What is a Digital Factory?

Shannon McGarry September 21, 2022 2 min read

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian) Deutsch (German)

The term “digital factory” is becoming a more popular term in the manufacturing industry. Let’s take a look at what exactly the term means.

When we use the word “factory,” we often think about the products produced-cars, guitars, toys, medical equipment, jet engines, molds, pencils, textiles, you name it. Everything we can touch or see is from a factory—or multiple factories, ranging from micro to mega.

However, the term “digital factory” is on the rise in the manufacturing industry. But what exactly does this term mean?

What is a Digital Factory?

A digital factory is about the unification and expansion of digital resources to connect data with the products, the machines, the supply chain, and the people. Everything is digitized, collaboration is prioritized, and paper-based processes are eliminated.

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Components of a Digital Factory

A digital factory begins by turning the factory into a shared, virtual model that creates the unification of the entire operation. This digital representation brings in all the data from the structure, mechanical, electrical, plumbing systems, tool assets, required services like air and water, and processes. Then understanding the system’s flow to optimize output or throughput. This can be the layout of the machines to accommodate more work cells or even where the stock material is stored and sorted. Using this digital approach, manufacturers can create real-time collaboration; enable more informed decision-making to better design, build, and manage a facility; and optimize efficiency and productivity.

Digital factories still vary in size and scope. It can include a connected ecosystem of vendors, suppliers, and contractors. Others are more focused on predictive maintenance while most are interested in production optimization. Some may even go so far as to implement digital twins already.

But the common goals for a digital factory are universal. You can create better products, improve operational sustainability and efficiency, increase innovation, speed up time-to-market, and gain actionable insights. Now, who doesn’t want all those outcomes? But the question is how to do it.

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Creating a Reality

The ultimate success of a digital factory relies on embracing change and leading with a data-centered mindset toward a digital transformation of your physical process.

One of the most significant challenges is the siloed approach with specialized software for multiple people and tasks. It’s a huge hindrance to collaboration. The cornerstone of a digital factory is the use of cloud-based platforms. But you can’t just dip into the cloud a little bit here or there. Fusion 360 combines all the different disciplines and data into one cloud software.

A digital factory’s software platform must run the gamut—from design to the shop floor and everything in between. Fusion 360 is not just cloud CAD or CAM but an entire cloud product development solution that takes you from 3D modeling to manufacture. Prodsmart helps provide insights from order all the way to shipping and optimizes manufacturing processes with a real-time system of record for data collection, management, and analysis. Fusion 360 in combination with Prodsmart brings everything together with data and collaboration at the center.

“Amidst disruption, we see opportunity,” says Jeff Kinder, Autodesk’s Executive Vice President, Product Development and Manufacturing Solutions. “The potential to transform the manufacturing industry. To accelerate productivity. To build smarter, better products faster than ever before.”

The digital factory isn’t around the corner—it’s here now. And any factory can become a digital one.

Take the first step with Autodesk Fusion 360.

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