A Manufacturing Utopia – Autodesk Fusion 360 and Fusion Operations Bring the Digital Factory To Life

4 min read

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How can the manufacturing industry achieve a truly digital factory? Srinath Jonnalagadda, VP of Design and Manufacturing Industry Strategy at Autodesk explores how Autodesk Fusion 360 and Fusion Operations enable the convergence of collaboration, data, and disciplines.


For years, the manufacturing industry has strived to reach a utopia. It’s the ideal yet still elusive world where lights-out manufacturing is a reality. A facility that is always aware, always operating, and able to adapt to circumstances without intervention.

Here’s the reality: We still can’t jump directly to an autonomous factory scenario; it will take a sequence of steps over time. Full digitalization will lead to a seamless flow of data, which is a stepping stone to automation. And with automation, we can deliver a predictable, predictive, and closed feedback-loop type of factory. 

How do we begin the path to a manufacturing utopia? It starts with a digital factory and a new mindset—especially for collaboration. 

We need to think about collaboration not as an afterthought but as a cornerstone—a fundamental building block for what software delivers to manufacturers. Inherently, the cloud is set up for collaboration. With CAD/CAM software and the cloud, there is no afterthought. Collaboration is a fundamental value proposition. 

We can take the first step toward a manufacturing utopia by connecting designers and machinists for a truly digital factory. Here’s how we can make it happen. 

How Does a Digital Factory Work?

A digital factory helps businesses improve the entire product development process, offering improved products and services. To bring a digital factory to life dedicated cross-functional teams are needed. These teams make use of repetitive tools and processes to create the same products, but, with each iteration, offer newer experiences, services, and even enhanced solutions. Digital factory teams function in close association with business teams to accelerate growth options for the organization.

Transparent Communication From Design to Manufacturing

A digital factory isn’t the same as a smart factory. With a digital factory, every process becomes digitized with a true connection between designers and machinists. New technology skills and collaboration come to the forefront, and paper-based processes are eliminated.

Communication between a designer’s intent and the final execution needs to be seamless. Designers come up with a grand plan by designing a product and crafting the manufacturing plan.  

In reality, the execution is messy, and what happens in the machine shop is broken. We must keep designers and machinists connected, so the intent always matches the execution. Thus, no missteps and miscommunication between what is desired, what is delivered, and how to eliminate waste. 

Teach Machinists Digital Skills

The job and skills shortages are real. It’s one thing to have someone skilled in operating machines. But there is a new reality — machinists must-have digital skills to be effective decision-makers.  

The next generation will not only require people who can adeptly work with machines but also be capable decision-makers. We should empower every machinist to have the context to make informed decisions. With the accessibility of Autodesk Fusion 360 and Fusion Operations, the factory floor becomes a new technology center, bringing design ideas into reality. 

Data and Collaboration at the Forefront

To realize the digital factory, data must be a fundamental backbone of what software delivers. I recognize that “data” can be a broad term. When I say data, I mean the data pipeline connecting all the different people in the value chain, from designers to machinists and programmers.   

Autodesk Fusion 360 in combination with Fusion Operations brings together all the disciplines, placing data and collaboration at the center — that’s where it shines. Our guiding principle has always been about collaboration. It provides the full breadth of access across the manufacturing spectrum. 

In today’s market, specialized software serves multiple personas. If you want to do industrial design, you use one software. The same goes for engineering or for programming a CNC machine. Autodesk Fusion 360, however, is not for one particular persona.  

Fusion 360 brings all the different disciplines and data together into one software. It inherently removes friction points for collaboration between the different personas and the value chain between designers and machinists. 

Next Step to Utopia

The convergence of collaboration, data, and disciplines is why Autodesk Fusion 360 and Fusion Operations are the best match for the digital factory.

It also provides the second step to a utopia for automation. For example, generative design in Fusion 360 provides artificial intelligence and machine learning automation. Generative design allows decision-makers to look at all their options and make the best possible decision given their constraints — whether it’s weight, material, or the manufacturing process.  

A manufacturing utopia is possible when we start with digitalization and take the first step toward the digital factory with Autodesk Fusion 360 and Fusion Operations.

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