Interviewer: What is your name, position/role and your institution?
Steve Wilding: My name is Steve Wilding i'm a through life system sustainment lead for an area within Babcock International.
Interviewer: Could you provide an explanation on the impact that digital manufacturing is having on your sector?
Steve Wilding: Okay uh first of all we're a company that it although it does do manufacturing in certain areas uh we're more biased towards support. But we got involved in the digiTop project because in our case often the lines between manufacturing and support is quite blurred.
Um, in essence we all need the similar information we all need to deliver similar information we've all got similar issues. It's just the fact that manufacturing is traditionally seen as something you do in a factory environment but it's really no different to what we do supporting our customers.
So i tend to refer to it less as digital manufacturing and more as uh more in line with sort of the digital revolution uh you know the the industry 4.0 um type lookout. Um, so digitisation in effect is allowing us to understand more in some cases understand more faster. This allows for more confidence informed decision making.
Um, and that's pretty much at all levels so whether or not it's management of a project um or whether or not it's the individuals on the coal face making day-to-day decisions um it allows for those to be made quicker and in many cases the decisions are more accurate.
Um, so the kind of areas that we're looking at it falls into sort of two areas first of all information delivery um obviously we've got the same problem as most people printed media is often slow to update more particularly slow to distribute. So digitisation allows us to reduce the delays so we can actually push out the information to the point of need a lot faster.
Because we are controlling that push out and as well as that you don't end up with the pencil and the pediments that engineers tend to make um there's more chance that you're maintaining the configuration control.
Um, where we've already started to change those printed media into pdfs um they're still often very text heavy so they'd be there can be quite unwieldy when you're trying to search for information. So the next stage is we've been moving more towards interactive publications which obviously have got the advantage that they're often more intuitive, they're able to present relevant information faster and they present the information to the user rather than the user have to search for it.
So you're in more of a push than a pull information system. But on top of that we know also by providing our engineers with digital hardware we're able to provide more information in animated or video format and there's a lot of evidence as you're aware that the comprehension and retention of information is vastly increased when you deliver it in a more pictorial view or a video view.
Um, so you're getting a lot closer to turning information into knowledge almost instantaneously you've you've got a lot better chance of that happening. We're also investigating or increasingly investigating the use of augmented reality and that falls into two parts there's a lot of augmented reality devices that out there so you're you're actually presenting more traditional information so items brs um animations etc.
But you can actually have that animation floating in mid air say for instance we're doing a lot of work with hololens at the moment. Um, you can actually put the information where the the user needs it um as opposed to the maintainer you know in our case we've got a lot of um working at height or working in very cramped spaces um so they have to sort of leap away from the job. Um, look at whatever they need to look at and then come back to the job well by use of these devices you can actually take that information and put it floating in mid air there next to them.
Um, so that's the the delivery of information side but the other advantage to us is data gather. So the area that i work in is very biased towards the military so we do what is called dracas so that's data reporting analysis and corrective action system. Which you could argue is a very very posh way of putting learning from experience and whichever methodology you use gathering data and making sure that data is accurate and as complete as possible that's obviously helps you make those decisions.
So we're starting to use those delivery devices to also to be capture devices. Um, so the the user, the test engineer, the maintainer um they're encouraged to give feedback on what went right with the job what went wrong with the job more detail about defects etc.
Um, and then we're also using sensors in many cases the actual systems operating software to capture health and usage information which again if we can get that fed back um we can take it we can be be more um digitally aware so we understand the health and usage of the equipment itself.
So because of that we can be more proactive we can move from a reactive stance which we we're extremely good at but reactive stances um effectively as far as the cost our customers are concerned they don't want it to break um so how fast we fix it they're obviously often pleased with us fixing it quickly but their preference is that it didn't break in the first place.
Um, so with all of that data we should be able to use pf curves and the like um possibly ai and we start getting into the realms of digital twin. So we can effectively move into that proactive stance and intervene before it becomes a problem for our customer.
Um, and in our case we're dealing with a lot of safety or operational critical systems.
Interviewer: Could you highlight some of the challenges that digital technologies pose to those working manufacturing?
Steve Wilding: Right the first challenge is the fact that it's very easy to be seduced by digital technology. Um, so engineers tend to be a little bit like magpies. Digital technology is the new buzzword um it's shiny um so you've got to really be disciplined you've got to understand if it adds value or are you just introducing it because everybody else is or it sounds good.
So you you've really got to look at your cost benefit analysis as to does it truly add value. The other challenge that digital technology poses is there's a lot of solutions out there so you have to take a very jointed approach to your choice of hardware software um and making sure the fact that when you integrate all of these things um you've actually got something that works together in almost harmoniously.
If you you could end up quite easily go down the route where we've got this software that's very good for this, this software is very good for that, this hardware is very good for that but they don't work effectively together. So you've got to really look at your overarching solution go down a jointed route and one one resist temptation of knee-jerking and secondly you've got to road map everything you've got to understand where you're going and try and stick to that or at least control any deviations from that road map.
Interviewer: Could you explain the ways in which digiTop and digital manufacturing research can help companies?
Steve Wilding: There were a number of areas in the digiTop project that were of interest i've worked with Cranfield University for several years so the augmented reality the information capture the um the augmented reality um production and all that that sort of things. We'd started that route and it was useful to see other perspectives to make sure as i say it's easy to go down a route that isn't you can be seduced down a route so it was good to work with academia um to understand whether or not we were actually going down a good route and so that sort of it was very useful.
Um, there were lots of areas on digiTop that concentrated on the human um and i've got a really big interest in the fact that we can digitise everything um but digitisation is costly and as well as that you have to spend a lot of time understanding how to digitise something. The human at the end of the day is still probably one of our most versatile sensor sets that we got.
So actually taking human characteristics human senses and being able to feed that back as if it were a part of the the overarching machine was extremely useful and we're also introducing a lot of digital technology in front of a human so understanding the or monitoring of the human themselves was also very interesting so what kind of stresses we put in that individual under um can we actually understand what is task driven pressure what is circumstance driven pressure and in some cases what pressure are we adding to them by overloading them with information.
Um, so that the the digit that the whole of the digiTop team was of interest there was no single area that was um individually the only area i was interested in um it so it gave a really good insight into what was coming through what the art of the possible was how far into the future we might have to wait before that possibility becomes a reality.
Um, and again it helps us to look at the direction we may have traveled there's a a few areas where digiTop has changed that road map um we can now see an opportunity um to introduce some of the digital ideas and they would add value to what we intend to do in the future.