A resource from the leaders in simulation training.

Welcome back, Troubleshooters! It’s great to have you with us once again for TST—a.k.a. Troubleshooting Thursdays—where we cover a wide range of topics of interest to manufacturing executives and those responsible for training in industrial settings.

In case you missed it, we just finished a marathon series on trends in manufacturing training—must-reads for leaders who want to take advantage of the cost-savings, efficiencies, and improved learning outcomes that new trends and technologies are bringing to the arena of manufacturing training. Here again are the links:

Part 1: Learning management systems (LMS)

Part 2: Microlearning

Part 3: Gamification

Part 4: Simulation

Part 5: 3D/virtual reality/augmented reality/mixed reality

Part 6: Adaptive learning

Part 7: Collaborative learning

Those posts should give you a pretty good overview of the many options available to you for optimizing manufacturing training in your enterprise. 

Okay, changing gears now…. Today, we’re taking a fresh look at Industry 4.0, and how 3D simulation factors in.

Industry 4.0—Digitization and Connectivity

By now you’ve most likely been hearing about Industry 4.0 for some time, but just in case, it refers to the latest industrial revolution (there have been three previous major industrial revolutions—you can find out what they are here.) 

This fourth revolution is the digitization of manufacturing. Manufacturing processes increasingly rely on digitization and interconnectedness to find efficiencies that ultimately increase profitability by reducing waste and energy consumption and by increasing yields. Production machines now monitor themselves digitally via electronics and embedded sensors, and share that data with other machines on the line and all along the supply chain, in real time via the internet.

Industry 4.0 and 3D Simulation—Design, Manufacturing, and Maintenance

3D technology has been used in the industrial setting for decades now. Since it was first developed in the 1960s, 3D CAD modelling (computer-aided design) has been used in one form or another in product design to visualize, rotate, interact with and otherwise manipulate virtual products before creating prototypes. 

A more recent development has been the use of 3D-based simulation software to visualize and test manufacturing processes and production tasks. This is extremely useful for planning production processes and systems, and also for replanning these processes and systems while production is running—the way most production facilities are in fact modernized. 3D simulation offers manufacturers an opportunity to study the effects of potentially costly changes to the production process before they’re put into effect.

However, if we want to exploit the full potential of Industry 4.0, says Helmut Ziewers, VP of Digital Factory Solutions at Cenit North America, consultants for manufacturing digitization, “Virtual factories and model plants must now be an exact representation of the real production systems.” This is especially true with regard to the behaviour and control of the manufacturing units, a need that has led to the rise of software allowing for the creation of virtual “twin” or “shadow” factories—exact digital replicas of industrial facilities that mirror the functionality of the real one. Digital factories also allow for inexpensive 3D simulation and virtual implementation of technologies that would be too time-consuming and pricey to experiment with on the factory floor—for example, complex robotic workstations.

Siemens’ Tecnomatix Plant Simulation is an example of a software suite for digitizing manufacturing, and synchronizing product engineering, manufacturing, production, and service operations. Among other capabilities, this software lets manufacturers optimize and debug planned automated systems before installation; create a digital twin of the production facility and move around within, intuitively accessing any IT system; design and plan human-centred facilities by pre-testing their ergonomics; and design and program robotics and automation.

Simutech Multimedia—3D Manufacturing Maintenance Training 

3D simulation is also now being used effectively for production-line maintenance; specifically, for training maintenance professionals to troubleshoot electrical problems in manufacturing equipment. Think about it: all of these incredible advances in industrial equipment have created amazing opportunities for cost savings and better production yields, but another result is that this sophisticated equipment now requires a very specific skill set to repair.

Manufacturing execs know that production-line downtime is a serious threat to profits, and anything that can be done to minimize that downtime is worth its weight in gold. However, the one-two punch of the complexity of the equipment along with the shortage of skilled workers to fix it is causing headaches for manufacturing executives and plant managers.

The Simutech Training System is a solution that uses 3D animation for realism, which provides engaging, hands-on, interactive learning akin to learning on the job, yet is completely safe. It’s a cost-effective way to equip maintenance professionals with the skills they need to diagnose and repair potentially dangerous electrical faults in state-of-the-art production equipment—quickly and efficiently—reducing costly downtime, accidents, and injuries.

And that’s it for today, Troubleshooters! Be sure to tune in again to TST next week, when we’ll be taking a deeper look at Industry 4.0 and 3D simulation.

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