Digital advances, from 3D models in public planning to patients living with pacemakers, are pushing sectors into new spaces which present unique opportunities but not without challenges.
In the final part of our mini-series we discover how digitalisation has shaped the automation, manufacturing and aviation industries here in Ireland. Our guests share real-world examples of phrases we hear bandied about daily from circularity to 360 and industry 4.0.
Lots of sparks fly in this discussion with John O'Sullivan MD of Douglas Control and Automation, Lufthansa Technik’s Engineering Manager Barry Lowe and Chief Innovation Officer at IMR Andrew Lynch.
Listen below or on your podcast player!
Topics we discussed include:
- Why future generations will look back on this time and consider us ‘quaint’
- Can paper and digital systems co-exist
- Lufthansa’s LEAN journey
- Things you must consider when investing in plant
- A brilliant explanation and example of circularity & 360
- When is AI not AI
- How Digital Twin works
- Real examples of how CPD drives success
Barry Lowe: Engineering Manager at Lufthansa Technik Turbine Shannon.
Barry is a native of Athlone, graduate of Mechanical Engineering. Commenced career as Product Development Engineer with Hyster Automated Handling in Dublin. Gained international experience working in USA & Germany in a variety of technical roles.
Joined Lufthansa Technik as Marketing & Sales Manager and transferred to current role as Engineering Manager with responsibility for product engineering, process engineering and new product introductions. Promoted to Head of Mobile Engine Services Dublin with Lufthansa Technik, effective January 2023.
John O’Sullivan: Managing Director at Douglas Control and Automation
John has an engineering degree in Electrical Engineering from University College Cork, a science degree in Astronomy and Planetary Science from the Open University and a Diploma in Project Management from the Cork Institute of Technology. He is a Chartered Engineer and Fellow of Engineers Ireland and a Project Management Professional with the Project Management Institute. He is a Functional Safety Professional and Certified Machine Safety Expert, both certified by TÜV. He has completed a Masters in management at the Smurfit Business School at University College Dublin and is currently conducting Doctoral research in Management Information Systems at UCC's Cork University Business School. His area of research is automation projects in the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector.
Andrew Lynch: Chief Innovation officer Irish Manufacturing Research
Andrew is also the international Vice President of the EUREKA SMART Manufacturing Board of Directors, he chairs the ManuFuture ETP Working Group (State Aid Strategies- Research & Innovation) and is the national delegate to the European manufacturing policy platform, ManuFuture High Level Group (HLG). Andrew has recently been nominated by the EFFRA Board to the Made in Europe Partnership Board, an expert board which meets regularly with the European Commission to discuss the scope and modalities of the Partnership and future call topics.
Looking for ways to explore or advance a career in the field of engineering? Visit Engineers Ireland to learn more about the many programs and resources on offer.
3.50 - Andrew Lynch
In a hundred years’ time, people are going to look back at these five or six years and say that is when everything changed. They’ll say we used to manufacture goods which we drove on trucks to put into shops and people bought stuff using a credit card. And they're going to say you guys were the ones who burnt the planet. It’s a wonderful time to be alive in this space.
Dusty Rhodes 0:39
Hello, my name is Dusty Rhodes and you're welcome to our engineers journal amplified podcast and the third in our special series shining a light on digitalization of the impact it has had on Irish business and society. From 3d models in public planning to patients living with pacemakers. It's clear from the experts we spoke to so far that digital advances are pushing sectors into new spaces that present them with unique opportunities, but not without the challenges to assist us with our final dig into the world of digitalization. I'm joined today by John O'Sullivan, Managing Director of DRS control and automation, who has over 25 years experience in the sector. Barry Lowe is engineering manager at Lufthansa technique turbine and Shannon. Barry has a ton of international experience working in the USA and Germany in a variety of technical roles. And Andrew Lynch, Chief Innovation Officer at Irish manufacturing research, and also a contributing expert on several key international policy directors for manufacturing. Gentlemen, you're all very welcome. Before we get into some specific projects, I kind of just want to talk generally about how technology plays a part in your day to day work. And if I could start with you how has digitalization shaped advanced manufacturing over the past 20 years or so?
Andrew Lynch 1:59
A great question, I'm old enough for those who can't see me are gray beards, I'm in my mid I would say early 50s. I'm still very pretty man and very lucky in that context. But if you consider me as a young Production Manager, General Manager manufacturing site all those years ago, and how I manage the facility and how I gathered information and how you how you made decisions based on the output of the data from that from from that facility, and so on, it was very manual and manually driven filling in manual charts and so on. digitalization is just a complete step change, it's a transformation, we now have the capability to look at optimization of a manufacturing facility, if you've got 60 different machines, you've got 150 different customers, you've got 1000 Or a million SK use, you know, we cannot put that into a platform, it will figure out the fastest way that we can manufacture that good, it can even figure out the best way to do with how much you know, the most cashflow in the month are on time and full highest metrics that we can meet. So if we make a change on a digital twin, for example, we can see this at at a digital or a non real level, we can interrogate the system itself, we can optimize it, and then we can execute in the real world. So there's, there's no financial commitment to doing something, we can see the impact of doing that thing, we can do it and execute it in the real world. So it's transformed everything I mean, you know, when you think about it, we can scan in a part electronically into a machine and build a park there. And then using 3d printing, you know, we've got AR VR goggles, you can put them on your head, and when you're looking into the bed of the machine, and arrow will come down and it will point into a particular dial that should be at seven instead of eight. And you could change that dial, you know, we can use you know, we're at the edge of using, you know, IoT sensors, I remember when an IoT sensor was, you know, $1,000 Now they're less than five years, we could put these things anywhere in 100 years time just to really encapsulate your question. 100 years time, people are gonna look back right now at these five or six years, and they're gonna say that is when everything changed. And I will be telling my grandkids in years, the company's got if I live and exist, I'd be saying, you know, I'll tell you what we used to do manufacturing, and you're gonna get a laugh. We used to put a manufacturing facility out in the middle of nowhere, we put people into it, we manufacture goods, and we'd manufacture we do many of them. And then we put them on trucks, you're going to love this. And we drive the truck to another big warehouse, and we put all the stuff in the big warehouse, and then we'd fly all over the world. And you're going to love this. We put it into more warehouses, and then we drive from that warehouse, we put it into a shop and people actually does shopping used to walk through the door of a big house. And there's lots of stuff for sale, and you bought stuff using a credit card. Our God forbid money. Let me tell you about how money worked. So our grandkids are going to look at this. And they're going to say you guys were not the one you burnt the planet. Because there's so many things changing in terms of how we do this. It's fantastic. A wonderful time to be alive in this space.
Dusty Rhodes 4:45
Let me go to John next to John. How has digitalization shaped the automation industry in the last 20 years?
John O'Sullivan 4:52
It's a path it's a it's a journey that we're on and my own personal situation. I'm Doing some research and I'm researching techniques and technologies that that we can bring to manufacturing. And it's basically it's how we get these new innovative ideas onto the factory floor. So what I've discovered just thinking about this for this podcast, I was thinking about what we do with what we've been offering to customers for last 40 years has been digitalization, and, you know, parts of industry 4.0 For a long time. So, you know, we, part of our projects in process industry would be an electronic controller that controls the plant, then followed by a human machine interface screen where the operator can can see, visualize the plant and visualize the process up into the supervisory level where the supervisors are dealing with batch management and recipe management, and then up into the business where data becomes the product. And the business has to evaluate life cycles and supply chains. So we've been offering this digital journey to our customers for decades. But the ironic thing is our own business wasn't digital at all, because we're in this pharmaceutical regulated environment, a lot of paper, a lot of signatures that have ink. So I've got two little stories, I suppose there's the story of how we're changing what we offer the customer. And then we have the how we change ourselves. So COVID was a great accelerator of our digital journey. And even before that, we started moving to Office 365. Instead of having licenses on site, we're dealing with subscription based licensing, Moving Storage, from the site to the cloud. And even in COVID, we were at the stage where we were doing remote testing with customers in different locations. And right now we've moved our timesheet packaging to the cloud, we're moving accounting to the cloud where because when people are working at home, they need to access all this data that we're producing. So I think after 40 years, we're finally digitalizing ourselves. My colleagues in Siemens would have a phrase about drink your own champagne, don't take your product and use it. And I've heard other people use the phrase which is eat your own dog food, which isn't as nice as drink your own champagne. So I prefer drinking champagne.
Dusty Rhodes 7:06
I got to stick with the latter. Definitely John. Barry, can you can you tell us because you're in the aviation industry, how has digitalization journey changed things at Lufthansa?
Barry Lowe 7:17
So I suppose I'd like to go back to our Lean journey. And when we talked about digitalization, we didn't relate it to lean. But if I look back at our Lean journey started in 2001, and is still a very active program within the facility in the company at the moment. And it certainly is a journey that doesn't really have a destination at this, there's always further improvement you can make. And when we looked at digitalization said, we kind of started by looking at industry 4.0, we've heard a lot of talk about industry 4.0. And we didn't really know what that would mean for for our company, Lufthansa here and Shannon, as John pointed out, we're a highly regulated industry as well. And historically, everything is paid for everything is stamped and signatures and all of that. So to make improvements, I suppose a lot of our improvements were Kaizen events where we found more efficient ways to do the physical work we do, and make improvements to our processes, very focused on our value stream map and, and and eliminating waste. And then we looked at as industry 4.0. As soon as we started looking at one was automation and two was information. We looked at analysis of our our labor where labor goes and the highest utilization of our labor was on blending, which is a very manual to repair the parts during the repair process. And I think the second one was blasting because we don't manufacture we repair parts, every part coming in can be slightly different. So therefore we need to have an adaptive process that can adapt to the condition of the incoming part. And that was really challenging, I suppose for the blending. So we looked at robotic blending and we also looked at Adaptive machining and we came up with technical feasible solutions, but we couldn't, couldn't take justify them from a commercial point of view. We tend to have our second significant manual operation was just blasting and we've successfully implemented robotic blasting for that and eliminated the manual element of that. Our plant is 30 years old. A lot of our equipment is old and it needs replacements over the last three years, we were going through an upgrading of a lot of our big piece of equipment like milling machines, lasers. So whenever we're buying new machines, we're buying them not for our current process, but looking ahead to what we might need for the future. So that was a big change for us was was to look for the future and up of what we believed was required for the future. And then we have new technologies like we've got 3d printing, which is laser blown powder directed energy deposition. So it's, it's effectively taking parts that come out of an engine that are worn, and been able to rebuild the material using this technology, which allows you to print like a honeycomb type structure. And that in the aviation industry was new technology, and very difficult to get approval to do it. So we've been working with one of the aeroengine OEMs, to develop the repair. And it's been in development for about 10 years, we started production two years ago. And one of the things we wanted to do was, was to try and find a way that would reduce the amount of testing of parts to validate parts leaving the facility. So we've done a lot of work through digitalization capturing the key process variables, the other big areas, all of the parts we bring in that we have to repair, we have to restore the dimension. So we've got to try and take a warm part and build up a surfaces add material to it, and then re machinery and grinders and, and coat it and bring it back to finish dimensions that comply with the requirements of the engine manufacturer. And a big part of that, then is the whole quality control of the product, making sure the parts are dimensionally Correct. Historically, that was all done manually measuring it with maybe a micrometer or a vernier type calipers. And the inspector, verifying the the dimensions within the required tolerance, we now are moving to CMM coordinate measuring machines, or we have a number of other digital measuring pieces of equipment where we can capture all of that data digitally. And that has the benefit of allowing us to actually have the theory, the measurements that were measured, rather than simply saying, looking at a record saying yes, they were measured and found to be within the specification, we actually have the measurements, we have it measured automatically. So you're not you're eliminating the human error already. Once you've your system, measuring system validated and calibrated, then you you have a much higher level of confidence because you're eliminating that human element in it. So it's bringing about a lot of change on our production floor. But what we're looking at now really is looking more on the other processes where whether it's our customer service or finance looking for where we can use digitalization to improve that. And one of the big changes for us was we identified an IoT platform ThingWorx, which effectively allows us to dump data from our machines, from our measuring systems from our ERP system, we can extract whatever information and dashboards we want from that going forward. So that that, for me is probably the most significant step that we now have that platform that we can build on.
Dusty Rhodes 13:06
So all three of you are saying that, you know, you're all from vastly different sectors, both are all becoming reliant on digital systems and speed and efficiency and accuracy, are all seeing a huge improvement because of this. Let me go back to Andrew because Andrew, you kind of work on on a bit of an overview level because you're doing a lot of things in the EU as well. And another thing that you're very conscious of in our changing business these days is circularity what what exactly does that phrase circularity mean?
Andrew Lynch 13:37
circularity is quite interesting, because it's this idea that we're, we're in a circular environment. In other words, you take something, you create something, you break that down and use some of the breakdown product back into the system itself. Again, it's like trees, for example, they grow up, the leaves go down to become compost and nourish the tree and away we go again. And it's that idea around circularity in that context. And I think it's, it's a beautiful idea, but one of the key key key key tenants that I keep saying to people is that there is no circularity without the manufacturing sector. So when we look at manufacturing at a European level, I like to do this every so often because I think it contextualize it, we do not have the raw materials that we need to support ourselves in this geopolitical region. We've got to go into Africa or China or Russia, as we've seen more lately, to get the raw materials that we need for everything from an iPhone to a tractor to a transistor to a bicycle. So it doesn't really matter what we're building or manufacturing if you'd like the raw materials don't necessarily exist in their natural sense on this continent. So we, as we do, in many cases, certainly in the sustainability sector, we have an onus on us to make sure that this idea of circularity, this example of using raw materials that are over and over again, in a circular sense is critically important, not just from some sort of esoteric, you know, we must pay to save the planet and all of that kids which is incredibly important, but just from a purely economic place we can get access forever to raw materials that are going to run out. I'll give you one very simple example. I am a carpenter. I hope you hear that accent from from what you're hearing online here. My wife is a beautiful woman. And we both live in the beautiful county of Longford in the Midlands, lovely, lovely part of the world. And we've been here for the last two decades wonderful people a great environment to grow a family and to live. And there are two beautiful companies near me one is pinata foods. pinata was beautiful organization large company they built a paninis and specialist breads products for Lidl and Aldi and different different groups right right throughout the country. Brilliant organization right next door to them in the city literally in the same building a state our business state. They have you have a lovely small brewery called St. Mary's brewery from St. Mary's a massive name here in Longford. Mel, as we all know was St. Patrick's first bishop I did not like him here. One of my best friends down here is called Mel this this a huge Demir so statements, and they make fantastic craft beers. I'm a man who loves his craft beer. So one of the things we did a lovely project supported by the EPA, for example, and our own circle air circulator is a is a PPP that that IMR and manages here on behalf of the stage and as the platform for policy on circularity. So if you're interested in that space, certainly check that out. And one of the projects that we funded out of that problem was in this sim bio beers, because we took the waste product waste bread that came out of out of food, we use that as a yeast starter in segments beer. So we had this lovely idea of a waste product coming out of one area as a starter to another. And that gives you a lovely example of the circularity model. Now I should say that they created a fantastic Belgian beer very strong, very beautiful. And it's exported all over the world and the first cousin in New York, who actually had a glass of St. Mel's Belgian brew coming from this particular sin by a beer project, EPA, and ourselves in it, Mr.
Dusty Rhodes 16:51
Andrew, a lot of the technologies that we're talking about and Addgene, looking into the future, how long have these things trials for and researched before they actually go into mass production and become an everyday thing.
Andrew Lynch 17:04
They're a very negative man, dusty, good.
Dusty Rhodes 17:09
I just want to be safe. We say, My late
Andrew Lynch 17:12
father, God be good to us to say that if what happens if concrete doesn't last beyond 100 years, the whole the whole world will collapse around us. There's an extraordinary amount of technologies out there, when we consider there where Barry was saying, Oh, look standard, what they're doing, that's an incredibly regulated sector. And rightfully so I fly on planes myself all the time, it's the safest form of travel, as we know, it's getting more accessible, more safe, you know, and again, we know the green agenda is coming hugely into that space. So a lot of these regulators are the farmer plants and medical devices or anything into the human system, etc. All of these are foodstuffs are foodstuffs, extraordinary, if you walk into any of the food production companies on the side, which we're very proud of, of that, in particular, from a green perspective, you know, green island green agenda, and this idea of St. Patrick green all over the world. So we've got extraordinary opportunities at an international level around this. So we know these are incredibly regulated and safe sectors that we're feeding into these technologies coming on board and the example the caregivers there, for example, earlier on around, you know, adding deposition onto some of these plants, etc, is very, very safe, very regulated. This is about grasping the opportunity. From a technology perspective, we know that in 10 years time, we're going to be using a way more than we're using now we're in that transition phase, if you'd like to get to that point. And I think I mentioned earlier on off off off air, and I'm sure around this idea of AI envision systems, we know that AI and vision systems can now read an oncology scan better than a human equivalent. And instead of doing up to eight to 10 an hour, we can do over 11,000 to an hour. And that's where we find huge help within our our systems, because we know that it can, it can add huge amounts of computational power, and the parts that we're finding difficult the bottlenecks that we have, and in everything from our health system to developing aircrafts, and all of these design capabilities, all of that can be brought to bear. Now, that doesn't mean that the human takes a step back or that cognition exits the state of and so on. There's this whole idea around human in the loop. We don't have decision systems, we have decision support systems. So if you consider technology, for example, is a bit like, how would you say, you know, Google Maps and you're driving along in your car, Google Maps tells you this is the fastest route to go from A to B. Now you might decide, well, do you know why I had an ex girlfriend used to live down there, I go down and see how that house is like this, and you go left at that particular junction, and we'll just readjust and say, Okay, I get it, we're going somewhere else, but you're still going to point B, and you want to be able to find a plot that is it isn't that it's going to take over the world. This isn't. We're not quite as Huxley's Brave New World at this point. But I think that doesn't mean that we should abdicate our responsibilities in the human element in this and as I mentioned there to John and Barry, I'm not altogether sure that you know, AI systems coming in and we know how people feel about AI and this is very which an age thing is? Well, I should, I should point out that, you know, when your young daughter son picks up an iPhone or an iPad, and they're sliding passenger using that technology them is the most natural thing in the world because it existed when they were born. Whereas if you look at how your parents are looking at to say, Oh, I don't know, young kids, they're always on the screens, I think it's negative, and so on. Because that didn't exist. We know, for example, AI gets an awful rap because our AI is everywhere, the minute it becomes a useful technology that we can understand it stops being called AI, and it starts being called Google Maps or Google search engine or something else that we're used to seeing, you know, how we how we, you know, Alexa, and all these things. That's all a, but there's stuff that we don't know. And there were still cognising about and that we're pushing forward is conceptual basis on that has that term AI? So I think those are, those are things that we should be very, very conscious of. But I don't I don't think that as I was saying, I don't think we should abdicate the human role in this. From a psychology perspective, from birth and Africa perspective, I'm not altogether convinced that, you know, people who get this type of technology, people who understand it, people who are advocates like myself that we should be using and can see positive contribution. So on, there is a whole pile, including a charter for AI, you know, What rights does an AI entity have, for example, there's already a, as there is a human chapter, we now have an AI chapter, which is accepted as an international level. So how we how we engage with this is something that keeps, as I said, not just the human in the loop, but the human at the center of that loop.
Dusty Rhodes 21:25
John, let me go to you and ask you about because of something yourself and Barry, both mentioned, industry 4.0 What is industry? 4.0?
John O'Sullivan 21:33
That's a $64,000 question. Yeah, I started, as I said, my own personal research, and I had a look around and because what is industry 4.0 It's a buzzword, it came out of Germany came from the German government back in the early 2000s, as how they would, what's the next step in industry? So industry, one was the, the manual labor transforming to steam power, then industry, two was electrification. And an industry three was electronics and automation. So we're up to the 80s. And now we're on industry 4.2. Our as Andrew said, we're an industry 5.0. And a lot of industries now are coming along with pharmaceutical 4.0. And food, 4.0, and so on. So what we're doing here with the industry 4.0 is it's about cyber physical systems. So we're linking the, the technology with the hardware and getting data. And I found the OECD came up with nine technologies and techniques that they would call industry for bio autonomous robots, autonomous machines, IoT Internet of Things, big data, cybersecurity, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, Andrew covered. So it's really a hodgepodge of lots of new things. And I think the one that I built I'm focusing on next is the is the simulation and what what people are calling digital twin, which is going to be the next phase of I think the next kind of accelerator for manufacturing.
Dusty Rhodes 23:07
Okay, well, come on. You said so yeah, you have to explain your you're talking about paper, you're talking about digitization, tell us about digital twin digital
John O'Sullivan 23:16
twin is, it's very exciting. So the first time I saw a digital twin was about 10 years ago, and it was the, you know, the diving bells that go down to the divers use to service the platforms at sea. So there was the ship where they went out to the platforms at sea, they had this big Diving Bell, and they brought down the divers, and they had to acclimatized and so on. So to do the training, and bring that ship into dark and do training, it was costing them hundreds of 1000s of pounds a day, you know, because the ship wasn't producing or wasn't being effective. So they developed an entire simulation of the diving bell, the pressures it would it would encounter, the technology is on board, the control room on the ship, and they put it on shore and they had cameras, they had animation. So everyone felt they were performing in the real world. And it saved a fortune you could train, you could commission you could make changes. And if you wanted to make a change to the actual machine, you could make the change virtually first and test it and then bring it to the real machine. So digital twin is we've we've digital twin cities with digital twin machines with digital twin products.
Dusty Rhodes 24:25
So this has been happening for me for years. I know in the aviation industry with wind tunnels and modeling and, and all that kind of stuff. So you do have a twin. Are you saying that this is happening now more and more in say regular life?
John O'Sullivan 24:37
Well, on the one hand, it's to do with cost. You can virtualize your process, virtualize your product and commission and train your operators and your your staff before you invest in the product. But even now I'm finding people who would never have used digital twin are now saying well I have supply chain issues. I'm not going to get the parts for two years. What are we going to do in the meantime? So let's build A virtual machine. And then let's train and develop it while we're waiting for this, this hardware to arrive. So it's interesting. It's probably the next thing we'll be looking at because we haven't got there yet.
Dusty Rhodes 25:14
I was ready to ask do you do it a yourself but you're thinking about it. And it's something you get into. Speaking of out of aviation, Barry, you're with Lufthansa and I mean, digital twin must be something you've been doing for years, is it?
Barry Lowe 25:28
No, it's interesting. When John spoke about it, I was speaking with Connor McCarthy from confirm the organization here and UL, and we're going to have a postdoc come on site in the new year, to look at developing a digital twin for our additive manufacturing process. We've got a lot of data that we've gathered, as part of our research, we have a lot of results from metallurgical evaluation of samples. And the idea is to build a digital twin of the process, and then use the digital twin then to help us optimize the process. But it was interesting, John, you're talking about using a digital twin, maybe where you don't have material or whatever, when when we have a new engine type that we need to develop repairs really typically don't have parts to work from. So for us to build the 3d model of the parts, and then to model the process and create a digital twin will be extremely beneficial to us going forward. So it's not something that we're unnecessarily using at the moment or stable, it's something that we see the opportunity, and really need to understand how best we can deploy it in in our business and get the most from it and to say we're starting off with that PhD or postdoc student who's going to work on a project for us to explore the value over two or three.
Dusty Rhodes 26:50
Let me ask you, Barry, because you've worked in several different countries around the world. And we're kind of we're getting excited about digitalization and digital twins and all these things we could do. Is Arlen kind of lagging behind, or are we keeping you up to speed with, you know, other countries you'd have experience of?
Barry Lowe 27:06
I think what's interesting to see is I think it was John mentioned this industry 4.0 originated out of Germany, back in the early 2000s. And one of our strategies is to try and collaborate as much as possible within the group. And certainly, when I compare what we're doing with push, our colleagues in Germany are doing very much aligned for maybe some hot on different parts, but they're looking more at the aircraft and the engines as a sort of a macro level. Whereas we're down on the detailed parts that we repair, looking at how we can apply digitalization to the actual processes used to repair departments. But I would say we're very much keeping abreast of of our colleagues in Germany, and trying to share as much or our knowledge and experience to to help each other and collaborate as much as possible.
Dusty Rhodes 27:59
And do you find that there is a lot of that where you will go to Germany or other countries and you'll be inspired by something and then you'll throw in your tuppence worth, and they'll go, Oh, very good idea.
Barry Lowe 28:09
Absolutely. Our key projects are what we call our latest projects, we would share that with them. The other area, I think is just within the region here we have a very active network called explore engineering. And that's an effort between the universities in the Midwest here and the industry in the Midwest. I think it was fascinating, really, because we talked about the manufacture of knees and hips, and that and we've got Stryker here in our region. And we've collaborated closely with them because they use a lot of the same technologies in the manufacture of hips and knees, as we do in the repair of air foils from aeroengine. So I think it just goes to show the great opportunity we have on this particular topic to collaborate. And over the years, we developed a very strong lean network, where companies collaborated on, on and shared experiences on their Lean journey. And I think it was a great opportunity for us to network industry together to share our experience on digitalization. And I suppose our most recent step forward was to consolidate our digitalization program in with our our Lean program, our CI program, because I guess when we set out on our journey, we saw digitalization as projects more like MPI projects, and we manage them with a gate process. And then we, I suppose one of the two spreads across the organization we looked at at training across the organization social we've had 20 of our staff across the organization do the UCD diploma in digital transformation. And it was out of that we really looked at are we looking at a transfer a digital transformation in our organization? Or was it more incremental improvement And really, we decided it's incremental improvement we're looking at. So when you talk about CI, continuous improvement under lean umbrella, we're effectively doing CI using digitalization. And so to bring the two programs together, made a lot of sense, because we're reusing and sharing the same resources. But it brings another dimension to our CI program when we talked about digitalization and opening up another world of opportunities for us. And part of the problem is we didn't have the knowledge in house, we didn't have the skill set maybe to really go after some of the digital opportunities. When we looked at CI, we looked at other non digital opportunities, let's say, and I think having trained 20 people on the diploma course, we now have people that are more aware of suppose hours and are looking for opportunities to make improvements to digitalization. And that's why I think def network would be really good to try and have companies share, experience and learn. If we're not competing against each other. We're actually collaborating and helping each other. And there's really a lot of opportunity there going forward.
Dusty Rhodes 31:12
And do you kind of all need to speak the same language as well. And what you're doing is is helping them to do that. Just to wrap up our podcast for today. John, after listening to our barrier has been talking about or barrier listening to John, is there anything you would like to ask each other? I'll let John go first on that.
John O'Sullivan 31:28
Barry, I I'd like to maybe touch base with you later about the digital twin journey you're on and your IoT solution you did you call it ThingWorx is the platform we're using. And it's the next step that we're looking at. And
Barry Lowe 31:43
I like to like to talk to you, John, as well, because they call we're trying to do with Connor, in confirm. certainly interesting. Get your input.
Dusty Rhodes 31:51
It started off as a podcast. And now it's Tinder. As like what's going on? So listen, John, what is it that interests you about what air Berry was saying that you're thinking,
John O'Sullivan 32:02
not just the simulation, and the digital twin of the product associate and the digital twin of the process, and how that how that will affect the real manufacturing then, is fascinating. And the key is the feedback, you have to close that loop and get the data out of the factory floor and into the digital twin. Yeah, so that the digital twin is continuously improving in its true nature, you know that it's catching up with the real data, and you'll find that you're missing you have gaps, okay, we don't have enough data to be accurate. Let's add sensors, let's gather information so.
Dusty Rhodes 32:41
And Barry, what is it wasn't that John was saying that you're gonna follow up with after the podcast.
Barry Lowe 32:46
I suppose if I just take a step back, maybe just the one of the big challenges I found in trying to take an organization like ours, like we have 250 people. So we're a small company. We're a highly technical company. And yet I really struggled to guess digitalization embraced by the organization. I mean, if you look at from a financial controllers point of view, they're immediately looking at what's the return on investment. So I'm looking to try and get projects that I don't even know myself wanted to deliver. So we need to understand how the digital twin can do for our business. Before we can really put a project together without an ROI on it. I want to start with looking at some of the other projects where we're looking at process monitoring and dashboards, how do you see what the ROI is going to be on it? And if you want to invest in an IoT platform, before we even have a whole lot of projects that are gonna go on to it? It's really difficult. So one of the concerns I have for industry in general, if you take the smaller companies who maybe don't have the resources we have, how do you support companies like that, to take that step forward? That leap of faith as well as into digitalization and certainly is still seen as a buzzword, the industry 4.0 is a buzzword and some people it's like the engineers or our you know, it's it's a game or their toys to play an experiment with. And that's a big concern, I think.
Dusty Rhodes 34:05
Well, let me ask Andrew about that, then. Because Andrew, we're talking about digitalization and developing things and you can do this answer. It's all amazing. And it sounds great for a big company that has the resources to do it. Because you've more of an overview of industry, do you find that this is filtering down into smaller players?
Andrew Lynch 34:25
We've got to educate our own managers, not that this is something they could do, but this is something they have to do. And the problem is and I you know, I often give the example there of of hearing it, you're hearing aids went from went from just press or pressing, pressing or vacuum molded and so on to being 3d printed. It went from a couple of euros to a couple of pets. If you're an organization that was doing the latter, you are going to be out of business within nine months. It happens that quickly. We know that there's lots of medical device corporations at the moment at A at an international level that are looking 3d printing. Now if they get 3d printers in that manufactured product, what's that going to do to their supply chain, it's currently making plastic multipacks. And the tool makers that make the tools or molds for those plastic pipe manufacturers, that's a supply chain that could potentially be decimated. And we need to understand what that looks like and so on. We look at our car manufacturers, people supplying product into cars at the moment, as carriers transition from fossil fuels into electric, anybody who's making parts for all those, that's going to change significantly. If you're a company that makes buttons and panels for anything, what you're going to find is the buttons are gone, they're now on screens, we are one sided screens, and we press stuff, instead of having small plastic buttons, and so on. So there is a revolution in terms of what it is that consumers looking for. Were going from plastic parts to electronically enabled smart things. And we need to be on that journey. It doesn't matter what sector you're in, if you're a food manufacturer, for example. And you think the 3d printed food is something that will never happen, you're wrong. I've eaten a character that was 3d printed, you know, I've had a scan of my entire body and they gave me a little doll. It's not the cutest dog I've ever seen. It's a bit freaky, but it's, but it's a doll. Nonetheless, it doesn't matter what sector you're in, this is coming for you. And if you think that I can, I can stand still and do nothing. And I've got a good business, and I'm going to be alright Jack, you're not. Because regardless of whether it's the regulatory environment that's coming down from a circularity perspective, and is looking to manage and maintain the information to that data stream, or whether a multinational supplier for you is going to come through, or even a b2c customer, for example, there's a whole legislation coming down that I'm manufacturing machine given to a customer, I'm still responsible for the data infrastructures for that for 17 years after I started 14 years after itself. So these are things that are going to put huge pressure on on all systems, some of which, and most of which are going to be SMEs. But I think back to how I thought of ISR when I first came across, it's a good guy who never climbed this mountain. And now it's a hill, it's a very small hill, because we can all, you know, have the infrastructure and the knowledge and the mindset and the budgeting and so on to make that happen. This is just another hill in the making.
Dusty Rhodes 37:03
I actually kind of gotta give you the last word, Andrew, in a way. All right, because is there anything from what Barry or John was talking about earlier that you'd like to add like to ask them?
Andrew Lynch 37:13
John O'Sullivan, very serious question for you, my friend, collaborative robotics nonsense, are the wave of the future.
John O'Sullivan 37:24
I would say for us, we've used them, and we ended up backing off from using them. There were limitations around the capacity and their accuracy. I suppose it's a trade off between the collaborative nature, and then what they can do, basically, how heavy can they lift? And how accurate can they repeat a task. So we've used them and then we've gone back to call it traditional robots from the big name manufacturers, Cuca, Mitsubishi, and then you have to install overarching safety systems around them. So for dusty if you're not familiar, a collaborative robot is where you can actually have a robot on the desk with you. And the human being is handing parts to the robot, the robot is taking parts. So it is it's in the it's in the name collaborative. But for that, you're dealing with a moving part that can be dangerous, and it has to be managed very carefully. So I would say there's a future there. But we've we've not had the case studies to use it. I just cannot. Can I just make a point on to reiterate something that the lead said about the SMEs in Ireland, I think you might say, Yes, Andrew, that we don't have robots per 100,000 robots per 100,000 people. But we're in a process industry where robots don't aren't required. Were moving liquids around more than parts. We don't have that OEM base that the Germans and the Italians have. So I would say we're probably digitalizing elsewhere, apart from robots. What we do need to do is this is this, this podcast is part of it. We need to build clusters of expertise, where companies like mine, we have the advantage over burying it, we can see what the other customers are doing. We can see what the other industries are doing. And we can take the best from each and deliver it to someone like Barry, we can take knowledge from the medical device from the the orthopedics and bring it to automotive bring it to aerospace. And those clusters are key to the to the growth of the industry in Ireland, I think.
Dusty Rhodes 39:30
Well, James, it's been absolutely fascinating talking to all of you, I definitely get the impression that not only is digitalization alive and well in Ireland, but we are at where as good as anywhere else in the world, which is, which is good to say, Oh, I won't say we're better but we're as good as anybody else in the world, which is great. Thank you so much for coming on to the podcast today. John O'Sullivan, Managing Director of Douglas control and automation Barry Lowe, engineering manager at Lufthansa Technik. Turbine in Shannon and Andrew Lynch, Chief Innovation Officer at Irish Manufacturing Research If you'd like to look up any of our guests, you'll find their contacts and LinkedIn profiles in the show notes area of your podcast player right now. Our amplified podcast was produced by dustpod.io. For engineers journal, you'll find advanced episodes on our website at engineers ireland.ie or just press follow on your podcast player right now to get our next episode automatically. Until next time, from a self destructs Thank you for listening