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Digital manufacturing enables continuous improvement and enhances competitiveness

Globalisation is creating competitive pressure on industries to bring innovative products and reduce product development cycle times. Competition from new corners of the world is also putting the pressure to bring down the cost of product development and manufacturing.

And there is competition for resources too. In today’s rapidly growing and increasingly competitive industry, more and more companies are turning to an interesting mix of technologies and processes both for digital product development and manufacturing.

Adoption of lean philosophy, agile manufacturing, just-in-time manufacturing, and Design for Manufacturability (DFx), design for assembly, etc. initiatives have become a part of the manufacturing strategy. The idea is for manufacturing to make a significant contribution towards how competitive a product is in the market and in achieving corporate goals. Most of the cost in taking a product to market is consumed in the various manufacturing stages and hence the leverage is high to make manufacturing more efficient while aiming to eliminate all types of waste and losses in the manufacturing processes. However, the demand from manufacturing can be overwhelming if the right mix of people expertise, digital technology and global processes is not deployed.

Some of the direct areas that manufacturing customers wantactions for are:

• More efficient manufacturing plants through better manufacturing planning, better equipment and resource utilisation

• Reducing process time throughout the manufacturing stages

• Flexibility to handle product variability and volumes

• Shorter lead time from planning to commission

• Global integration and standardisation of best practices acrossplants

• Ensuring safety

• Lean resources

• And above all eliminate costly mistakes through digital validation In industries with production lines with significant material movement, relatively frequent changes are being made to factory layouts with new products and multiple product variants from successful product lines. More machinery needs to fit into tighter spaces and at the same time all work areas, production lines,material storage facilities, etc. should be designed to perform to the highest rate in the shortest cycle time. Not to mention the requirements for various ISO certifications and standardisation.When designing a plant layout, engineers need to take into account all these requirements and ensure that an optimised facility is achieved digitally as they build new manufacturing sites or update existing ones.

The industry through various forums and company specific collaborations has been exchanging success stories and best practices.Global leaders have been particularly forthcoming in showing the way with structured systems for continuous improvement using techniques and methodologies like total productive maintenance,total industrial engineering and just in time. Incorporationof digital manufacturing technologies around these strategies isthe key to the intended goals.

 

As program managers, planning heads and manufacturing heads chalk our collaborative product and process design strategies they encounter challenges like:

• Availability of skilled and experienced resources for constraint driven manufacturing and industrial engineering

• Expenses related to maintaining an in-house team for shortdurationactivities

• Digital validation of alternatives – inputs from cross functional teams, software programming and specialised software

• Additional cost and time-to-market with validations on the plant floor

The stakeholders have consistently expressed a need for integrated solutions for digital manufacturing so that the product and design information is available and presented to manufacturing in context and without loss of data. Often, there is continuous upgrade in digital technologies for product design while digital manufacturing does not change. Geometric looks at digital manufacturing initiatives with a maturity model approach with maturity assessment for technology implementation and business alignment. Such framework helps to assess the current maturity level and benchmark against industry best practices to develop improvement plans. This enables the organisation to progress towards integrated engineering and manufacturing environment.

The stakeholders can then build the business case for investment decisions and provide input for strategy formulation and road map for organisation wide initiatives. While this is being done the goal should be to not increase the IT complexity, look for technology platforms that do not have an incremental cost for consumption of data, is easy to maintain and improve upon and will appeal to the new age engineers and users. What we see through our centres of excellence is that – the right blend of engineering expertise, industry process know how and new age software tools deployment managed through a dedicated central team and operationalised through local plant leaders – is the key to a successful digital manufacturing strategy and for manufacturing excellence.

VivekKotru

Director – Global Marketing

Geometric Ltd

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