Digitization in Manufacturing

Improve workforce productivity through a connected digital ecosystem


Digitization in manufacturing is the act of transforming paper-based and manual systems into digital formats by leveraging a variety of connected technologies. For many companies, it’s the first step in their digital transformation strategies.

With the pressures of a retiring workforce, increased demand, and ever-growing quality standards, manufacturers need to adopt new digital strategies to compete—or risk falling behind.

What are the challenges of digitization in manufacturing?

Upfront costs

When compared to written documents and manual data collections, digital solutions come with a higher upfront investment. However, the inefficiency and productivity loss that result from traditional methods impact your bottom line—costing your business more each year than the price of adopting digital alternatives.

Workforce resistance

There’s no denying that change can be difficult, even when necessary. But the transition isn’t as disruptive as it appears. Our world is turning to more digital solutions every day from online ordering to virtual doctor visits. Your workforce is already making these adoptions, and many new hires are now expecting these technologies at work. Involving your workforce in your digitization strategy can help ensure you’re choosing the right technologies for your business.

Time investment

Transitioning from paper-based methods to digital solutions can be time-consuming. However, there are many solutions like augmented reality (AR), Internet of Things (IoT), and product lifecycle management (PLM), which can connect to each other and to your existing systems to easily create digital dashboards and work instructions. This can significantly cut down on the implementation time and get you to value faster.

What are the benefits of digitization in manufacturing?

Digitization in manufacturing can impact all aspects of the business from design and production to after-purchase service. Getting the right tools and data into the hands of your workers enables them to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively and allows them to keep up with the growing demands of the industry.

Digitization in manufacturing can impact all aspects of the business from design and production to after-purchase service. Getting the right tools and data into the hands of your workers enables them to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively and allows them to keep up with the growing demands of the industry.

Improve workforce productivity

Connecting your workforce to accurate digital work instructions and live performance data, where and when it’s needed from mobile devices, improves productivity both in the field and on the factory floor.

Reduce mistakes and waste

Digitization of work instructions can help reduce mistakes and waste when assembling, inspecting, and servicing machines. Connected machines can also provide information when a specific part breaks, ensuring the right part is ordered every time.

Accelerate access to critical information

A company’s critical data can be siloed, making it difficult for employees to access the information they need. Digitizing and connecting these systems ensure employees can access data when and where they need it.

Optimize operations

Access to factory performance data and accurate digital instructions helps optimize how your machines are running, when they need to be maintained, and how efficiently technicians can complete tasks.

Increase worker safety

Working with industrial machinery can be dangerous. Equipping your workforce with accurate digital instructions, live IoT-enabled performance data, and AR digital warnings help ensure their safety.

How can augmented reality help with digitizing manufacturing?

Transitioning to digital work instructions

The prospect of changing over your company’s paper-based work instructions to digital alternatives can be daunting. Fortunately, there are augmented reality (AR) solutions that make it easier—and offer simple ways to enhance those instructions with 3D elements. Using an AR headset, expert technicians can create work instructions from a first-person view as they do their job. Videos, images, and audio can all be captured and easily edited to create AR work instructions.

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AR remote support

When you have a technician out in the field, or your maintenance team is trying to repair a machine on the factory floor, time is critical. Instead of flipping through pages of instructions a technician can simply call an expert on a mobile device and share their screen. The expert can annotate instructions on the screen that attach to the physical environment, making complicated instructions easy to follow.

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In-context training

The ever-growing complexity of machines paired with the retirement of expert employees leaves many companies in a difficult position. Training new workers is no easy task—but augmented reality makes it more effective by enabling learning through doing. AR solutions can help capture the knowledge of experts and scale it out across your organization, equipping your new hires with immersive, accurate training instructions they can continue to use on the job.

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Knowledge capture and transfer

Augmented reality solutions can capture the knowledge of your expert employees from a first-person perspective. This captured expertise can be used to create work instructions and training experiences that can be easily scaled across your organization.

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Moving to digital work instructions

Enable your frontline workers with accurate, contextual instructions that can leverage existing 3D data.

Digitization in manufacturing FAQ

What’s the concept of digital manufacturing?

Digital manufacturing is the concept of leveraging computer systems and software like supply chains, services, products, and processes for manufacturing operations. This approach links the traditionally siloed systems across all areas of production to offer superior integration from creation to servicing products in the field.

This approach is becoming increasingly popular as the demand for improved quality, customization, and output continues to grow. Technologies that offer automation, artificial intelligence, predictive maintenance, and more can all be used to support companies as they meet the demands of today and prepare for the unknowns of tomorrow.

How is digital technology used in manufacturing?

Technology can be used across every aspect of a manufacturing business.

Advanced CAD software can help engineers design better products that use insights from previous iterations. Production lines can be optimized based on data from frontline workers’ efficiency when assembling parts. Other technologies, like augmented reality work instructions, can provide technicians with in-context 3D instructions that make servicing or repairing machines more efficient. And for quality, AI can be utilized as a second pair of eyes to ensure quality engineers don’t overlook any faults during visual inspections.

With so many options, it can be difficult to know where to start. Looking at your business and identifying the areas that are most critical to you, and have the biggest opportunity for improvement, is a good first step towards digital transformation.

What is digital transformation in manufacturing?

Digital transformation in manufacturing is the concept of integrating technology across the entire organization to improve all aspects of the business. From design and production to after-purchase service, technology can be used to connect systems and add value. This process can be time-consuming, but it’s critical. Manufacturers understand the need to stay relevant in a world that is turning to digital solutions. It’s not a matter of if a company should embrace digital transformation, but when.

It's important to get your house in order before jumping into a full digital transformation strategy. A company should first look at digitizing their current data, then using that new data to digitalize their workflows and processes.

What’s the difference between digitization and digitalization in manufacturing?

Both digitization and digitalization are critical steps manufacturing companies need to take as they move to transform their businesses. The difference between them is subtle but important.

Digitization is the process of taking manuals, work instructions, and data that is currently physically stored, and converting them into digital formats. Many manufacturing companies are at different stages in this digitization process, but it’s an important first step towards digitalization.

Digitalization is focused on developing new workflows and processes to improve systems. These new workflows leverage the digitized data and use that data to offer insights. This could be in the form of predictive maintenance, worker productivity on the factory floor, or even data collected from quality inspections that can be used to inform better designs.