Engineering simulations - key for SMEs to unlock Industry 4.0

Traditional ways of work simply aren't any more sustainable and effective, because the still ongoing technological revolution is reshaping all products and services that have been made before, giving place to new ones, even new concepts, and work titles.

What hasn't changed is that small-to-medium-sized manufacturers (SMEs) still play an important role in the world economy, as they represent 90% of businesses and that includes the manufacturing industry in the US and other places. Of 250K manufacturers in the U.S., 240K are SMEs. The U.S. manufacturing sector was valued at about $2.1 trillion in 2018 and for every $1.00 spent in U.S. manufacturing another $1.80 is added to the economy.

Fundamentally speaking, Industry 4.0 includes many concepts mostly consisting of the fruits of the technology revolution, for example:

  • Additive Manufacturing;

  • Machine Learning;

  • Simulation Systems;

  • Digital Twins;

  • Big Data & Predictive Analytics;

  • IoT;

  • Augmented Reality;

  • The Cloud and more.

Why are SMEs slower on implementing Industry 4.0?

These technology upgrades open opportunities for large and small enterprises, but one is dependent on the other. Large manufacturers are actively moving towards digital transformation and Industry 4.0, but the SMEs are slower on taking and implementing the decision to transit to

Industry 4.0. When large manufacturers push expensive and complicated simulation solution integration in supply chains, SMEs become a bottleneck in innovation as there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding changes. But once SMEs implement tech innovations in their business, they boost innovation and product quality, save energy, material, time costs, can even offer faster production time and a wider variety of products.

However, before SMEs go all-in to implement tech innovations or before large enterprises enforce change on their supply chain (SMEs as the common case), process analysis should be conducted for a step-by-step upgrade approach for a smooth transition. Otherwise the “upgrade process” may turn out to be painful or even impossible to perform.

Large aircraft supply chain case example

At the ASM Heat Treat show in Detroit (MI) in October 2019, Jack Harris (Chairman of IMS International) stated that adoption of advanced manufacturing technology is essential for SMEs to remain competitive and relevant to global supply chains. SMEs may lack the understanding regarding what technologies will benefit their processes and the necessary resources for implementation, or have the right skilled workers for operation.

In his keynote “Technology Risks for Small to Medium Sized Manufacturers”, he gave an example of a large aerospace manufacturer which tried to push down enterprise-grade technology CATIA adoption in SMEs supply chain which became harmful to the SME survival. In return, it harmed the SMEs and froze operations for some time since CATIA was an expensive investment for many smaller suppliers and they were not even able to use the software properly due to lack of trained staff.

So the moral of this story is - industrial revolution needs SME-tailored tools to succeed in the 4th Industrial revolution and the current state enterprise-grade software isn't quite the best fit.

So how to find the right tools that yield the best benefits? And what are some of the misconceptions about the simulation systems as an important part of Industry 4.0 transformation in manufacturing?

Simulation software adoption is growing

The global simulation software market size is expected to reach $19.4 billion by 2025, rising at a

market growth of 15.3% CAGR d