Caralynn Nowinski Collens, CEO of UI LABS, believes now is the right time to tackle the communication hurdles in manufacturing. “The companies in manufacturing face both technology and people problems,” she observed. “Sometimes, what they need are digital tools. Sometimes, they need change management tools.”
Neither digital tools nor process management methodologies are new. CAD and PLM programs have existed for more than two decades. Change management has been part of manufacturing for much longer. But Collens believes the present time offers new opportunities.
“There’s now more appetite to look beyond one’s own company’s four walls for collaborators,” she pointed out.
The UI in UI LABS stands for University and Industry — not User Interface, as some might have mistakenly interpreted. UI Labs describes itself as “an innovation accelerator that leverages a network of hundreds of partners from university + industry.”
In May 2015, UI LABS opened the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII). Based in Chicago, it is one of two applied R&D programs run by UI Labs and part of the Manufacturing USA network of institutes, all sharing the common aim to accelerate U.S. manufacturing as a whole.
Collens believes the communication and integration hurdles she has observed, if resolved, can dramatically speed up manufacturing.
“Take design and manufacturing teams, or take suppliers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). The exchange of data between these teams is typically not easy to do,” said Collens. “If we can make that exchange simpler, more turnkey, or bidirectional, we’ll uncover new ways to accelerate manufacturing. Designers can use digital tools or software to automatically gather input on manufacturing production processes that might suggest they use less expensive materials or make tweaks that will reduce production cost.”
The rise of augmented reality and virtual reality (AR-VR) also work in favor of remote collaboration. “We’re seeing the deployment of AR-VR across the value chain as a tool to better understand concepts,” she said. “People from different places can use these to look at the part or the whole assembly at the same time. Not just that, you can also use these to train workers on how to manufacture a part or fix a machine.”
Collens will address the subject in her upcoming talk at Conference on Advancing Analysis and Simulation in Engineering (CAASE), June 5-7, Cleveland, Ohio. DE is a media partner of CAASE.