Altran: Engineering the Factories of the Future

Altran: Engineering the Factories of the Future

Dominique Cerutti, Chairman & CEO, AltranDominique Cerutti, Chairman & CEO What does one need to become sustainable in a volatile and customer-driven manufacturing world, and to keep pace with an era of quicker product lifecycles, shorter order lead times, and ever-growing product variants? Any contemporary manufacturer’s innate response would be: machines with swifter response times, minimal production downtimes, and streamlined workflows. While these bearings are indeed necessary, the present-day systems and software in place are no longer enough to suffice the modern manufacturing requisites. Enter Industry 4.0—a combination of cyber-physical systems, automation, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), which amalgamate to create today’s smart factories.

"Altran’s customers have procured millions of dollars in long-term savings from the real-time analysis of their manufacturing operations"

Despite recognizing the clout of Industry 4.0, most manufacturing companies are holding back from harnessing the potential of this modernization. The reason is not the fear of new technologies, but the lack of expertise to strategize their new manufacturing model based on Industry 4.0. This is where Altran [EPA:ALT]—a global leader in engineering and R&D services—steps in to help modern manufacturers fulfill their vision of thriving in the newest industrial revolution. The company offers a nexus of services with an unmatched value proposition to address the transformation journey and innovation requisites of a manufacturing company. Altran works alongside its clients, from initial concept through the implementation of the strategies. Established in 1982, this French tech consulting giant provides advanced industrial expertise to several sectors, including aerospace, automotive, defense, energy, life sciences, railways, and telecommunications.

Smart Factories can Streamline the Supply Chain

Today, modern production and OEM equipment come with a multitude of sensors that generate data. The more devices and sensors communicate with each other, the greater is the volume and variety of data that is generated. The concept of the smart factory was born as an upshot of the growing connectivity between people and machines and the availability of a huge repository of aggregated data. “With an estimated 2-5 exabytes of data created every day, coupled with the increase in connectivity of all factory processes, the ability to organize and transform varied data into business insight can add a competitive advantage to manufacturing plants,” mentions Dominique Cerutti, chairman and CEO of Altran. “We, at Altran, aim to bring such strategic benefits for our clients.”

With the rising dominance of Industry 4.0, a new concept of the connected virtual factory—where the production chain is controlled through digital replicas of physical environments—is gaining traction by the day

Driven by this fervor, Altran leverages advanced analytics and sophisticated artificial intelligence solutions to offer meaningful insights to clients about their production workflows. “Working hand-in-hand with our clients, we can act to optimize production, reduce stock to bare essentials, streamline the distribution processes, or facilitate a more flexible and personalized production approach,” states Cerutti. Together with that, Altran also combines a huge array of technologies to conceive a new industrial fabric for their clients, one in which factories can become more intelligent, flexible, and interconnected, thereby allowing moderate-level investments to reap maximum optimization for each component of the supply value chain.

Virtual Factories of the Future

With the rising dominance of Industry 4.0, a new concept of the connected virtual factory—where the production chain is controlled through digital replicas of physical environments—is gaining traction by the day. “Thanks to new 3D modeling techniques, it is now possible to generate, in just a few weeks, a digital model of a complete factory that we can visit from anywhere on the planet with the help of virtual reality headsets,” says Cerutti. This virtual environment will not only be a faithful clone of the physical environment—down to the smallest details—but also provide real-time information on the current status of each of the production assets. Furthermore, through the sensors and actuators installed in each of the machines connected through IoT devices, it will also enable floor managers to make modifications remotely.

As a manufacturing visionary, Altran understands that a new way to interact with machines and factory environment can be made possible by creating interfaces that will reduce a worker’s job and improve their productivity. “Our human-to-machine and machine-to-machine interaction optimization services are aimed at fulfilling those precise needs,” says the CEO. Further highlighting the value proposition of the offering, he notes: “Imagine an operator accessing any of the smart factories while comfortably sitting in his living room. Virtual reality goggles will allow him to be immersed in each of the factories, stay connected to his production environment, and remotely inspect each asset in the production chain. The data—provided by the sensors installed in the machines—will allow him to know the status of an operation in real time. Various intelligent systems will inform him about any failures that may occur. Alongside, through AI-based predictive maintenance, the systems will be able to update the operator on the estimated time for its next repair.”

Thus, this new operator of a connected virtual factory can ensure that the optimum level of production is achieved by sending orders remotely to robots.

However, the CEO adds that the possibilities offered by virtual reality for the design of these new factories do not end with the monitoring and remote control of the production chain. Therefore, Altran also helps their clients in introducing a collection of simulators in the virtualized industrial environments, which will help design, optimize, and secure workspaces and production lines. Besides, it also helps in training new factory operators, as the virtual factories can faithfully reproduce real-life conditions, with simulated failures and risky situations. “This can be especially relevant when we consider prevention of occupational hazards in a manufacturing plant,” says Cerutti. To top it off, the competence of virtual reality can also facilitate, expedite, and depreciate the cost incurred for designing the products, thereby eliminating the need for creation of prototypes in wood, metal, or other materials—which is a far more expensive proposition.

Creating a Digital Roadmap for Industrial Assets

Altran’s customers have procured millions of dollars in long-term savings from the real-time analysis of their manufacturing operations. Cerutti also notes how they are helping a global energy player, ENGIE, in analyzing the potential impact of digital transformation on the performance of their industrial assets. Today, global warming, climate change, and disruptive technologies are transforming the entire energy landscape. To stay ahead of this new industrial revolution, ENGIE needed an experienced partner to accompany it in its digital transformation journey: developing a vision and a roadmap for its industrial assets and leading the implementation of that roadmap, focused on real operational results and measurable value. The company turned to Altran to help them navigate this journey. “We provided ENGIE with enhanced consulting services to develop both a digital roadmap and industrial use cases,” says Cerutti. This combined approach helped ENGIE to develop a fleet of augmented assets, and at the same time, maintain a high-performing operators’ network, all functioning within an integrated environment.

Setting the Right Pace for Innovation

Altran’s innovation-led mindset is driven by its ongoing dialogue with its IT and manufacturing intelligentsia. “Apart from customer feedbacks, we also have our own set of guiding principles which help us steer our product roadmap,” mentions Cerutti. Evaluating the potential needs of the industry, Altran periodically upgrades its solutions by leveraging the latest technologies.

This constant state of innovation to stay ahead in the information age has been the secret behind Altran’s success over the decades. Owing to that, today, Altran boasts a high renewal rate from customers around the world, including many Fortune 500 and Global 2000 companies in the automotive, utility, finance, and telecommunications sectors. Amid a world of incessant inventions, Altran is poised to aid companies in bringing the next wave of innovation to their manufacturing practice.

- Pooja Ray
    December 11, 2018