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What is DX in the manufacturing industry? Explain advantages and disadvantages!

Even if you say “manufacturing industry DX”, it’s hard to imagine what you’re going to do specifically.

The Japanese manufacturing industry is very strong in the field, and you may think that there is no need to convert to DX. However, by promoting DX even in such a Japanese manufacturing industry, it will be possible to create even better products and new manufacturing.

In this article, we will explain specifically what DX is in the manufacturing industry, based on its advantages, disadvantages, and how to proceed.

Table of contents 

  • What is DX?
  • Advantages of promoting DX in the manufacturing industry
    •  Reduce on-site dependency
    • Improving production management capabilities
    • Eliminate labor shortage
    • Product development that meets rapidly changing market needs
  • Disadvantages of promoting DX in the manufacturing industry
    • no immediate results
    • cost a lot
  • Issues in promoting DX in the manufacturing industry
    • Lack of IT human resources
    • Information security is difficult
  • Steps to promote DX in the manufacturing industry
    • Step 1: Improve employees’ understanding of DX
    • Step 2: Strategy decisions using DX
    • Step 3: Streamline internal operations with DX
  • Example of DX conversion in the manufacturing industry
    • 1. Smart factory
    • 2. Service
    • 3. Digital twin
  • summary

What is DX?

DX (Digital Transformation) is a term proposed by Professor Eric Stolterman of Umeå University in Sweden in 2004, and his definition of DX is as follows.

It is a technology that continues to evolve and has some impact on human life, and as a result, people’s lives change for the better.

DX is sometimes referred to as digital transformation, and in recent years DX has been promoted in various situations centered on business.

The field of manufacturing industry introduced this time is also one of the fields where DX is progressing. In recent years, the manufacturing industry has faced various challenges, such as a shortage of skilled engineers with a high degree of individuality and how to respond to rapidly changing needs. I need it.

Advantages of promoting DX in the manufacturing industry

There are four benefits to promoting DX in the manufacturing industry.

  1.  Reduce on-site dependency
  2. Improving production management capabilities
  3. Eliminate labor shortage
  4. Product development that meets rapidly changing market needs

I will explain each.

 Reduce on-site dependency

At production sites in the manufacturing industry, there are still cases where manufacturing is done using highly individualized techniques. However, it is not desirable to use highly individualized technology to continue the company.

This is because if successors cannot be trained properly, it will be difficult to make products with the same high precision, and there is a risk that the technology will die out.

Currently, Japan is an aging society with a declining birthrate.

However, if we digitize highly individualized technology and promote the automation of operations, we can eliminate the concern about the succession problem mentioned above.

Improving production management capabilities

Some factories in the manufacturing industry perform production management, and there are cases where productivity can be improved by introducing IT and AI technologies in that field.

For example, “automation of defective product inspection” and “optimal demand forecasting” are examples often used in DX in the manufacturing industry.

In addition to the above two points, there are many areas where DX can be promoted in production management. At that time, it is important to “identify where DX promotion is necessary”.

To do so, it is first necessary to collect data on production management at the site and discover bottlenecks that reduce productivity.

It is quite possible to increase productivity by utilizing appropriate AI and digital technologies to solve the issues found there.

Eliminate labor shortage

As I mentioned earlier, Japan is currently an aging society with a declining birthrate, and many companies are suffering from a shortage of human resources. In Japan, the field power is very strong, and even if there is a problem, it is often possible to somehow solve it with technology.

However, it is becoming difficult to rely only on the people in the field due to the effects of population decline. In addition, due to the fact that it has become difficult to go to the factory due to COVID-19, we have begun to turn our attention to efforts to automate and systemize work.

By making such efforts, the factory will be able to operate even with a small number of workers, so companies will no longer suffer from labor shortages.

Product development that meets rapidly changing market needs

As we develop our products, we will be able to grasp new market needs by digitizing and converting them into data. Various data will be obtained in the process of systematization in the future.

Until now, the use of data in the manufacturing industry has sometimes only been aimed at improving products. It will be .

In addition, conventional IT technology has played a role in streamlining operations, but with the advancement of technology, it is now possible to create new businesses.

By understanding consumer needs from data and using digital technology to create new businesses, it is possible to develop new products that have never existed before.

Disadvantages of promoting DX in the manufacturing industry

While there are many advantages to promoting DX in the manufacturing industry, there are also disadvantages. There are two disadvantages that I will introduce here: “ no immediate results ” and “ high cost ”.

no immediate results

In promoting DX in the manufacturing industry, there are still few examples, and even if digital technology is introduced at a cost, it may not go well.

Especially in the manufacturing industry, there are few people who are familiar with digital technology, so we have to consider outsourcing to another company.

Also, when outsourcing to another company, it is important that the entire company promotes the creation of an organization that can produce results, such as raising the digital knowledge of employees, rather than throwing all of the DX promotion.

cost a lot

The manufacturing industry has large facilities, and when trying to promote DX, it is possible that a large cost will be incurred due to the introduction of another technology.

Furthermore, it is clear that if you do not proceed with the introduction by yourself and outsource it to other companies, it will cost a huge amount of money from the introduction to the actual operation. Of course, it takes time and cost to introduce it on a small scale, verify its effectiveness, and use it in earnest.

First of all, it will be necessary to start with improving the efficiency of internal operations and proceed step by step to promote DX.

Issues in promoting DX in the manufacturing industry

There are two challenges in promoting DX in the manufacturing industry: ” lack of IT personnel ” and ” difficulty in information security .” I will explain each.

Lack of IT human resources

In order to promote DX in the manufacturing industry, IT human resources are absolutely necessary. However, the current situation in Japan is that there are no people who are strong or specialized in IT.

In particular, because the Japanese manufacturing industry has high on-site capabilities, there is a shortage of IT-savvy human resources who can utilize data and IT to solve problems.

In actuality, there is a strong trend toward using IT to solve problems at manufacturing sites, and there is a strong tendency to use on-site capabilities to resolve problems. .

Information security is difficult

In promoting DX, there is a security problem because the factory equipment is connected via the Internet.

Specifically, since the equipment is connected through the Internet, which allows unauthorized access from the outside, there is a possibility that data can be stolen.

Therefore, if the data is tampered with or remotely controlled, the company’s business could be hindered.

Also, if the PCs used at the manufacturing site are old, security vulnerabilities will appear. Some manufacturers avoid updating PCs in order to prioritize stable operation, and in that case the risk becomes extremely high.

Steps to promote DX in the manufacturing industry

There are three steps to promote DX in the manufacturing industry.

  1. Improving employee understanding of DX
  2. Strategic decision making use of DX
  3. Strategic decision making use of DX

I will explain each.

Step 1: Improve employees’ understanding of DX

In order to promote DX in the manufacturing industry, it is important to deepen employees’ understanding of DX.

This is because we cannot consider introducing DX even though our employees do not understand it. In particular, make sure that the management side, who has the decision-making power of the company, understands it properly.

Step 2: Strategy decisions using DX

Once we have a deeper understanding of DX, we will think about how we can solve the problems our company has, how we can streamline operations, and how we can create new business models.

In promoting DX conversion, I think that there are times when it is outsourced, but if you throw it all away, there is a possibility that it will end in an unexpected way, so be responsible for decision making. will do.

Step 3: Streamline internal operations with DX

Once you have developed a strategy for utilizing DX, proceed to the step of actually implementing it. However, it is a high hurdle to suddenly convert to DX, so it is better to start with a small introduction or work on improving work efficiency.

By dividing it into small steps, the risk of failure can be minimized, and the chances of confusion at the site are also reduced.

Example of DX conversion in the manufacturing industry

The following are three examples of DX in the manufacturing industry.

  1. smart factory
  2. service
  3. digital twin

I will explain each.

1. Smart factory

A smart factory is a facility in which facilities in various factories are connected via the Internet.

Since various facilities are connected, it is characterized by being able to check the “operation status” and “usage status” in real time. If there is a problem with the equipment, it will be immediately apparent, so if there is any inefficiency in the production line, it can be found immediately.

In addition, since people and things are connected to the Internet, it is possible to accumulate the skills of skilled engineers as data, reducing worries about a shortage of successors.

At first glance, smart factories seem to have many benefits, but of course there are risks.

For example, the cost of installing equipment is high. Also, if you do not think about what data to collect and how to use it, you may collect useless data.

In order to make a factory smart factory, there are merits, but of course, let’s understand that there are risks such as introduction costs.

2. Service

Service-oriented means “not only making products, but also providing services using those products”.

Until now, the role of the manufacturing industry was to make products, but with the advancement of DX, we can now provide even more services.

As an example of a service, there is a business model that receives information and data from the products you use and provides support based on that. In addition, the collected customer data can be used to improve the company’s products, and there is a sense of security from the customer’s side as well, as there is support based on the data.

3. Digital twin

A digital twin is a real-time reproduction of the state of a product in a virtual space.

IoT technology is used to send information to the virtual space, and the shape, movement of equipment, products, etc. are mainly reproduced in the virtual space.

The advantage of using a digital twin is that “because the actual product can be reproduced in a virtual space, the time spent on prototyping can be reduced, making it easier to try out ideas.”

In addition, by connecting the digital twin with the usage status when the customer is using it, it is possible to accurately discover on-site issues and lead to product development from the customer’s perspective.

summary

So far, I have explained about DX in the manufacturing industry. How was it?

Until now, Japan has relied heavily on on-site capabilities, making it difficult to improve productivity and individual skills.

From now on, even such a manufacturing industry can be expected to make even better products by promoting DX. Although there are still issues such as security, it should be a very important point to promote DX in order to survive in the industry.

Also, just promoting DX without making a proper plan may waste time and money.

In order to prevent this, it is important to first clarify “what kind of data you want to obtain” and “how to improve your work” before proceeding with DX conversion.

Why don’t you take all security measures and prepare properly and proceed with DX conversion?

 

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