Mike Bradford Part 1: A Crash Course in Dassault Sytem’s Virtual Twin

In this introductory episode, we will be talking to the current Marketing Director at Dassault Systems, Mike Bradford about his work, area of expertise, while also giving us a crash course in Dassault System’s Virtual Twin technology.

As an evolution of the Digital Twin approach to product planning/design in manufacturing, the Virtual Twin brings a whole new level of managing (not to mention cost cutting) to your production lines.

With that said, let’s start off by getting to know Mike a little better.

Gene: I am here with Mike Bradford – senior consultant for Dassault Systems. Now, to start things off, what exact area of expertise in manufacturing?

Mike: Well, as you can tell, [points at bald head] I’ve been around for a few years. I started in IT and then IT and materials in a manufacturing environment. I then went into management consulting, then into ERP for a number of years, and then into MES/MOM.

Mike: From there, I’ve been focused on the MES/MOM space for the last 20 plus years; primarily working in the transportation, mobility and industrial equipment areas (although, I’ve also worked in other industries). My focus for many years was tech sales and implementations- for both post and pre-sales implementation.

Mike: But the last few years, I’ve done some work in our Delmia Center of Excellence, and I’m now actually working in a marketing role just for the last two years or so.

Gene: Okay. So, would you say that your job with Dassault has been talking about its various software and maybe talking to potential customers about what could fit best for them?

Mike: Absolutely! I do a lot of that for potential customers, but also for existing customers. I fix problems like “where could you be using the software better? What are issues that you’re having that we can help you address?” Those sorts of things.

Mike: So, yeah, a lot of (mostly) direct customer contact for– goodness -the last 20 to 23 years.

Gene: Since Dassault is not necessarily a household name, I would like to begin our conversation today by talking about your employer. What exactly is Dassault Systems as an organization and what is their field of expertise?

Mike: It’s a great question (especially, in the United States). In Europe, people tend to know the name better.

Mike: So, Dassault Systems is actually the 8th/9th largest software company in the world. As we at Dassault like to say “we take companies from ideation execution”.

Mike: Dassault Systems started about 40 years ago with a product that a lot of people are familiar with: CATIA. So, Dassault started with 3D modeling software with technologies such as CAD, CAM, that sort of thing. Since then, they’ve expanded to grow a portfolio of 14 different brands; which includes everything from CATIA/Solid Works on the engineering/design side to DELMIA, which is the more of the manufacturing side.

Mike: In DELMIA, we do things like take the EBOM and convert it to an MBOM – to find all the resources required to do production – do simulation of products, product lines, plants, facilities, etc. to ensure you’ve got the most effective process before you even physically start to manufacturing goods, right down to the execution pieces, which is where I primarily focus.

Mike: We also do simulation for design, have a significant planning and optimization capabilities as well as significant analytics, data analytics, and big data capabilities; not to mention, a lot of collaboration capabilities.

Mike: So, our expertise spread over 14 brands is very broad and, as such, covers a very broad spectrum of capabilities.

Gene: Since Dassault is known for their virtualization and 3D modeling software and so forth, what exactly are they trying to accomplish specifically in the field of manufacturing; specifically, with the Delmia brand?

Mike: Dassault System’s significant value is through their using what we call the virtual twin.

Mike: You hear a lot about the digital twin within the industry. Dassault talks a lot about the virtual twin because we’ve really taken what industry defines as a digital twin and extended it in the following ways:

        Digital twin tends to be single purpose. Virtual twin is multi purposed and ties multiple digital twins together.

        Digital twins tend to be relatively fixed. Virtual twins are very flexible – so they can change and grow as the situation things changes and as more information comes in.

        Digital twins are three dimensional. Virtual twins add a 4th dimension; that being the dimension of time.

Mike: So that virtual twin capability provides value throughout manufacturing because we do something called model-based systems engineering instead of file-based engineering.

Mike: When you’re working on a 3D model in CATIA or Solid Works, it resides on the 3D Experience platform. If I’m developing an MBOM and a process plan to use that EBOM, I’m looking at working with the exact same model.

Mike: DELMIA is not like the old process where you take a file and give it to the next guy who gives it to the next guy. It’s a single model that everyone works from.

Mike: So it is inherently collaborative and changes the process to become much more fast and effective because when you’re collaborating in the same system and someone makes a change to the 3D model, it’s immediately visible because you’re all working from the same model.

Mike: So, that’s advantage number 1.

Mike: The next advantage (when you finally get into the process planning piece) is the ability to simulate everything (in detail) from the creation of individual parts, the productivity of an individual operator and the ergonomics of their job, the breakdown of individual robot on the floor and how that robot works. This level of detail is on every level of production from the starting level, all the way up through the full plant to tell you the efficiency of every line in the plant and find out how to optimize lines laid based on effectively.

Mike: It’s a huge time and cost saver; for new plants/the introduction of new products as well as for product updates and engineering changes; because, again, you can simulate first, identify issues, make corrections, and continue the simulate process over and over until you’ve got the most effective simulation model to work from so that then when you finally start physical production, you’ve solved a lot of the problems already.

Mike: I cannot stress enough how much time and money this will save your organization!

Mike: I’ll give you 1 specific example. We had a customer who was setting up a robotic assembly line. They wanted four robots, each with a pallet of materials that they would pull up and from and put on the line. They had laid out this entire process in a 2D CAD model. We went to them and said, “hey, let us virtualize it in our software. Let us bring our partner in to do a virtual twin of the facility itself. We’ve got virtual twin models of the robots. We can model the whole thing to make sure that it’s effective.”

Mike: Their first response was “we don’t need it. We can see that it works”. We eventually talked them into letting us try our software and, it turns out, one of the robots could only reach about a third of the palette with the materials on it that robot needed.

Mike: Had they not done virtualization first, they would have built the line out according to that model and they wouldn’t have discovered they had a problem until they started running a line. They couldn’t reach the materials necessary to do the production, which means they would’ve had to reconfigure the line, stop production, reconfigure the line, figure out how to fix that – hopefully without moving all four robots on top of everything else!

Mike: By identifying the issues through simulation first, we were able to make some adjustments to how they had the line, the pallets and everything else set up and simulated it. It worked effectively in a simulation environment, so they went to the physical environment where it was also effective and worked as simulated,

Mike: This process saved them a significant amount of time, effort and cost.

Mike: And then at the execution end, by being able to take the process plan, the MBOM, the work instructions, the quality data collects, and directly import those into the execution side, you know what the production people are seeing, using and doing exactly what was intended when the process plan, the MBOM, and those things were created.

Mike: And now we can feed back; so, if there’s consistently a part that gets replaced or there is consistently a change that has to be made in manufacturing, we’ve got that inherent feedback loop in place so that we can then make adjustments to the model, make adjustments to the process plan, tooling, whatever needs to be adjusted, BUT, we’ve got that constant feedback loop working from a single model – so it makes ongoing changes much faster and much more effective as well.

Mike: Like we always say, DELMIA goes from ideation to execution and that full digital thread we provide has real value at every step in the process.

D4M is a privately owned company specializing in leveraging digital technologies to accelerate manufacturing clients to their transition to Industry 4.0. With long tenure and hundreds or successful projects, we are confident that our approach and experience provides the roadmap to help bring clarity and efficiency to your manufacturing operation.

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