Closed loop manufacturing is vital if you intend to stay one step ahead of your competitors. It’s no longer enough to take a traditional, linear approach—that is, design, build, and sell a product to the market. Today, you need to keep tracking the performance of those products once they’re out in the world—collecting data, measuring results, and using this to refine your product in a continual, ever-improving cycle.
Put simply, closed loop manufacturing means planning your processes in such a way that you’re constantly feeding data on how your products perform back into the production cycle. You set KPIs right from the start and establish clear systems for monitoring and collecting readings. Once you’ve gone through the stages of implementing, producing, and releasing products, you take measurements, make adjustments to the product accordingly, and reset your KPIs. Then the loop starts all over again.
In today’s world, the primary source of data used to inform the next cycle of R&D and manufacturing comes from the product itself, alongside connected devices, sensors, applications, and/or controllers. This provides feedback on the product’s performance, and any potential issues as they arise, delivered to your organization via the internet of things (IoT). Collectively, this chain leading from the product, through the IoT, and into your own systems is called the digital thread.
The more connected your products and your supporting IT architecture, the easier it will be to collect, harvest, and use relevant data. These insights enable your team to build, develop, and refine products in ways that are exponentially smarter, more innovative, and more responsive to the needs and desires of your customer base. What’s more, by using digital twins, you can be even swifter and more flexible in the way you incorporate these findings—and at vastly reduced cost.
Digital twins are perfectly reconstructed virtual versions of your product. These allow you to simulate how the product will perform when put to its intended use in the real world, and to test how changes to the design and manufacturing processes affect the product.
When it comes to closed loop manufacturing, digital twins play a valuable role. The information acquired through your research, particularly through the digital thread, can be fed directly into the virtual environment, allowing you to figure out how to alter and refine the product in line with the feedback you’ve received. This saves you an enormous amount of time and effort, not to mention the direct cost of producing multiple physical prototypes. Let’s take a look at some of the main benefits this brings to your manufacturing operations.
In today’s hyper-competitive commercial landscape, it’s imperative to stay ahead of the competition. By adopting a closed-loop approach to manufacturing, you ensure that your team is best positioned to spot any product weaknesses and performance problems first, and to scope out new features, as well as enhancements. By creating efficient, effective ways to feed that data into your production process, you can capitalize on these insights before your competitors have a chance to catch up—delighting customers and cementing your position in the market.