What Is Digital Manufacturing?

May 9, 2023

Digital manufacturing is a manufacturing system that uses computer systems and other digital infrastructure to optimize manufacturing processes. A digital manufacturing system involves taking advantage of advancements in digital technology to organize and improve your asset management, productivity, manufacturing maintenance services, supply chain, and maintenance management.

At its best, digital manufacturing involves more than just using a computer to organize one production element. Instead, digital manufacturing technologies can link systems and processes across different production areas and create an integrated approach that better serves your manufacturing goals.

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Many developments in manufacturing, many of which form part of Industry 4.0, have made it necessary to gain deeper insight into manufacturing processes. For example, consider a machine programmed to print or fabricate certain products. One way to approach this would be by regular trial and error.

“Without the use of a digital maintenance solution, manufacturers face several challenges. Manufacturers face an unprecedented loss of up to $260,000 per hour through unplanned downtime alone. With 82% of companies experiencing at least one case of unplanned downtime . . . But, with a CMMS solution dedicated to improving manufacturing maintenance processes, these issues can be a thing of the past.”


However, many manufacturers use modeling to avoid waste and eliminate any likely production hitches, like machine breakdowns, beforehand. In addition, modeling, simulating, and analyzing processes help give manufacturing companies greater knowledge about the manufacturing they plan to embark on.

In many ways, digital manufacturing shares many goals with lean manufacturing and computer-integrated manufacturing. The main difference is that digital manufacturing is optimized for the computerized world, but optimizing manufacturing and eliminating waste are at the core of the system.

Types of Digital Manufacturing

There are three main types or categories of digital manufacturing, each corresponding to a specific part of the manufacturing process. The stages are product life cycle, which involves production design; smart factory, which is about production; and value chain management, which focuses on managing resources and ensuring customer satisfaction.

  • Product lifecycle: The product lifecycle begins with product design and engineering design. It also includes sourcing materials, actual production, and customer service management. Manufacturers can also use analytics here to make data-driven decisions for the entire production process.
  • Smart factory: Smart machines and sensors are only getting more and more popular as the Internet of Things (IoT) continues transforming industrial activities. These machines give workers real-time data about the processes and assets they monitor. This data then helps teams to analyze, track and improve performance.
  • Value chain management: This is about managing resources efficiently and ensuring customer satisfaction. Digital tools reduce waste, ensure that resources are used optimally, keep processes lean, manage inventory, and keep up with customer demand.

“Data from our Manufacturing Report shows that most of the hundreds of industry leaders we surveyed are leveraging technology to strengthen their businesses. Over 90% responded that they are using or implementing digital manufacturing tech.”


Steps in Digital Manufacturing Process


3-dimensional modeling and 3d rendering are popular elements of digital manufacturing. In fact, they are used beyond manufacturing in fields like architecture and education.

A 3d model involves creating a 3-dimensional digital illustration of a physical item. For example, in manufacturing, this could be a machine or an asset that will play a part in the production. 3d models offer a much higher level of realism than 2d models, adding light, texture, and shadow to render the illustration in greater detail.

This allows manufacturers to visualize their assets, the factory layout, and the production flow. Teams can then identify wastes, redundancies, or problems before production begins.


Simulation is used to test how a system works. Simulation models can help plan for the future by testing out designs and processes in a low-risk fashion. Simulations often function with digital twins.

“Companies can begin the journey by starting with just one digital twin that has a data product at its core, evolving it over time to provide increasingly powerful predictive capabilities. They can then move on to interconnecting multiple digital twins to unlock even more use cases and, finally, layer on the additional technologies required to transform this network of digital twins into the enterprise metaverse.”


A digital twin is a digital representation of a physical process or asset. Sometimes digital twins exist even before their physical counterparts and are used to test the viability of the physical object. Simulation models can be:

  • Static: A system of equations at a point in time
  • Dynamic: Systems of equations that incorporate time as a variable
  • Continuous: Dynamic models where time passes linearly
  • Discrete: Dynamic models where time is separated into chunks
  • Deterministic: Models where a unique solution is generated per a given input
  • Stochastic: Models where a solution is generated utilizing probabilistic parameters.


Digital manufacturing also deploys big data and analytics to optimize the manufacturing process. For example, manufacturers can better manage their supply chains with artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, and other analytics tools.

They can gain insight into customer behavior, visualize the flow of their goods through the supply chain, and ensure manufacturing efficiency. In addition, they can gain detailed information to help carry out predictive maintenance and preventive maintenance. 

“Manufacturers can create a digital thread through the manufacturing process to analyze data across the product lifecycle and create actionable processes. Digital manufacturing systems allow for customer data to be sent to product managers to anticipate demand and any ongoing maintenance requirements to deliver products via manufacturing centered on customer needs.”


Advantages of Digital Manufacturing


Modeling and digital manufacturing techniques allow for more complex and detailed product designs. This is most visible with additive manufacturing technologies. Additive manufacturing techniques include binder jetting, material extrusion, and directed energy deposition.

Manufacturing Visibility

Digital manufacturing also gives manufacturers a more comprehensive view of the overall manufacturing process. By simulating the process, teams can find ways to improve their processes before production begins.

Even during production, a greater view of the process due to smart sensors and devices allows manufacturers to quickly identify problems and issues to make critical decisions. 

Reduced Costs

Eliminating errors from the production process enables teams to optimize their resources. This saves manufacturers money by eliminating redundant processes and finding the best use for raw materials. Big data insights into customer behavior also allow for pricing decisions in line with what is feasible for the market.

Drive Your Digital Manufacturing with a CMMS

If you want to dive into digital manufacturing or optimize your existing digital manufacturing processes, consider using a Computerized Maintenance Management System.

A CMMS is itself an example of a digital manufacturing initiative, replacing older pen-and-paper manufacturing and maintenance processes with streamlined, real-time digital processes. Here are a few ways a CMMS can help you.

Digital Work Orders

CMMS software makes creating digital work orders easier than depending on written versions. MaintainX, for example, helps to streamline your workflows by giving you tools to create, assign, and track work orders from the application. You can automate your preventive maintenance schedules by creating repeatable maintenance work orders in advance, eliminating room for error.

KPI Tracking

Besides work order automation, a good MES/CMMS solution can help you monitor the metrics relevant to your facility. Keeping a close eye on KPIs is necessary for any digital transformation initiative. It’s the only way to be sure your efforts are helping and not hurting.

Asset Management

Maintenance management software can facilitate your asset management. MaintainX, for example, allows for ERP integration and comes with many tools necessary for enterprise asset management.

Optimize Your Digital Manufacturing with MaintainX

MaintainX is an EAM/CMMS solution that helps maintenance teams streamline operations, reduce downtime, and manage processes. Unlike other CMMS systems, MaintainX is the first work order software with chat, allowing teams to communicate and share real-time data directly from their mobile devices. In addition to work order management and helping to improve your uptime, MaintainX can help you with the following:

  • Inventory Management: Track your inventory, create purchase orders, and never run out of spare parts.
  • Data Collection: Collect data about your manufacturing plants, manufacturing operations, and maintenance programs. MaintainX also comes with dashboards and visualization features that use your maintenance data to provide insights into your performance. Make data-driven decisions to optimize your maintenance strategy.
  • Storage: Cloud-based storage of documents like templates, checklists, standard operating procedures, and spreadsheets.
  • Maintenance Scheduling: Never fall behind on proactive maintenance activities. As a mobile CMMS, MaintainX allows you to create work requests and send notifications to workers along with detailed work instructions about individual maintenance tasks and overall maintenance operations, all from your smartphone.
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Lekan Olanrewaju
Lekan Olanrewaju
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