the user simply provides a list of all the objects needed for automotive production, i.e. machines, workspaces and equipment, with key information about each such as size and length. space required to operate.
The most effective frameworks use a two-step algorithm process to address each aspect, before processing the suggested automotive factory flow through a simulator – potentially thousands of times – until it discovers the best possible outcome. Since remodeling a factory floor is a big undertaking, this means that the manufacturer can explore a virtual replica of the proposed environment to discover benefits or problems before any decisions are made and make final adjustments to ensure a smooth flow throughout the operating line, from raw material to finished product.
Digital technology could also play a key role in helping governments reach net zero by 2050. As car manufacturing is typically a carbon-intensive process – 46% of the carbon footprint of a mid-size car is generated in the production line – Al and machine learning have a key role to play in helping industry reduce emissions by enabling smart factories to have faster and more efficient production lines and a increased energy efficiency.
Sustainability for future growth
Investing in a new factory or production line, or retrofitting an existing one, is one of the biggest costs an automotive company will incur, and it’s critical that manufacturers understand if a line of production or an existing factory footprint may face rapidly growing demand to determine how efficiently they can bring a product to market. In other words, what the industry really needs to focus on is getting it right the first time. And with new processes such as composite manufacturing, the combination of two distinct materials that together improve product performance and reduce production costs, players can turn to new solutions using digital modeling and simulation. .
When the time came for Jaguar Land Rover to review its production capability, the Center for Modeling and Simulation (CFMS) helped the company use its Layout and Factory Simulation Frameworks (LOAFS) to assess the design of the layout of an area of the new generation production line. . This resulted in a more compact production line requiring 45% less space, leaving plenty of room for future expansion to meet growing demand.
The future of digital engineering
Manufacturers today face a host of new challenges, and there is a need to introduce more capable and adaptive technologies to address these issues.
Beyond optimizing factory layouts, digital simulation also has the potential to mitigate potential issues that could arise during manufacturing, encouraging a more efficient and environmentally friendly approach throughout. of the production chain. It allows manufacturers to generate what-if scenarios and run simulations to authenticate changes before making costly investments. This means that manufacturers can explore the use of more efficient materials or supply chain processes and help balance the competing environmental, economic and societal factors that drive an efficient and successful production chain.
As the sector has embraced automation and Industry 4.0, it must also look to new emerging technologies and solutions. Simulation will become a critical part of automakers’ efforts to reduce new product development time and cost while optimizing production and distribution and reaching net zero.
Digital engineering is increasingly seen as a more efficient way to improve products and production, especially post-COVID when industries face economic strains. Unleashing this digital transformation is key to making a strong and lasting comeback.
About the Author: Ian Risk is Director of Technology at the Center for Modeling and Simulation (CFMS)