Article | December 2, 2021
The world of manufacturing is continuously evolving in the 21st century, and companies have to combat competition, altering consumer demands, and unexpected events to be able to deliver in today’s experience. Global connectivity, innovation, and disruption are all reshaping the manufacturing industry, but a world-class business platform can help companies transform operations digitally to keep up with an evermore digitized world. The factory of the future will allow manufacturers to enhance production through the convergence of information technology with factory operations, combining the effectiveness of the virtual world with the materiality of the physical world to lower costs, increase flexibility, and better meet customer expectations.
The factory of the future functions on four dimensions: resource planning, manufacturing planning, planning and optimization, and manufacturing operations. Resource planning involves defining and simpulating the plant layout, flow, assets, and resources needed to efficiently develop products in a safe environment. Normal production change requests can be quickly validated by using 3D virtual experience twin technology. This technology could also quickly pivot operations to alternative products in the case of disruptive events. Manufacturing planning enriches the resource and product definition by defining and validating a process plan and creating work instructions that meet production goals.
Digital visualization of resource and process changes can also help speed up time-to-production in any scenario no matter the location by leveraging the cloud. Planning and optimization of supply chains across planning horizons will help manufacturers gain visibility with planning and scheduling by having the ability to model, simulate, and optimize alternative supply and production plans to reduce disruptions. Lastly, manufacturing operations management can transform global production operations to attain and maintain operational excellence. Manufacturers can create, manage, and govern operational processes on a global scale while maintaining operational integrity to meet altering demands.
For the factory of the future to come about successfully, there needs to be connected technology and shared data. Technology has to be adaptable with robotics and equipment that can be reconstructed to house changes and new products. An AI-powered product demand simulation is necessary to maintain agility and boost productivity. A versatile, cross-functional workforce with the ability to explicate data and function well in AR environments is also required along with smart factory technology such as wearable sensors and virtual prototypes. Through all this, the factory of the future can connect technologies across the product life cycle while optimizing the workforce and increasing sustainability.
Although achieving the factory of the future has several benefits, creating a feasible factory of the future plan can be challenging. In 2018, only 12% of companies had a mature factory of the future plan. One of the main challenges that companies face is a lack of internal skills to devise digital solutions. However, this can be combated by carefully considering how you can utilize digital technologies to deliver improved performance, resiliency, and flexibility. It is easier to begin with small steps and to collaborate with a partner who could support your efforts to build toward your desired transformation goal. It is important to always be prepared by evaluating your next steps, industry trends, and progress metrics. It is also crucial to focus on the people, process, and technology you’re using to have a successful transformation journey.
Manufacturing with the factory of the future can provide savings in a wide range of categories. For example, it can reduce virtual vehicles build time by 80%, increase on-time performance of industrial equipment by 45%, and reduce modular construction time of construction, cities, and territories by 70%. Leading the transformation of the manufacturing space towards the direction of the factory of the future will allow manufacturers to work smart and better meet the needs of the end consumers.
Article | May 25, 2021
Additive manufacturing offers the potential to accelerate the pace of electronics manufacturing by creating a number of unique opportunities, such as the ability to combine multiple materials in single print jobs. The technology is also much more accessible than it previously was. Plus, it enables faster prototyping, which could speed the time to market and prevent costly mishaps that disrupt the production process. Here’s a look at some of the many benefits additive manufacturing brings to the electronics sector.
One Giant Leap
Adoption rates for electronics made with additive manufacturing will continue to climb as people realize its versatility. Thanks to a new project associated with students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, we could see materials made with additive manufacturing are as well-suited for use in space as on Earth.
Article | December 8, 2021
An agile manufacturing strategy is one that places a strong priority on responding quickly to the needs of the customer, resulting in a major competitive advantage.
It is a captivating method to build a competitive work system in today's fast-moving marketplace. An agile organization must be able to adapt quickly to take advantage of limited opportunities and rapid shifts as per client demand. Agile manufacturing is gaining favor among manufacturers due to its several benefits, including increased work productivity and good control over the final deliverable. Furthermore, the shorter time to market is expanding the global market for enterprise agile transformation services.
According to Market Watch, with a CAGR of 17.9% from 2019 to 2026, the US enterprise agile transformation services market is predicted to reach $18,189.32 million by 2026.
So why is agile manufacturing gaining traction? What challenges do manufacturers encounter when implementing agile manufacturing, and how have industry leaders like GE, Adobe, and Accenture effectively implemented agile methodology in their organizations and become the best examples of agile manufacturing? In this article, we'll take a closer look at each point.
What Is the Importance of Agile Manufacturing?
The term "agile manufacturing" refers to the use of a variety of different technologies and methodologies in the production process. In order to meet market standards and criteria, organizations must be able to adapt quickly and effectively to their customers' needs by bringing agility to manufacturing. To ensure the quality of products and the cost of production are kept to a minimum, agile manufacturing helps firms to regulate their end product.
Because it immediately addresses the needs and worries of the clients, it is an effective strategy as well. By using this method, firms may better understand the market and use it to their advantage by creating products that meet the needs of their customers.
Challenges While Adopting Agile Methodologies on a Project
When we talk about agile challenges when implementing it on any project, some will be routine and some will be unique. So, let's get a quick grasp on the agile challenges.
Communication about the project: Clear communication between the development team and the product owner is critical throughout the project development life cycle. Any miscommunication can have an impact on the product's quality and the end result of the entire process.
Managing the day-to-day operational challenges: Throughout the project, daily minor or large operations play a significant impact on the overall project output. Any obstacles encountered when working on everyday chores should be resolved immediately to avoid any delays or halts in the process.
To make it function, you'll need experience: Any inexperienced product owners, scrum masters, or individuals new to the agile approach may have a negative impact on the project's expected output.
Various project contributors' buy-in: Inadequate training, a lack of motivation to show up from project participants, keeping customers in the loop, and a lack of departmental management are some of the problems that may hinder the accurate implementation of the agile methodology. The presence of one or more of these obstacles in any business or project may jeopardize the agile methodology and its total output.
Though there are many online training courses and books available on how to integrate agile practices into your project, each organization's scenario is unique, as are the challenges they encounter. As a result, handling the situation with experienced personnel that have a can-do attitude is what is required to make it work.
Following that, we'll look at some manufacturing business agile examples and how they've successfully implemented agile methodology in their organizations.
Agile Manufacturing Examples
We'll look at one of the most well-known industrial examples of agile manufacturing that has successfully implemented the methodology and achieved great outcomes. Take a peek at it.
One of the most popular agile manufacturing examples in performance management revamps is Adobe. When Donna Morris was Senior Vice President of People Resources in 2012, she thought the annual performance evaluation and the stack-ranking process were bureaucratic, paperwork-heavy overly complicated, taking up too many management hours for the company. Aside from this, she discovered that it set barriers to joint efforts, creativity, and development.
The Adobe team ditched annual performance reviews and encouraged managers and employees to regularly discuss performance via a system called “Check-in.” Adobe has reduced voluntary turnover by 30% and increased voluntary departures by 50% since making the transition. Moreover, the company saved 80,000 management hours annually.
General Electric famously overhauled its performance management system in 2015, paving the path for other global firms to follow in the electronics industry. Annual performance evaluations and the infamous rank-and-yank performance rating system (ranking employees and regularly eliminating the bottom 10%) had GE decide they needed to update their performance management system. The annual appraisals lasted a decade longer than the ranking system. They are now a more agile organization.
Instead of directing employees to attain goals, managers now guide and coach them. GE also decided to deploy an app they designed called PD@GE to facilitate regular employee feedback and productive performance discussions.
Using the app, each employee establishes priorities and solicits feedback. They can also give real-time feedback. Employees can request a face-to-face meeting at any time to discuss transparency, honesty, and continuous improvement.
These traits will not arise quickly and will require motivation and commitment for self-growth.
According to Accenture's previous system, employees who perform well tend to be the most narcissists and self-promoters. Accenture wanted to revamp their system and reward genuine employees. So they started using on-going performance conversations while focusing on performance development.
Because it required employees to compete with coworkers who may have had a different position, Accenture decided that forced ranking was illogical. The new system is more centered on the employee and aims to assist them in becoming the best version of themselves.
Agile manufacturing is a way to get the finest results and exceed client expectations on every project. Businesses are benefiting from agile manufacturing because it improves the end product and helps them better utilize their resources. The necessity of agile manufacturing in business is vital, and organizations must overcome the challenges they encounter while applying the agile approach to any of their projects in order to reap the benefits of agile production.
How does agile manufacturing help businesses?
An agile manufacturing process enables organizations to respond to client requests with flexibility when market conditions change, as well as regulate their intended production while preserving product quality and minimizing costs.
What is an agile organization?
Unified alignment, accountability, specialization, transparency, and cooperation are key elements in an agile organization. To guarantee these teams can work efficiently, the organization must maintain a solid environment.
What are the core elements of agility?
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools are the four values of the Agile Methodology. A working program is preferable to in-depth documentation. During contract negotiation, the customer's cooperation is valued.
"name": "How does agile manufacturing help businesses?",
"text": "An agile manufacturing process enables organizations to respond to client requests with flexibility when market conditions change, as well as regulate their intended production while preserving product quality and minimizing costs."
"name": "What is an agile organization?",
"text": "Unified alignment, accountability, specialization, transparency, and cooperation are key elements in an agile organization. To guarantee these teams can work efficiently, the organization must maintain a solid environment."
"name": "What are the core elements of agility?",
"text": "Individuals and interactions over processes and tools are the four values of the Agile Methodology. A working program is preferable to in-depth documentation. During contract negotiation, the customer's cooperation is valued."
Article | December 10, 2021
A new form of robot is entering manufacturing plants all around the globe. Instead of being locked away in their own work cell, collaborative robots work side by side with their human counterparts. Together, they form the manufacturing crew of the future.
Collaborative robots, or cobots, are more flexible, easy to use, and safer than industrial robots. Instead of ending up abandoned in a corner, they are proving to be serious expansions of production capacity leading to better ways of creating superior quality products.
1.1 A New Breed of Bot
Cobots are a new type of automation product with their own ISO standards for safety and usability. For a robot to qualify as a cobot, it has to be used for tasks of a collaborative nature while sharing all or part of its reach space with human operators. So it is not the product alone that classifies it as a cobot.
Industrial robots must be expertly programmed for one specific job along the production line. This requires hard line coding and endless tweaking and testing, which together with other factors make for a sizable upfront investment. Not so with collaborative robots.
Cobots may look similar to traditional robots in some ways, but they are much easier to install and program. This foregoes the need to cooperate with a robotic integration service. Their lightweight and friendly form factor lets manufacturers conveniently relocate them on the shopfloor from one project to another.
This renders the robotics technology perfect for a data-driven, Industry 4.0 work environment. Cobots can side with traditional machinery and additive manufacturing equipment, aided by artificial intelligence and cloud connectivity while embedded in a networked environment rich with smart sensors and mixed reality interfaces.
1.2 A Unique Blend of Benefits
Because it is fairly straightforward to reprogram a cobot to various tasks, they are perfect for high-mix, low-volume work to meet the rising demand for ultra-customized products.
They can also do multiple tasks in unison, such as alternatingly loading a machine and finishing parts from the previous cycle. Here are some other advantages in addition to flexibility:
• Low investment. Cobots typically cost a fraction of the price of an industrial robot, but they offer much lower payload and reach. ROI is typically one to two years.
• Safety. With rounded surfaces, force-limited joints, and advanced vision systems, cobots are exceptionally safe. This reduces the risk of injury due to impact, crushing, and pinching. Driverless transport systems are wheeled mobile robots that immediately halt when their lasers detect the presence of a nearby human being.
• Accuracy. Cobots score well on accuracy with 0.1mm precision or well below that. While they do typically sacrifice speed, dual-mode cobots can be converted to fully-fledged tools of mass production that run at full speed in their own safeguarded space.
• Easy to program. Many brands offer user-friendly programming interfaces from beginner to expert level. This reduces the need for continuous availability of expensive and scarce expertise while giving current employees an incentive to upskill. And because they can be deployed within hours, cobots can be leased for temporary projects.
• Research. Small processing plants, agile start-ups, and schools can invest in cobots to experiment with ways to automate processes before committing to full automation.
1.3 Cobot Activity Repertoire
Cobots are perfect candidates for taking over strenuous, dirty, difficult, or dull jobs previously handled by human workers. This relieves their human co-workers from risk of repetitive strain injury, muscle fatigue, and back problems. They can also increase job satisfaction and ultimately a better retirement.
The cobot’s program of responsibilities includes:
• Production tasks such as lathing, wire EDM, and sheet stamping.
• Welding, brazing, and soldering.
• Precision mounting of components and fasteners, and applying adhesive in various stages of general assembly.
• Part post-finishing such as hole drilling, deburring, edge trimming, deflashing, sanding, and polishing.
• Loading and unloading traditional equipment such as CNC and injection molding machines, and operating it using a control panel to drastically reduce cycle times.
• Post-inspection such as damage detection, electronic circuit board testing, and checking for circularity or planarity tolerances.
• Box-packing, wrapping, and palletizing.
• Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) assist with internal transport and inventory management.
1.4 No-Code Programming
While an industrial robot requires the attention of a high-paid robotics engineer, anyone with basic programming savviness can install and maintain a collaborative unit.
Brands are releasing more and more kits for quick installation and specific use cases. Instead of being all numbers and line-coding, current user interaction is exceptionally people-focused.
At the lowest skill level, lead-through programming lets operators physically guide the cobot’s end-of-arm-tool (EOAT) through the desired motion path, after which it will flawlessly replicate the instructed behaviour.
It is also possible to enter desired waypoints as coordinates. At the highest level, it is of course still possible to have full scripting control.
An intermediate step is visual programming interfaces. These let users create blocks of functionality that they can string together into more advanced action sequences, while entering the appropriate parameters for each function such as gripping strength, screwing tightness, or pressing force.
These UIs come in the form of in-browser or mobile apps.
Based on a 3D-CAD model of the machine and its industrial environment, a digital twin of the cobot can simulate and optimize its operations, for example to prevent collisions.
It also lets operators remotely monitor and adjust the machine while it’s running. All the while, back-end artificial intelligence can do its analyses to find further efficiency improvements.
3D models of the to-be-manufactured product can be imported for edge extraction of complex surfaces. These will then be converted into the cobot’s desired movement trajectories instead of tedious manual programming.
This makes them feasible to implement for highly dexterous tasks like welding curved hydroformed metal parts or sanding and polishing the most intricate of 3D printed geometries.
Interfacing directly with the robot is becoming increasingly human-centered as well. Future cobots will respond to voice interaction as well as touch input, eradicating the screens-and-buttons paradigm of current devices.
Some brands are giving the cobot a face with emotional expressions, hoping to lower the barrier to adoption. The upcoming generation of cobots can even respond to body language, as well as show its intentions by projecting light to where they are about to reach or move next.
1.5 A Human World
Ultimately, the objective of any company is to create value for people. It is not an option to completely remove humans from the shop floor in an attempt to stay at the forefront of innovation.
Attempting to leap to full automation and the utopian “lights-out factory” does not work anyway, as automotive giants such as Ford, Chrysler, GM, and Tesla can testify. A significant portion of human employees will indeed need to give up their roles. On the other hand, improved productivity levels open up space to retain personnel and uplift them to more creative, managerial, analytical, social, or overall more enjoyable jobs.
For certain tasks, humans still need to be kept inside the manufacturing loop. For example:
• Complex assembly routines and handling of flexible components.
• Large vehicle subassemblies contain many variable components and require more hand-eye coordination than one cobot can handle. Humans are needed to make sure everything lands in the right position while the cobot provides assistive muscle power.
• Fashion, footwear, jewellery, art pieces, and other products where creation borders on artistry rather than mechanical assembly require the aesthetic eye of humans. People are also needed to spot aesthetic deficiencies in custom one-offs in order to correspond with customers before finishing the production batch.
• While intelligent automation software can spot bottlenecks in efficiency, humans are required for creative problem solving and context-awareness to make decisions. A spirit of flexibility and innovation is just as important as the accuracy of perfect repetitions.
1.6 Mission: Install a Cobot
Cobots have numerous advantages over industrial solutions or people-only workspaces. They enable faster, more precise, and more sophisticated operations while reducing downtime and maintaining employee satisfaction.
Low-voltage operation and reduced material waste fits with sustainable innovation and corporate social responsibility programs.
Many companies are reporting surges in production capacity and staff generally experience the presence of cobots as favorable. For example, industry leviathans like BMW and Mercedes-Benz are reaching the conclusion that in many parts of the production process implementing a cobot has been the right decision.
Connecting all parts of the production line with full automation solutions is a pipedream. It works only when all steps are perfectly attuned, and in reality this never happens and one misstep can be catastrophic.
Whether to hire a human, a robot, or a co-robot is a complex and ever-more pressing decision. Statistical process control is paramount for large organizations to make unbiased data-driven decisions.
Determine the key performance indicators, then find the most critical bottlenecks and major opportunities for leaps in production efficiency, product quality, or staff unburdening.
Talk to employees for their insights and probe their level of skill and enthusiasm needed for working with their new artificial assistants. Digital transformation should be an exciting shift in the organization and its people, so apply new technological advancements only where it makes sense.
Despite common beliefs about robotization, the cobot is an entirely separate product category that can be a surprisingly plug-and-play solution for simple tasks, with programming apps becoming increasingly intuitive.
A cobot’s flexibility makes it perfect to run early experiments to help companies find its best spot on the factory floor. Its unbelievable precision, consistency, and level of control generally can make a strong first impression on customers.
Not only can cobots increase production capacity while reducing idle time and cycle time to accelerate manufacturing across many vertical markets, but they also enrich the work environment resulting in happier and more involved employees.
For many companies, a cobot can be the next logical step in their digital transformation.