Future Thinking with Robotics, VR and Blockchain at DSM SIG Event

Silverstone Technology Cluster

13th December 2019

At our Design, Simulation & Metrology Special Interest Group event this week, hosted by Grant Thornton in Milton Keynes, we explored technologies and processes set to change the look of ‘Business of the Future’. In the busy world of today, it can be tough to find time to focus on the future and what changes we could embrace to help propel our business forward. Expert speakers at this event offered insights into recently developed technology and ways of working that can potentially transform business efficiency, profitability and growth prospects.

Our first expert speaker was Niall Johanson of Charpak who, using their sustainable packing business as a case study, explained the benefits of establishing a “circular economy”. He highlighted how this process is all about creating a cycle of value in moving the “waste products” from one business on to another business who see its value as their raw materials. This can provide new revenue sources and promotes a greener business strategy.

Richard White of Hexagon’s MSC Software, then shared his knowledge about the advantages of “digital twinning”. By creating a digital model of a real thing during the design phase, complete with accurate physics data, businesses can test theories on products and materials before committing to expensive production. With advances in AI simulation, valuable research can highlight issues in the early stages saving huge time and expense.

We then unravelled the realities of “blockchain” with Stefan Haase from Whitecap Consulting. He challenged us to see how “blockchain has the potential to be as disruptive as the internet” in the future. We learned how blockchain provides a record of movement of any asset, by storing an online ledger of all the relevant transactions in the public domain. This process is incredibly data-intensive, so the technology to support it is still developing but the potential to change future business models and improve efficiencies is enormous.

Next we heard from Stephen Fletcher of Theorem who showed us the benefits of using VR to explore 3D CAD designs in helping multi-location teams test and share ideas at the early design stage or for cost-effective digital training. Easy to set up and use with any plug-in VR headset, this technology can create valuable collaboration for many different types of business including manufacturing production lines.

Roger Peacock from Velocity then inspired us all to think about the advantages of introducing RPA (robotic processing automation) into our businesses to increase efficiency and drive up value from our employees. This technology can replicate data-heavy, time-consuming, repetitive tasks in order to free-up employee time to either complete more valuable activity or to reduce expensive headcount. A key example was showing us how invoice payment processing can be completed by robots in a fraction of the time and cost.

Our final speaker was Joel Crook, an expert in manufacturing and technology for Google. He highlighted the sheer scale and impact that Google continue to have on its mission to “organise the world’s information and make it useful for everyone”. We learned that Google are the 7th largest computer hardware provider yet sell none of it, using it all for their own enormous data-centres which since 2017 has all been run on renewable energy! Joel shared how Google is driving forward technology developments in machine learning and the multitudes of benefits this will bring to the business of the future.

Speakers and presentations:
Using the Digital Twin to Optimise Product Design and Manufacturing Processes – Richard White, MSC Software
Advantages of 3D CAD data in Virtual Reality for your company – Stephen Fletcher, Theorem
Blockchain – what is it and why should we care? – Stefan Haase, Whitecap Consulting
Robotic Process Automation – Roger Peacock, Velocity
Lowering the barrier to Machine Learning – Joel Crook, Google

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