Lessons Learned in Electronics Transforms Other Discrete Manufacturing Operations

Jason Spera, picture left, recently shared his vantage of the changes for factory floor automation in 2021. Jason is CEO and Co-Founder, Aegis Software. Spera is a leader in MES/MOM software platforms for discrete manufacturers with particular expertise in electronics manufacturing. Founded in 1997, today more than 2,200 factory sites worldwide use some form of Aegis software to improve productivity and quality while meeting regulatory, compliance and traceability challenges. Spera's background as a manufacturing engineer in an electronics manufacturing company and the needs he saw in that role led to the creation of the original software products and continue to inform the vision that drives Aegis solutions, like FactoryLogix. He regularly speaks on topics surrounding factory digitization, IIoT, and Industry 4.0. Contact Jason on LinkedIn.


TR Cutler: Aegis is well-known in the electronics industry. What lessons have been learned in electronics that are now being applied to other sectors?
Jason Spera: It is a matter of higher functional expectations demanded in a climate of greater cost consciousness that pervades electronics assembly. Consider traceability and quality depth differences when dealing with circuit cards that often have well over 1000 individual parts per card, each with hundreds of connections.

PCB manufacturers have long been pressed for delivering high-mix production at the efficiencies of static-high-volume production, while at the same time delivering greater depth of traceability and quality, despite having tighter profit margins than most upper-level product assemblers. This ‘worst case convergence’ of demand for constant product changeover and yet high volume, high quality, great data depth at low cost informed the development of everything about FactoryLogix. A system born to support even highly sophisticated mechanical assembly cannot traverse successfully into electronics, but one born from electronics finds the transition quite easy, as it is a matter of going from a more granular data model to a less granular—where the inverse is not possible.

Off-the-shelf manufacturing execution system (MES) and manufacturing operations management (MOM) are transforming the factory floor. Factory floor automation used to require heavily customized software overlaying the automation layer.  It was the only way to achieve any efficiency. Now, this can be done with off-the-shelf MES/MOM.

TR Cutler: What automation failures or limitations can now be easily overcome in 2021?
Jason Spera: Most importantly there is now production flexibility in high volume, steady-state production management via a software platform. Most discrete manufacturers live in a state of constant change compounded by the hourly or daily crisis. These crises are often originating externally, not through any fault or business deficiency of the manufacturer.  Customers or engineering cause a sudden change and a part swap-out is required mid-production. Changes include a different configuration mid-run, from quantity to delivery date. Program managers call the factory demanding entire lines be reallocated for a ‘displeased’ customer. All of these realities are common, but most MES/MOM systems simply cannot adapt to such changes many times daily with any fluidity. 

TR Cutler: How does the “automate to order” mentality change the role of manufacturing?
Jason Spera: Automate to Order (ATO) involves another layer of complexity in real-time production flexibility to achieve single-piece product flow at high-volume efficiency. The new expectation of Automate to Order, where the parts are chosen by the consumer, must be physically modified to fulfill their requirement…it is not merely part swapping. It may involve cutting, bending, finishing, drilling, and other physical modifications to make the final assembly adding to manufacturing complexity.  Achieving ATO in high efficiency production is a tremendous challenge.

TR Cutler: Are you suggesting that discrete manufacturers suffer from low expectations regarding MES?
Jason Spera: Yes. By offering a level of adaptability for high mix and personalized manufacturing (while delivering depth of control and data acquisition) we actually increase throughput. This is simply not something discrete manufacturers typically believe is possible, because they are accustomed to legacy approaches to MES.  Those outside of electronics, often report  ‘We’d be happy simply with WIP visibility in production. This is a LOT more than we expected.’
About The Author
Thomas R. Cutler is the President and CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based,
TR Cutler, Inc., celebrating its 22nd year. Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium including more than 8000 journalists, editors, and economists writing about trends in manufacturing, industry, material handling, and process improvement. Cutler authors more than 1000 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector. Nearly 5000 industry leaders follow Cutler on Twitter daily at @ThomasRCutler. Contact Cutler at trcutler@trcutlerinc.com.

SPOTLIGHT

Aegis Software develops, deploys and services manufacturing optimization, management, and analysis software. Its systems utilize the CAD design of a product to be manufactured to assist the preparation of the information required by the factory floor to actually execute the assembly process. The solution then controls the execution of the process on the factory floor, acquires data from production machines and operators, manages the quality processes, and produces traceability and analysis regarding process, product and materials information. The company's software products serve the discrete manufacturing markets with a particular emphasis on electronics assembly manufacturers, both OEM and EMS providers.

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MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGY

Additive Manufacturing in the Aerospace Industry

Article | June 2, 2022

Over the last few years, additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing) has garnered much attention and appreciation, both from consumers and the manufacturing fraternity. 3D printing, which started as a prototyping technology, has come a long way since its inception. To put it in simple words, additive manufacturing (AM) is a game-changer for manufacturers of all sizes. Traditional ways of generating products such as machining, cutting, turning, shaping, milling, and other "subtractive" manufacturing processes can be supplemented, and in some circumstances, completely replaced, by additive manufacturing. When we look at the bigger picture, AM is transforming people’s lives, which includes but is not restricted to just medical advances, safer transportation, highways, or any other infrastructural developments. Manufacturers can now swiftly make mock-ups of a new product or a part to fulfill a specific market niche, which can lead to the production of high-profit margin products. When additive manufacturing is used from start to finish, the overall manufacturing process becomes even more streamlined. Given the advantages of AM, it's only natural that the technology would be used in the aerospace industry. According to MarketanndMarkets, aerospace 3D printing is expected to exceed $3 billion by 2022 due to the rising demand for lightweight 3D printed parts for aircraft engines. Here are some areas where AM is implemented in the aerospace industry. Constructing Rocket Bodies: Relativity Space is a California-based aerospace manufacturing firm that focuses on creating manufacturing technologies, launch vehicles, and rocket engines for commercial orbital launch services. Their Stargate manufacturing facility is known to house the world's largest 3D printers. These printers use direct energy deposition and patented alloys to make the outer bodies of their rockets. When compared to traditional launch vehicles, 3D printing allows them to quickly create integrated components with a 100-fold lower part count. This also reduces weight and increases reliability, both of which are critical to the economics of space launch. It further allows designers to explore numerous designs in a short time span and helps enhance the overall quality and arrive at a better design. Designing Rocket Engines: Rocket Lab is a public American aerospace company that specializes in small satellite launches. Their Rutherford rocket engine was first tested in late 2016, and over 200 of these game-changing variants have been manufactured since then. The combustion chambers, injectors, pumps, and main propellant valves of this engine were all 3D printed utilizing electron-beam melting. The resulting engine is simple, dependable, and light, weighing only 35 kg (77 lb), making it perfect for low-cost space launches. Their new Curie and HyperCurie thrusters, which operate outside Earth's atmosphere, are based on the same principles. Designing Astronaut Outfits: Additive manufacturing isn't just for making actual rockets; it may also be used to create improved, refined astronaut outfits. The costumes of SpaceX's crew were partially produced with additive manufacturing when they sent humans into space. Even though the company has kept much of the underlying technology under wraps, a source shared that the helmet was made by using 3D printing technology and it had integrated valves, visor retraction and locking mechanisms, and microphones built into the structure. Wrapping Up: The current pace of manufacturing and engineering really necessitates the need for everyone to invest in additive manufacturing.” Cory Larson WMEP Manufacturing Solutions Consultant – Automation & Cybersecurity, Registered Practitioner, CMMC-AB AM is also gaining traction in the commercial manufacturing and fabrication markets. Metal fabrication companies all around the world have begun to provide additive manufacturing solutions in addition to subtractive methods like CNC machining. 3D printing is swiftly becoming one of the cornerstones of the industry 4.0 movement due to its capacity to generate high-tolerance parts and rapid prototypes at a substantially reduced cost.

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MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGY

AR/VR in Manufacturing: Breaking the Mold

Article | May 25, 2022

The manufacturing industry is known for its agility in adopting new technologies to revolutionize processes. In a way, many industries can learn to replicate the speed with which manufacturing undergoes transformation. The use of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) in manufacturing is yet another frontier the industry is surpassing as it transitions to Industry 5.0. While VR is a fully digital environment that can be accessed through a VR headset, whereas AR overlays the real-world with digital information that is experienced through a smartphone or a display-based device like a heads-up display (HUD). For a long time, manufacturing has been marred by skill gaps, talent shortages, and a high employee attrition rate. But there’s hope, AR/VR is creating ground-breaking ways to optimize factory operations. The Journey of AR/VR Applications: From Gaming to Manufacturing Gaming was the first industry to use AR/VR. Multiple industries are now recognizing its value and innovating ways to implement AR/VR applications into critical areas of operations. In healthcare, AR/VR applications are used to simulate a controlled, high-risk medical environment in order to train medical professionals. Right at the Assembly Line, Minus the Risks Similarly, the manufacturing industry is discovering multiple areas of application for industrial AR/VR, from the warehouse to the training centers. When it comes to training employees, AR is making waves. In a setting where employees have to often manage complex tasks and multi-functional operations, AR applications are enabling manufacturers to simulate hands-on training without the risk of accidents. In addition, it can bypass any wastage of raw materials or avoid expensive mistakes. From the inspection perspective, 3D imaging can be used to build a digital VR twin of a wiring box. In the instance of a failure, the VR twin allows even an untrained worker to cross check the correct configuration and troubleshoot the problem. Companies Spearheading the Use of Industrial AR/VR With so many compelling AR/VR applications in training, several companies are using the technology in exciting and innovative ways. Industrial software solutions provider Honeywell has multiple trailblazing training methods. One of them is a VR training simulator used to train new technicians in high-risk, failure scenarios. The method doubled the skill retention compared to other training methods. The new training method has also enabled Honeywell to engage young workers better, simultaneously ensuring better employee retention. Guided Accuracy with AR/VR LightGuide is another AR/VR firm that is at the forefront of using cutting edge applications on the factory floor. The organization used digital traceability and live data to revolutionize over 1000 processes for leading manufacturers across the world. They use AR/VR for inspection and assembly of automotive headliners. The technique projects diagrams of harnesses, glue paths, and tape placements onto headliner blanks. The process also uses 3D sensors to confirm placement. The Long and the Short of It The manufacturing industry is forging ahead with the best in AR/VR technologies. The challenge of making it affordable for all types and sizes of manufacturing process is the next plan of action. There is much to be achieved with the two technologies, the most important of which is cost-effectiveness, speed and quality. AR/VR technologies are set to be at the helm of many processes, regardless of the volume and scale, AR/VR integration would help solve real world problems within manufacturing and talent management.

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MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGY

The Rise of Industry 5.0: When Men and Machines Work Together

Article | May 19, 2022

From Cyber-physical to Human Cyber-physical Systems (H CPS) Nurturing human-machine interaction in manufacturing will require the adoption, standardization, and implementation of new technologies. One of these new technologies is the cobot, or collaborative robot, the next generation of robots will be aware of human presence. It will understand the goals and desires of its human operator at the assembly line and learn to predict behaviors in advance. This will take automation at the assembly line to the next level, boosting efficiency tenfold. Human Cyber-Physical Systems will also help bridge the gap in accountability, sustainability, and safety left by Industry 4.0. Digital technology has spread its tentacles deep into the manufacturing industry. As the emergence of Industry 4.0 shows, cyber-physical systems at the heart of production are paving the way for future innovation. Many industries are still far from digital transformation. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, originated from a German government strategy document. The initiative aimed to transform cyber-physical systems that used the Internet of Things (IoT) to communicate and the cloud to store and secure data into integrating human intelligence. This is where Industry 5.0 came in the picture. First introduced at the CeBIT 2017 held in Hannover; it was then called Society 5.0 and focused on resilience and sustainability of manufacturing. According to a survey by Accenture, 85% of 500 manufacturing executives agreed that robots and workers working together on production lines would become the norm. However, the human-integrated aspect of Industry 5.0 isn’t a standalone feature. Moving Towards Society-Centric Manufacturing Unlike in the past industrial revolutions, the current manufacturing industry focuses more on mitigating the adverse effects of production and manufacturing. Building synergy between man and machine is becoming the mainstay of Industry 5.0owing to the emergence of growing human-centric, socially-impactful manufacturing. This is accomplished by implementing environmentally responsible practices or through human intervention. In addition, Industry 5.0 extends its human-centric approach to push for relentless mass personalization that combines artificial intelligence and data analytics. “For companies that make engineered-to-order products, tedious design and engineering tasks are often the bottlenecks for selling more products and preparing them for each customer.” Scott Heide, Chief Executive Officer at Engineering Intent Corporation In a Nutshell Concerns about job loss no longer hold strong. This is partly due to the inseparable nature of human intelligence from innovation and how it is used in automation. Industry 5.0 has galvanized this approach. Its three main components: smart systems, smart devices, and smart automation will synergize physical and human intelligence to achieve resource optimization, seamless personalization and societal growth and harmony. There is a school of thought that says machines will be able to customize manufacturing by using data and AI. It may seem like a continuation of job losses due to automation, but even then, human intelligence cannot be replaced and that is the true rationale behind the emergence of Industry 5.0.

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MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGY

Multi-Channel Inventory Management: A Guide to Assured High Returns

Article | May 18, 2022

Multi-channel selling is a significant component of manufacturing. Modern buyers expect more from their buying experience, and one of them is being able to access different touchpoints to make a purchase. It is a challenge that modern businesses must address. And it all starts with prudent warehouse inventory management. But how can businesses stay ahead of the curve with a complex web of retail, wholesale, ecommerce, and logistics? This is precisely where multi-channel inventory management comes in. Multi-channel inventory management is the process of managing and keeping track of inventory sold from multiple locations through various selling channels. In this article, we will talk about how smart inventory management for a business with multiple sales channel can increase profits when done right. How C-Suites Can Unravel the Complex Web of Multi-Channel Selling When it comes to optimizing and addressing challenges in inventory management, warehouse management software is known to do wonders. But, when a business uses multiple channels to reach out to more consumers, generate more sales, and increase brand awareness, it also merits a holistic strategy. Management at the inventory level is key to fully unlock its revenue potential in a multi-channel marketplace. When C-levels are looking for ways to optimize operations, inventory management presents a massive opportunity. It is possible to solve many bottlenecks using proven strategies and established information and automation best practices. “Continuous process improvement by definition is ongoing. A static value proposition is hackneyed in no time.” Thomas R. Cutler, President and CEO, TR Cutler, Inc. Loss from Overstocking and Phantom Stocks Unoptimized inventory allocation is one of the costliest and most common challenges faced by multi-channel businesses. According to research commissioned by OrderDynamics, businesses worldwide lose over $471 billion from overstocking and $634 billion from out-of-stock orders. As a multi-channel seller, you must ensure that each channel has the corresponding inventory. Not doing so can lead to order cancellations or delays, or unsold stock. All of these can significantly reduce your profit margin. The Solution: Real-time Inventory Visibility Giving your warehouse managers the clarity they need in manufacturing inventory management can tackle the problem of overstocking. In addition, inventory management tools update inventory levels in real-time, so they don’t have to keep a close eye on inventory at every channel. Additionally, a synchronized inventory storage system can also help boost productivity and improve customer experience. Whether you use a periodic or continuous inventory management system, adding automation and integration with other tools will only help in providing clarity and flexibility. Slowdown in Logistics Due to Unoptimized Warehouse Space Distributed inventory is another aspect of multi-channel inventory management that can be used to create more traction and profit. Warehouse space is valuable for multi-channel businesses. With scattered locations and fluctuating demands, it can be difficult to forecast the optimal distribution of inventory across all channels as well as warehouse locations. According to manufacturing.net, about 20 to 30% of the inventory in a warehouse is obsolete. This clearly indicates the need to fully utilize storage and eliminate hurdles in warehouse inventory management. The Solution: Supply Chain Forecasting A combination of automation technologies can be used to build a multi-channel inventory management stack. The first is using demand sensing, an automation technology that uses real-time data to identify and anticipate short-term demand patterns. Sporting apparel giant, Nike has used demand sensing to effectively cut down on lead times by weeks. Another technology to consider in optimizing your warehouse space is Multi-Echelon Inventory Management, or MEIO. It has a holistic approach where it performs planning, optimization and forecasting across the supply chain. MEIO is also the answer to the scalability of modern multi-channel inventory management that offers comprehensive visibility and efficient rebalancing of inventory in real-time. Considering that 51% of sellers still lack forecasting software, as per a Zentail survey, the opportunity for C-levels is immense. Final Thoughts: Getting Impressively High Returns When done right, optimizing all aspects of multi-channel order management can yield impressive returns. The use of technology in automation and data analytics makes it easier to decode the complexities of a multi-channel operation. A storage and inventory management system may not have all the answers to the profitability puzzle. It is assured to lead to reduced inventory costs, improved performance of the supply chain network, and better responsiveness. This inevitably creates a powerful revenue generating multi-channel business. Frequently Asked Questions Can my existing ERP work as multichannel inventory management software? ERPs like SAP, Netsuite, or Oracle are designed to manage back-office processes and lack the specialization required to manage ecommerce and wholesale processes. Although they come with integrated solutions, their quality may not be up to the mark. What is the cost of multichannel inventory management software? While inventory management software ranges from free to thousands of dollars, the base price varies as per functionality. Some software services charge extra depending on the scale, volume, and integrations. What are the primary techniques of inventory management? Most manufacturers use three primary techniques to address challenges in inventory management: the pull strategy, the push strategy, and the just-in-time (JIT) strategy.

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SPOTLIGHT

Aegis Software develops, deploys and services manufacturing optimization, management, and analysis software. Its systems utilize the CAD design of a product to be manufactured to assist the preparation of the information required by the factory floor to actually execute the assembly process. The solution then controls the execution of the process on the factory floor, acquires data from production machines and operators, manages the quality processes, and produces traceability and analysis regarding process, product and materials information. The company's software products serve the discrete manufacturing markets with a particular emphasis on electronics assembly manufacturers, both OEM and EMS providers.

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