The Future of Manufacturing is Shop Floor Digitization

Emily Suzuki Emily Suzuki February 10, 2023

3 min read

What does shop floor digitization mean? How is it affecting the manufacturing industry? Explore the answers to these questions and more.

shop-floor-digitization

The floor of a manufacturing facility is not the best place for computers and fragile, high-tech electronics to reside. Heavy raw materials, machine dust, and vibration don’t mix well with laptops and PCs. To that end, the specialized computers that control machines are often ruggedized, simplified, and minimally connected to any centralized information network. 

All of this is changing, however, as the shop floor becomes the critical source of real-time data to enable lean manufacturing. It’s becoming just as digital as it is physical. But what does this mean in practice?

What is shop floor digitization?

Shop floor digitization refers to connecting the collection of data on the shop floor. For example, machines are now fully integrated into wired and wireless networks, often without dedicated operator terminals. Their status, health, and utilization are reported continuously, along with the specifics of what task they or their operator might be performing. Materials are QR coded, kitted, and tracked to every last nut and bolt. Environmental conditions like temperature, humidity, and air quality are monitored and time-stamped. 

When all of this data is integrated with cloud-based software (like Autodesk Fusion 360 and Fusion Operations), the shop floor becomes digitized. It transforms into a place where data becomes actionable. Using tablets or cell phones, employees can monitor production progress, visualize order flow, and attend to alerts sounded by machines or even low supply levels. At a higher level, historical data can be used to allocate resources properly, react to change orders, and manage the incoming supply chain.

Fusion 360 on the digital shop floor

In the world of cloud-based product development, Fusion 360 leads the way as a full-featured manufacturing powerhouse and is a critical component in implementing a digital shop floor. At the lowest level, the collaborative environment in Fusion 360, along with versioned data, creates a foundation for sharing design information between the many stakeholders in a manufacturing facility. Enabling a quality engineer to quickly pull up a particular revision of a 3D design on their phone in the middle of a warehouse is quite empowering.  

Fusion Operations for managing teams, machines, and materials

Fusion Operations is a production management and floor tracking tool that offers real-time production visibility powered by devices on the shop floor and can analyze the entire production flow of a product.  Maintenance operations can be integrated and easily planned for through maintenance management tools. An example dashboard is shown below, where operator activity is shown in real time along with global metrics and the most recent order in process.  

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From the workflow perspective, Fusion Operations can identify bottlenecks, set priorities and avoid overload. This enables management to continuously improve the production system based on actual fine-grain data from the shop floor. From a productivity perspective, Fusion Operations offers tools to track each worker’s performance in real-time. This data feeds into tools for making resource decisions: who does what, where, when, and how.  All these tools come together to enhance the efficiency of any manufacturing process and eliminate waste.

The future is now with shop floor digitization

With Fusion 360 and Fusion Operations, you can realize the benefits of shop floor digitization today. When using the two tools in conjunction, shop floor data can flow seamlessly throughout historically siloed departments.

Tablets, cell phones, monitors, and laptops should be welcome on the shop floor. They provide insight and valuable indicators on the status and performance of the manufacturing line.

Fusion 360 and Fusion Operations are ready to integrate with the tools many shops already have on-site. Put all of this data to use and make data-driven decisions to enhance productivity and efficiency from day zero.

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