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How 3D simulation and offline programming software contributes to sustainable digitization

 An increasing number of people are consciously demanding more "green" in the products they purchase. They are worried about the rising deterioration of our environment and global warming, putting pressure on policymakers. In turn, politicians are trying to respond with suitable legal regulations, forcing the business community to take action.

“Sustainability” as a concept has a rich historical background allowing even today a wide range of different interpretations. In this context, what is important to understand is that sustainability cannot be located solely in the sphere of environmental protection; instead, economic, social, and ecological responsibility must be assigned equally.

Notwithstanding all the difficulties involved in measuring and evaluating sustainability in concrete terms, it is possible to anchor sustainability in all corporate processes by means of digitalization that has been thoroughly thought through, thereby seizing the potential to increase a company's success at the same time. This is driven by higher employee loyalty – especially among younger employees – increased process efficiency and improved innovative capabilities.


For CENIT, "sustainable digitalization" is nothing new. We have been working on topics that we would today label "sustainability" in a range of customer projects for quite some time. For example, CENIT's own solution for the digital factory, FASTSUITE.


Sustainability 2.0

Now, though, the experts at CENIT want to work with even more closely than ever with customers to unearth the treasures that are hidden in their data – for a better world, so to speak. This involves leveraging potential for " improved" product creation, for a "better" product operating phase, for example in terms of achieving a closed-loop economy true to the motto: From the cradle to the grave and back again using a minimum of resources.

Keeping an eye on the goal

Sustainability requires a strategic mindset to achieve goals as quickly as possible, but with as little effort as possible. Conventional waterfall models can no longer take you very far: In the initial situation, whether it be creating a new product, or planning a new plant for it, or simply a new production line, in most cases there is only a broad understanding of the target situation. A precise concept with clearly defined actions is a thing of the past; instead, iterative loops of action steps are needed, and they must be continuously reviewed. So how do you check to ensure that you are still moving towards the goal and that you've not drifted off course, even though the goal itself is on the move in these times of VUCA? This is where digitalization plays a role, allowing planning reliability to be elevated to a higher level. The key is to digitally map the various target scenarios as precisely and as completely as possible and ultimately to play them out (simulate them). When implementing a strategy, the question is always whether the assumed boundary conditions still apply. Is the supply resilient enough? Are the costs for the required raw materials still within a reasonable range? Will a higher carbon footprint cost not reduce the profitability of the manufacturing process? Consistently analyzing data from previous projects helps to predict the future accurately. This is an integral part of CENIT's "sustainable digitalization" approach.

Sustainable Factory Automation

So exactly how do the concepts of the digital factory in general fit into this landscape? More specifically, how does CENIT's FASTSUITE fit in? The term "digital factory", which is somewhat outdated, should be understood as a synonym for what we now consider a digital twin: a virtual 1:1 image of the real shop floor including all its machines and workflows. This is linked to the demand for complete transparency to track down waste of any kind or useless activities ("muda") within the understanding of lean production approaches, to eliminate them and improve the overall situation specifically. Muda on the shop floor has many roots and CENIT's solution is "Sustainable Factory Automation" through (offline) 2D/3D programming with FASTSUITE. FASTSUITE is therefore an important building block for implementing greater sustainability from a holistic perspective.

Muda can be the result, for example, of a worker being injured after a robot has been improperly programmed – the production line comes to a standstill, the company is unable to deliver, and the company has to explain the situation to the customer. Muda can also mean, though, that the cycle times of the different process steps are not optimally aligned resulting in unnecessary load peaks in power consumption – in times of immensely increased energy costs, this is particularly painful. In today's world, it is not uncommon for the cost argument to outweigh the increased carbon footprint. Needless to say, FASTSUITE can also be used to optimize the overall energy demand of a new factory ("Greenfield Project"), significantly reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of the new factory.


CENIT's "Sustainable Factory Automation" approach guarantees high availability of all resources in production, maximum flexibility and scalability, risk minimization, while also valuing the employees. You might think that the later argument is pulled out of thin air; after all, the increased use of software is supposed to reduce dependency on the company's own employees. In fact, though, the opposite is true. FASTSUITE ensures that employees perform worthwhile tasks, leading to higher job satisfaction. In turn, this promotes employee loyalty. There is nothing worse in times of a glaring shortage of skilled workers than seeing colleagues performing unnecessary tasks!


On top of that, optimizing manufacturing processes always involves many options, such as a broad range of variants of the manufactured products. Only a professional, deeply integrated 3D simulation environment allows all options to be played through transparently and the most resource-saving sequence to be identified, when setting welding points, for example – by programming a welding robot offline.

Taking responsibility towards the next generation

Things get even more exciting when a cobot works in tandem with a worker. FASTSUITE reveals – offline, of course, so that the manufacturing cell can continue to be productive - the optimal human/robot pairing. Online coaching no longer fits in an era that is literally crying out for more sustainability. From the initial layout validation to virtual commissioning, in each of these stages, for example in automotive body construction or sheet metal parts production, today's FASTSUITE Edition 2 addresses any kind of muda and sustainably ensures business success on our planet, one that we still enjoy living on.


Bernhard Valnion, Dr.

ArticlesFactory AutomationDigital TwinOffline ProgrammingDigital Manufacturing

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