Lacroix is a seasoned software executive, having spent decades in the industry with Citrix and MyriadGroup earlier in his career. He joined digital twin software vendor Cosmo Tech in 2011, where he currently serves as CTO and leads the product and delivery teams for the company.
- What are the most critical challenges facing manufacturers right now?
Thomas Lacroix: There are three types of challenges that I believe the manufacturing industry faces today: decision-making in an increasingly complex and uncertain environment, balancing contradictory constraints (such as revenue, cost, efficiency, carbon footprint, etc.), and reacting quickly and adapting with agility to real-world change.
- What can be done to overcome these hurdles?
TL: To overcome these challenges, manufacturing facilities have turned to data. The industry is investing in IoT and digital twins to monitor the present, giving them greater awareness and detection capabilities over their assets. As a result, they can react to situations in real time.
In addition, manufacturers can look to the future, making predictions based on historical data. This means that their digital twins’ capabilities can extend to failure prediction and maintenance prediction. At this stage of maturity, digital twins inform manufacturers about the current status of their assets, which enables them to maximize uptime through the maintenance and OPEX level. It’s a step in the right direction to overcoming the challenges faced, but it’s still not enough.
- What new opportunities have emerged during this time?
TL: There are several opportunities that have arisen, including:
- The ability to predict the impact of uptime and downtime, not only on the asset, but on the overall business.
- The ability to predict the impact of supplier disruption
- The ability to optimize immobilized cash through “build to order” or “build to stock.”
- The ability to optimize maintenance in a way that is both sustainable and financially optimized.
To overcome the challenges and tap into the opportunities, manufacturers will need to know not only how the organization is performing, but also how it will perform in the future—especially in situations that have never before been experienced.
- How can digitalization add value to manufacturing?
TL: Digitalization is a journey for the manufacturing industry. There is a huge opportunity to get full visibility on all possible futures of the organization, considering even cascading effects and unexpected events, in the context of the connected ecosystem.
However, there is a significant gap between the capability to scale to hundreds or thousands of independent assets versus the more challenging capability to scale those assets in the context of the enterprise and its ecosystem (which relies on internal and external bidirectional information).
Closing the gap to solve the latter of these two challenges will be done through decision intelligence technologies, such as digital twins, that offer visibility over possible futures, along with recommended actions.
- How do you see the industry changing over the next decade?
TL: Disruption will come in the form of continuous efficiency improvements, as we transition from a static and transactional way of planning operations to a truly dynamic digital twin of both the current and future operation.
The other transition will be brought on by the industrial metaverse. This will be about how to offer an immersive experience for customers and workers so that they can be more effective.
For customers, it’s about making them fully aware of the product they are buying, including its design, as well as its environmental impact. For workers, it’s about being trained to always be a value creation asset for the company. And for an engineer, it’s about ensuring that the factory automation systems have been fully validated for any situation to be as safe and efficient as possible.