What will be the key digital transformation strategies in 2019?

Posted on 11 Jan 2019 by Maddy White

Digital transformation defines the manufacturing sector of today. TM spoke to leading executives about the 2019 4IR strategies they will be introducing.

digital transformation depositphotos
Digital transformation defines manufacturing of today – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

Seamlessly integrating a digitally-led operation can make businesses entirely ‘smarter’ and manufacturers need to (and are) embracing this revolution in order to remain globally competitive.

IoT, AI, smart systems and focusing on speed strategies to get products to market faster, are just some of the approaches leaders are looking to employ.

We previously reported on what digital transformation looked like in 2018, but what does the year ahead hold? Executives from a cross-section of manufacturing sectors told The Manufacturer their plans.

Digital transformation in 2019?

Pam Cain, director at Marchant Cain, said to TM: “When we move to our new site (22 January) we will be looking to build a 3D printing farm. We are already discussing the configuration and what sizes/models we would need.  We want to also investigate a modest level of automation in the manufacturing/assembly workshop too.”

Marchant Cain specialise in the design, development and manufacture of door systems, including window regulators, electrochromic glass and active aerodynamic components. With VR already in full use, Marchant Cain also want to utilise the capabilities of its cousin, AR. This is to be able to show their customers how components and mechanisms will work before they even purchase them. 

VR is used daily at Marchant Cain – image courtesy of Marchant Cain.

Jamie Thums, COO at Lintott Control Systems told TM: “One of the primary objectives for 2019 is to further develop Lintott’s award-winning digital ecosystem, “i-Catalyst®”. This will see significant development to embedded automated design tools, collaborative project management platform and digitalised aftercare.”

Lintott is a pioneer of manufacturing digitalisation, a business who embraces the opportunities and challenges digital transformation offers. Lintott was also nominated in The Manufacturer MX Awards 2018 categories; Leadership & Strategy and Manufacturing in Action.

Troy Barratt, MD at Contracts Engineering Limited told TM: “In 2019 we are expecting to see an even greater push by SME manufacturers introducing robotics and smarter software. At CEL, we have continued our investment in smart software and in 2019 we will invest in robotic welding. This investment will allow us to be competitive on larger contracts in the UK and in Europe.”

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Rowan Crozier, chairman of the Manufacturing Assembly Network (MAN) and CEO of Brandauer, said: “What are we expecting in 2019? Well, I’m pretty sure that the uncertainty around Brexit and a general decline in the automotive sector will see lots of doom and gloom headlines.

“However, I feel the MAN Group are already bucking the trend with significant contract wins in automotive in the bag before Christmas, which in itself continues to promote the strength of UK SME manufacturing.

protolabs - image courtesy of protolabs
Protolabs focus is on speed of delivery – image courtesy of Protolabs.

“MAN has also spent a lot of time collaborating with Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) to create consortiums that can attract funding to develop new technologies. This has already resulted in two successful projects surrounding advanced automation and robotics. There is also a lot of focus on new opportunities within the military and defence sector and looking at how we can play a role in building capacity within the supply chain for the electrification of vehicles.”

Bjoern Klaas, VP and MD of Protolabs Europe, commented: “The focus now, more than ever, is on speed and making sure our customers’ new products/components are either first to market or ready when the end customer needs them.”

Protolabs is the world’s quickest producer of custom prototypes and production parts. The business, who have manufacturing facilities in eight countries, specialise in 3D printing, CNC machine technology and injection moulding.

He continued: “Despite uncertainty surrounding Brexit, we are confident that recent growth will continue and are about to kick-start a rapid expansion of our factory to make sure we have the capacity and technology needed to help us reach our five-year target.”

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