No factory is an island
Companies are adopting better and advanced technologies to spruce up manufacturing processes extensively – by jayashree Mendes
Last month at a trade fair away from home, one company that develops automation software and hardware for manufacturing companies preferred to highlight the disadvantages of using technology in business. According to him, manufacturing facilities relying on cutting-edge technology face ongoing expenses as there are the initial purchasing costs, as well as ongoing maintenance, updates and training expenses. Should a system failure occur, loss of revenue can result due to loss of services rendered or product production halted. Then there’s the risk of cyber crime when utilising technology.
He may have a point. But throw this question to Indian manufacturing companies and many of them bristle at such a thought. PM Ravikumar, director, sales, professional channel, SolidWorks, says, “In today’s globalised scenario, manufacturing companies face several challenges right from conceptualising new products needed by the market to shortening the time to market. We see companies in India not only develop and manufacture products for the local market but also cater to global markets.”
In recent times, there has been a growing requirement of integrated CAD/CAM solutions in the manufacturing sector. The key advantages of having CAM and CAD integration is that it gives the user full control of the whole process, from the design to the manufacturing, with the following major benefits – better workflow, full-model associativity, and no data translation.
Varun Gadhok, head, manufacturing, Autodesk, India and SAARC, says, “Autodesk has revolutionised the manufacturing sector, beginning with the acquisition of HSMWorks in 2012 and Delcam in 2014. The next level of our cloud services is Fusion 360, which takes the entire product-development process to a single cloud-based platform to enable collaboration and infrastructure-free architecture. It has also helped in realising the potential of true distributed design which allows multiple designers to work concurrently on the same design file. Simulation is also a big factor within Fusion 360 which allows users to run simulation on local computers or cloud-based software.”
Managing energy efficiency
For manufacturing companies, energy efficiency emerges from many factors. In general, however, engineers and architects designing fire and smoke management systems for buildings, subways and other facilities keep three factors in mind: safety of the occupants, structural integrity of the facility, and adherence to government regulations. Kaustubh Nande, country marketing head, ANSYS Software (ANSYS India), says, “Our solutions play an important role to address noise reduction, energy efficiency, eco-friendly design and reliability which are pivotal for HVAC manufacturers in particular. Developing HVAC systems for large manufacturing facilities takes into account factors such as room temperature, humidity and expected occupancy as well as heat loss through doors, windows and walls.”
Advances in technology are allowing better management of equipment and processes. Software tools such as MES, ERP, and SCM can also be optimised to achieve energy efficiency goals. Anish Kanaran, channel director, Middle East, Africa & India, Epicor says that the challenge for manufacturers will be to develop analytics capabilities, in order to interpret their data and report on their performance.
To drive energy efficiency in the manufacturing sector, companies need to complement gains realised through energy efficient product design by better optimising their manufacturing operations. Advances in industrial machinery, factory layouts, and process plant technologies can help manufacturers to reduce their energy use and costs.
Reducing errors & improving process control
Digital Prototyping is one of the major innovations that has revolutionised the manufacturing sector by enabling considerable reduction in error and providing greater control over various processes. Gadhok says that Autodesk Digital Prototyping tools connect every phase of the design process through a single digital model to enable the testing and optimisation of 3D CAD designs, reduce errors and decrease the overall time to market. “It helps to deliver quality products faster than ever by creating more innovative concepts, performing simulations to optimise designs, and developing compelling, realistic visualisations to experience products before they are manufactured for real,” he adds.
An area where manufacturing companies face problems is when different department functions need to collaborate. For instance, machinery has multiple systems like mechanical, electrical and electronics. Teams working on different domains need to converge and create bill of material for the same product that they work for. Today, many companies continue to have multiple systems and platforms to create and manage data associated with the product. This greatly reduces efficiency and mismatch when these teams converge at the shop floor to assemble the product. They seldom collaborate on a day-to-day basis working on the project. This results in errors, rework, higher design cost and loss of precious time in bringing the product to the market faster than competition.
PM Ravikumar says, “SolidWorks provides solutions on different domains so that customers can have one platform and collaborate seamlessly. The electrical design team can use our electrical in creating schematics and visualise the same in 3D merging with the mechanical data created by the mechanical team. These are managed by SolidWorks PDM data management.”
Kanaran says, “As an example, at precision sheet metal manufacturers KMF, we have put information in people’s hands that wouldn’t have been possible before. It means the staff is in full control of the processes they manage and can make informed decisions without having to refer to various departments. In fact, KMP told us that its team can now process customer orders more quickly than in the past, ensuring best practice and innovation in the business and keeping customers constantly informed of progress, through automated daily updates.”
Developers offering solutions to the manufacturing industry have also thought of building for collaboration and mobility. They continue to invest in creating a new mobile framework that supports experience of modern users on virtually any mobile device for anytime, anywhere, information access. This mobile framework is the foundation for delivering a mobile dashboard application, which is ideal for modern-day manufacturing.
Managing variations in load
The simulation process of manufacturing gives a better understanding with which it is possible to design new processes. Experience with multi physics process simulation coupled with inclusion of a range of physics from mechanics, fluids, thermal, electrical to acoustic, has been possible to simulate the accurate conditions of the manufacturing of the product. Moreover, it has been possible to find a way to reduce the stress on the hardened roll. Nande says, “The SST weld simulation tool is a software add-on. The tool uses ANSYS core product as basis and provides special features necessary to simulate welding processes of any kind. Features of the SST tool also cover special requirements of applications like welds with other heat sources (electron beam, friction stir), welds for shipbuilding, commercial vehicles, airplane panels, or heat treatments.”
One of the SST tool features which were used for induction hardening of the roll was the STAAZ method. This method uses material data representing the thermal expansion of the material with microstructural changes. Common methods to quantify thermal expansion are units called dilatograms showing the elongation of a specimen during a heat-up and cool-down cycle. Usually these dilatogram results are used to design the CCT diagram of the material, hence allowing the software to detect quantifiable changes such as load variations and thermal variations.
With easy-to-use interface and simple steps to create the required output, SolidWorks has built functionality in the software to cater to different industry segments and to specific machine design. Ravikumar says that apart from bringing new features, we have also bundled tools needed by a machine designer to generate the required output. For example, accessing the standard fastener library that is in line with the international standard they follow and populating the same in the product that they design automatically and with ease, creating the virtual assembly with a layout based technique for better handling of large assemblies, tools specifically to handle large assembly of data for better performance of computer systems, simulating mechanisms, simulating fatigue to predict life and giving appropriate warranty, calculating costs automatically for the parts designed, sheet metal design and simulation of injection moulding of plastic parts.
In sum, most solutions for this industry are built to provide a rapid return on investment and low total cost of ownership because they help manufactures to improve the efficiency of their processes and reduce the likelihood of mistakes.