Sheet metal fabricators: Evaluating the odds of success with Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is driven by the interconnectivity of machines and intelligence derived by the aggregation of data obtained from manufacturing operations. Production houses have become more sophisticated. And the repercussions of industry 4.0 are directly seen in ways CAD designers sketch or model; conduct research and development and executing manufacturing operations, to varying degrees.

What interests sheet metal fabricators is finding out the impacts of this whole idea of Industry 4.0 on their business – good or adverse?

As far as adversities are concerned, none are seen at this stage of laying the foundation, and aren’t predicted in near future; of course apart from the challenges in adopting new technologies, developing skill sets and shifting to CAD platforms – one fundamental need. If that is sorted, Industry 4.0 do bring any concerning challenges.

Odds of Industry 4.0 being a success for sheet metal fabricators

So what are the odds of well-being for fabricators? Simply put, what are business benefits for sheet metal fabricators?

With the greater development and enhanced machine interface most sheet metal fabricators have seen an uptick in the CNC machines’ performance and health. Although, a remarkable and common necessity exclaimed by a majority of pioneer sheet metal fabricators is accurate design information. The availability of nesting drawings and fabrication drawings with comprehensive information, or a well-defined set of 3D CAD models that can be directly fed to NC coding software leveraging the API functionality is the basic requirement for diving into Industry 4.0. 

Travelling greater distances

In fact, the new age sheet metal fabricators have implemented and proven exemplary instances for the distance they can go with digitized designs. The ultimate goal for any fabricator is to reach to a maximum number of customers, be it an automotive component, industrial equipment, enclosure or machinery part, steel rods for building the structure, façades, or any other building product. The key here is to understand, design and fabricate what their end customer is looking for.

With industry data obtained by enhanced data connectivity and new generation technology such as AR/VR, designs that are developed in CAD are perceived in a better manner. It exemplifies each feature and allows taking informed decisions early during product development and reduces any design changes once fabrication has started.

A typical walkthrough of the model developed which will help customers perceive the designs and products beforehand the fabrication begins – is probably the greatest achievement to fabricators with AR/VR. Leveraging a feedback loop from customer study or market study will further enhance the designs right at the initial stages. 

Furthermore, with AR and VR in the picture, getting into the actual fabrication processes isn’t also a difficult task. Today, this is a big challenge as certain designs incapacitate the tooling setup at shop floor as designs are usually prepared by a third entity, outside of the fabricator’s organization. The synchronization with AR/VR outperforms the competition in the market and early adopters of Industry 4.0 concept with CAD will see greater opportunities in future.

Better intelligence; right methodology is success

Fabrication isn’t the last stage for sheet metal fabrication organization – in fact, it is just the beginning. Imagining a premium level intelligent system that takes care of the market trends, incoming orders, design release, their accuracy, shop floor operations, inventory, shipment, and tracking is a silver platter. Industry 4.0 offers exactly this and the roots trace back to digitized designs, research and development.

To prepare for the so-called ‘4th Industrial revolution’ fabricators should more focus on ‘What’ they want to deliver instead of ‘How’ will they deliver it. The ‘What’ factor will help them bring quality for their products and let indulge them into strategic development of their business.

While an investment in automating shop floor is the place to begin, let’s not forget the fact that unless the core is automated, automation for downstream processes is futile. The race in staying ahead with Industry 4.0 will intensify day by day and the fabricator who is the most adaptable to change will be able to survive it. The ways you pick up will decide your future.  

About Author: Usha B. Trivedi is an engineer with Hitech CADD services, a company providing design support services for product drafting and modeling across the globe. With years of experience in CAD modeling and rendering, she writes to provide insightful solutions for the process challenges of fabricators, engineers, architects and contractors.

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