Company NewsMay 2, 2024

What role do people play in automated manufacturing?

In industry 5.0, technology will provide a platform for human talent to shine alongside automation and other innovations.
Avatar Jacqui Griffiths

Over the past few centuries, the way we design, make and distribute products has undergone several revolutions. In the first, steam-powered machines and transport systems made mass production a reality. More recently, the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) has embodied another big leap as connected, digitalized processes make fully autonomous factories possible. But hold on a moment. Amid all this excitement about automation, are we forgetting the value humans bring to the industry of the future?

The answer, from leading manufacturers around the world, is a resounding no.

Increasingly, manufacturers understand that technology can only deliver to its full potential when it works with another vital component – humans. At global electric vehicle maker Tesla, for example, chief executive Elon Musk blamed “excessive automation” for production problems and drafted in humans to get things back on track. “Humans are underrated,” he told reporters.

Orange Business, a worldwide provider of network and digital integration services, also emphasizes that people and technology can achieve great things when they work together. “Humans are good at handling multiple concurrent tasks, at reasoning, empathy and predicting events,” the company notes. “Connected machines can augment these skills, adding pattern recognition, automating repetitive and dangerous tasks, and otherwise enabling humans to achieve more.”

Enter Industry 5.0, the latest evolution of the industrial landscape.

What is Industry 5.0, the 5th industrial revolution?

 It complements Industry 4.0 by positioning the key industrial goals of efficiency and productivity as part of a bigger, people-centered picture.

“[Industry 5.0] places the wellbeing of the worker at the center of the production process and uses new technologies to provide prosperity beyond jobs and growth while respecting the production limits of the planet,” according to the European Commission.

This is a journey that takes in all the systems that manufacturing involves – from design and production processes to supplier and customer ecosystems. And organizations around the world are already making significant strides.

Industry 5.0: Putting people front and center

“Industry 5.0 is defined by close collaboration between human and machine workers, promoting the exchange of information in real time,” notes Proaction International, a multinational consultant based in Canada.

To make that collaboration possible, organizations must do more than simply present their people with shiny new tools. Even the best tools can only deliver the efficiencies manufacturers need – and much more besides – when they are built around the people who will use them.

So, what does that look like in practice?

In Germany, logistics organization Lufthansa Cargo handles millions of tons of cargo every year, and each consignment brings complex planning, tracking and monitoring requirements. A racing car, for instance, needs careful loading and secure transportation. Meanwhile fresh blueberries must travel in strictly controlled temperatures to keep them fresh. To help its people solve that puzzle, the company developed a customized solution – factoring in employees’ feedback at every step.

Built on DELMIA Quintiq logistics and workforce management software, the technology helps Lufthansa Cargo’s employees to manage every aspect of planning and scheduling for inbound and outbound cargo, including insights into past trends and predictions about what to expect. With full visibility across the cargo hub’s operation, the company can optimize resources, achieve a steady and manageable workload and proactively deal with peaks in demand. Putting the human touch into automated operations allows the company to achieve more, while also integrating technological solutions that create a lasting, sustainable impact.

Most importantly, though, the toolset has delighted Lufthansa’s cargo staff. They say that it helps them to work more productively and gives them the visibility they need to make better decisions. Ultimately, that affects the customer experience too.

“By improving planning quality and transparency with intelligent algorithms and KPI-based planning, Lufthansa Cargo can handle more freight in its buildings and improve punctuality,” said Chudi Udeogu, product owner of cargo planning IT at Lufthansa Cargo. “This increases both efficiency and customer satisfaction.”

Leveraging technology to get closer to customers

Manufacturing teams are not the only humans involved in Industry 5.0’s collaborative network. By equipping their workers with the tools that work best for them, organizations can empower design teams to get closer to their markets and customers.

That’s what’s happening at Dongfeng Automobile Corporation (DFAC), a subsidiary of Dongfeng Motor Corporation and one of China’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturers. When it needed to develop a new van using renewable energy, it used the collaborative 3DEXPERIENCE platform which allowed different disciplines to work together on the same virtual 3D model.

At the same time, a new truck with the same energy requirements was simultaneously developed using the company’s traditional approach, with separate teams working in silos on different parts of the vehicle. Users of this approach faced the difficult, time-consuming process of translating data between multiple systems, with the risk of losing important details along the way.

Comparing the two systems, DFAC found that the collaborative, human-led platform made vehicle development 30% more efficient than the traditional method. It also brought big improvements in quality, with 70% fewer design problems.

Using a single platform that united users provided the foundation for those improvements. It meant there was no need to translate data between separate systems, eliminating the risk of important details getting lost. Instead, the platform provides a universal language – 3D – that allows different disciplines to work together and understand how their ideas fit with the rest of the vehicle. This in turn provides high quality product data that can be reused across the value chain to improve quality, shorten the development cycle and reduce costs.

Better, faster vehicle design is only the start of this story. To stand out in an increasingly competitive market, DFAC must continually exceed its customers’ expectations around innovation, reliability and cost effectiveness. The company believes the platform will continue to help it put its customers, as well as its workers, at the center of vehicle development. Its plans include capturing customers’ requests and integrating them early in the development process.

“We must help our customers get the most from their vehicles,” said Zhang Jingfeng, general manager assistant at DFAC. “We need to be able to calculate the total cost of ownership and find ways of bringing it down as much as possible. With the new product data management platform, we can reduce costs by improving R&D efficiency and product quality, as well as accelerating product launches. In turn, those savings get passed on to our customers.”

That is, the better things work behind the scenes, the better the outcome is for end users.

In the industry of the future, everything is an ecosystem

Manufacturers and their products are part of a complex system of systems – an ecosystem. Increasingly, that complexity must be managed across the whole product lifecycle, from sourcing materials and energy to after-sales care and maintenance and end-of-life disposal and recycling. And to do that, you need a reliable view of the whole ecosystem and the interactions it hosts.

French startup NAAREA, for instance, is focused on putting the circular economy at the core of the nuclear industry. Its eXtrasmall Advanced Modular Reactor (XAMR) uses spent nuclear fuel from conventional reactors to produce heat and electricity without releasing greenhouse gases. This type of project is too vast, complex and costly to design through trial and error in the physical world. So NAAREA started its design process by creating a fully functional virtual twin of the XAMR.

This integrated virtual environment provides a secure space where the engineers from different disciplines can work together, using collaborative simulation to test their ideas as they go. Each engineer can see what they’re working on in the context of what others are doing. This interactive, integrated approach offers a solution to typical methods of machines and teams being entirely separate from one another, and avoids the problem of issues being identified too late in the pipeline. Being able to manage design, engineering and manufacturing processes in one place makes development and management much faster and simpler. It also provides a continuous digital thread across the reactor’s lifecycle.

“There are several thousand parts in the reactor connected to each other, and their interfaces need to be known to ensure that if I modify something, my colleagues are aware of it,” said Timothée Kooyman, technical director and deputy director of operations at NAAREA. “In the future, when I click on an object, for example a valve, I can find out who designed it, why, the associated calculations, requirements and specifications. I can also source the manufacturing and assembly records and find out when I’m going to have to replace it or carry out maintenance.”

Toward an Industry 5.0 future

Manufacturing has always involved managing complex systems, and that challenge has expanded as smart technologies bring new layers of connectivity and functionality. But the factory of the future vision is not about technology taking over. It’s about smart machines taking care of more repetitive tasks, so that people are free to make the most of their uniquely human skills. When that happens, improvements in manufacturing speed, precision and quality control – and in the lives and experiences of the people involved – will follow.

Collaboration between humans and technology – and between the humans that technology connects – is the beating heart of any successful manufacturing ecosystem. That’s what Industry 5.0 sets out to achieve, and it will be built using technologies that are designed with humans in mind.

Getting it right means addressing every aspect of the manufacturing process and modeling a true system of systems. Organizations need to see how everything works together – from functions to interactions, information flow, resources consumption and energy needs – and to be able to test new scenarios safely. Only then can they create production systems that are truly agile, robust and sustainable and achieve the Industry 5.0 vision of growth and prosperity for the business and all the people it touches.

“Industry 5.0 will radically change how companies work in the next 10 years,” predictsJean-Philippe Raiche, a partner at Canadian consultant Proaction International. “It will no longer only be about automating and optimizing processes, but also about caring for workers. It will make their lives easier, more productive, and more meaningful.”

By connecting individuals to business, customers and each other, technology also connects us to a brighter future and the innovation it will bring.

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