Oct 22 2014

3 Technologies Transforming the Manufacturing Industry

early_robotAt this point, there’s hardly an industry in existence that has not been dramatically transformed by technology. Everything from education to music to mass media is different because of technological advances, many of which have occurred only in the past quarter century.

Manufacturing is an industry that seems to be one of the most impacted by the tech revolution. In fact, our industrial revolution predecessors would probably hardly recognize today’s assembly line. And, their jaws would hit the floor if they were to behold the efficiency, speed and uniformity with which we’re able to make things today.

All of this change has been brought about by a few key technologies.


1. Robotics

When the layman thinks of manufacturing, he probably thinks of an assembly line made up of humans, each handling one part of the assembly process. This is still how some factories function, but many of those humans are being replaced by robots … no, not the kind that walk and talk, but the ones that can do automated manufacturing work that’s perfect all day, every day.

Automated robotics came on the scene in 1961 in the form of Unimate, a robotic arm that assisted General Motors in rolling automobiles out to a car-crazed country. Though it looks a bit primitive to us now, Unimate was a huge development for manufacturing at the time – it was immune from all the issues that make human beings fallible, inconsistent and unreliable.

Sure, it wasn’t perfect for every step of the process, but it was ideal for the many unskilled, repetitive tasks that needed to be done hundreds or thousands of times a day. Though robots can’t make decisions, use creativity or adapt to changes, in the right context, they can more than double a factory’s efficiency and greatly increase its consistency in output and quality.


2. 3-D Printing

To many people, 3-D printing still seems like something out of a science fiction movie – telling a machine to make you a bowl or a brick or a table and then having that thing pop out fully made is pretty incredible, no matter who you are. And although the technology used to be more about wowing us in its ability to shoot out a blue plastic elephant, now 3-D printing is being seriously implemented in manufacturing in a great many industries.

In the last year, we’ve seen the technology used to print artificial human body parts, rocket components, engine blocks and even entire homes. The incorporation of 3-D printing in manufacturing is not a thing of the distant future; it’s happening now. Change is currently underway, but you can safely expect that that change will only grow exponentially over the next decade.

The very existence of a huge factory made up of various assembly lines, laborers and robots may be an antiquated notion sooner than later. Design has gone almost fully digitized already, but the physical implementation of those designs will likely soon go the same way, so that making anything from a pair of shoes to a car will be entirely digital – from conception to creation.


3. CO2 Snow Cleaning

Cleaning would be a whole lot easier if it wasn’t for that pesky water, right? In the manufacturing process, cleaning is required in several steps – unfortunately, most methods of cleaning are messy, hazardous, inefficient, and far too rough for many delicate parts.

Enter CO2 snow cleaning, a waterless cleaning method that successfully eliminates those issues that complicate precision manufacturing in industries like data storage, automotive, and medical device. Recycled liquid dry CO2 drawn from a source expands to form “snow” particles that are forced through a nozzle to clean by precisely impacting the surface.

And just as robotics are streamlining the assembly line, so is dry CO2 cleaning – systems can be automated for improved efficiency and have recently taken the automotive plastics industry by storm. BMW and VW are the first European automotive manufacturers to implement these practices, but more will surely follow.

Another huge shift in the manufacturing is that towards environmentally-friendly practices, and where recycled CO2 succeeds is in preventing water and chemical waste from entering and harming the environment.


We’ve come a long way from smoky factories full of laborers churning out products. Manufacturing, like almost all industries, is steadily moving away from physical, muscle-powered work to digital, brain-powered work.

And while these technologies have already done a great deal in transforming all engineering and manufacturing, I have a feeling that we haven’t even begun to see what they can do.



Here are other Manufacturing Transformation posts on similar topics:

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2014/10/3-technologies-transforming-the-manufacturing-industry/

Oct 16 2014

In A&D Manufacturing, Details Make all the Difference


“Details create the big picture.”

Sanford I. Weill

Details can make or break your business. I read this quote by Sanford I. Weill, former chief executive and chairman of Citigroup Bank. I was amused at the similarity between the Sanford’s quote on the Banking industry and Aerospace & Defense manufacturing. Let me explain.

Something I’ve been hearing a lot about lately from the Aerospace & Defense industry is the problem of missing parts. It’s not that fuselages or rocket engines are disappearing. Rather, simple but essential parts aren’t getting produced properly or at all. What happens is that the project stalls as a given manufacturer or assembler waits. And waits.

We might think in such a critical and regulated industry as A&D, that having parts go missing would be a rare event. Apparently not. I’ve heard from several people in the industry that it happens more than they would like to admit.

The problem can be as simple as the bolts for one part of the engine that were specified and available in the original design, but got changed in one of the ECOs and nobody bothered to tell the vendor’s supplier. Or the supplier was told but forgot to act on the memo.

Complexity in the A&D Manufacturing Process

Why has this mis-communication become a growing problem? I’m sure it has a lot to do with the complexity of the modern production / supply chain, especially in the A&D industry. Nobody makes an airplane or a rocket in one place, or even within one country.

As an example of the complexity at work, according to Boeing on their website, “the 787 Dreamliner has about 2.3 million parts per airplane. They include everything from ‘fasten seatbelt’ signs to jet engines and vary in size from small fasteners to large fuselage sections.”

Continuous Improvement Compounds Complexity

Making matters worse, manufacturers continue to seek ways to improve operational excellence. So, processes are constantly being evaluated and potentially improving, adding new challenges. What this means is that the tracking and enforcing Engineering Change Orders (ECOs) through every step of manufacturing and assembly, for every single item affected by ECOs, can no longer be done satisfactorily with manual or disparate systems. It is for this reason that digital manufacturing solutions are increasingly being deployed within the A&D industry. By connecting engineering design with execution systems, it is possible to address and overcome the challenge of managing ECOs – and ensuring current designs are being executed upon during production activities.

If you forget to update one item or fail to call one supplier about the smallest component change, then the entire production process might grind to a halt. For multi-million dollar products, that kind of downtime can be quite costly, and apparently increasingly unavoidable.

Digital Manufacturing as a Good Approach

This increasing complexity is why Boeing, for one, has been digitizing their engineering and production processes for quite some time now. The company requires suppliers and their partners to work with their digital manufacturing and engineering systems to perform change orders. The system is dynamic and fully integrated, so ECOs ripple automatically to the furthest reaches of the supply chain. This way, Boeing can update products as often as necessary and not worry about whether every partner on the list has heard the news.

Not only do details “create” the big picture, but they can “destroy” it too, if some are missing when you are manufacturing or assembling an aircraft. Change will always happen, and the more complex the supply chain, the more important it is to have automated methods of processing ECOs and deploying them everywhere.

Many companies think they have control because they’re on top of the big issues. But the fact is, every supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link, whether that link is a common bolt … or just a nail.


Here are two other blog posts focused on the aerospace & defense industry that you might find interesting:

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2014/10/in-ad-manufacturing-details-make-all-the-difference/

Oct 14 2014

A Compelling Case for EQMS

EQMS_to_manage_quality_speed_efficiency_costIn an era of complex global supply chains and increasing regulation, maintaining a viable quality management strategy across a manufacturing organization can be a formidable challenge. Unfortunately the norm in many manufacturing organizations is a manual, departmental quality management approach using diverse processes, paper records, spreadsheets and other rudimentary tools. With such a fragmented approach, tackling and responding to supply, quality control, and regulatory issues can take tremendous amounts of resources and effort.

Deploying Enterprise Quality Management Software (EQMS) is an excellent way to centralize and automate quality management processes and information across an entire organization. Many manufacturers have already taken advantage of these systems to streamline supplier management, Corrective and Preventive Action (CAPA), compliance management, risk management, complaint handling, change management, auditing and many other quality control processes and content. These systems encourage consistency and collaboration across departments while integrating with corporate ERP, PLM, SCM, and other systems with a goal of providing a single version of the truth. So far, however, industry acceptance has been gradual.

A survey published by LNS Research shows only 20 percent of organizations claiming current EQMS implementations in 2013, with 25 to 30 percent in the planning stages, and another 7 percent allocating budget for such a solution. Almost half of those surveyed still had no plans at all.

This is likely to change soon. Increasing pressure from globalization and new regulations continue to be a driver; however, a new EQMS ROI/business case argument is now developing that promises to be more compelling than the one used commonly up to now.

Most EQMS ROI analyses focus on the potential for streamlining and cutting the cost of quality control processes, which makes a lot of sense. The problem is that many organizations have other, more urgent software investments to make, many of which fall under the same justification. It can be difficult and time consuming to quantify EQMS efficiencies to convince senior management that they’ll have a substantial impact on the bottom line.

An alternative, more compelling business case is now gaining momentum, driven by the potential of EQMS to slash risk and the high costs of quality failure, much as security software can protect an organization from an expensive and damaging security or data breach.

LNS Research outlines such a business case in its February, 2014 white paper “Building a Business Case for EQMS with the Cost of Quality.” Without delving into all its details, the paper suggests comparing a metric it calls the Cost of Good Quality (CoGQ) with the Cost of Poor Quality (CoPQ). CoGQ measures all the costs of ensuring good quality and preventing costly and damaging quality failures, including EQMS software, people and various other resources. The report points out that the cost of failure increases exponentially as the detection of quality issues moves closer and closer to the end user. See Figure 1.

apriso graph

From Building a Business Case for EQMS with the Cost of Quality, LNS Research, February 2014


Preventive actions early in the manufacturing process are many times less expensive than corrective actions such as recalls, scrapping products, etc. after the fact. Not to mention the reputational damage that can result once the failure affects the customer.

Some of the CoPQ metrics to measure include the cost of customer complaints, supplier defects, manufacturing scrap and rework, and warranty reserves. For some organizations these can represent a significant percentage of revenue. The report then suggests setting goals for improvement based on streamlined, centralized, more automated processes; better interdepartmental communication; and integration with other corporate information systems enabled by EQMS. Finally, compare the reduction in CoPQ with the investment required for EQMS. Senior management is more likely to respond to this type of risk reduction analysis than a typical ROI based on nebulous process streamlining. In a company in which quality failures represent a significant percentage of revenue, simply demonstrating that the rate of failure can be reduced by a few percentage points can make a significant impact on the bottom line.

In closing, not only can the benefits and ROI of implementing an EQMS system now be better justified, these types of solutions are also adding some interesting new capabilities, such as predictive analytics, mobile applications and cloud-based solutions for greater visibility and sharing of these valuable quality metrics. I’ll discuss these new capabilities in my next blog post.


Read more about EQMS in this blog post: How IT Disconnect Can Hurt Quality in Operations (and How to Fix It)

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2014/10/a-compelling-case-for-eqms/

Oct 07 2014

The OEM Handoff – Shifting Design Responsibility puts Greater Burden on Aerospace Suppliers

OEM_handoffAerospace suppliers are in the vortex of turbulent times and the speed and skill with which they adapt to the tumult will determine their fate.

Among the forces that will separate the leaders from the laggards are globalization, emerging competitors, growing price pressures, unprecedented commercial aircraft production rates, a protracted downturn in defense spending in mature markets and a restructuring of relationships between original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and lower-tier suppliers.

All capital goods industries rely on a global network of parts suppliers. Today, supplier-created content represents 50-60% of the value of an aerospace system, according to Lockheed Martin Executive Chairman Bob Stevens, and he predicts that figure will continue to grow. Relentless price pressures from end-use customers, plus their demand for more affordable products, is driving large companies at or near the top of the supply chain to shift even more responsibility for innovation and productivity gains to the smaller, lower-tier builders of components and subsystems.

“Suppliers are bearing an enormous amount of pressure today,” Stevens said, referring to the smaller companies that support the large OEMs that serve defense markets. In most regions, those markets are shrinking due to resource constraints.

Separating Winners from Losers

To survive, much less thrive, experts say, lower-tier suppliers will need to make step-change improvements in managing operating costs, be more innovative and forge closer partnerships with their OEM customers.

“Companies that simplify processes, implement lean manufacturing principles and redesign infrastructure are the ones most likely to succeed,” said Scott Thompson, who leads the aerospace consulting practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

In parallel with shifting more responsibility to lower-tier suppliers, some OEMs are pursuing vertical integration to gain greater control over the quality of critical parts and acquire strategic technological expertise. In 2012, for example, General Electric purchased Italy’s Avo S.p.A., a major low-pressure turbine and gearbox supplier, and US-based Morris Technologies, a precision manufacturing company. Both acquisitions significantly expanded GE’s additive manufacturing capabilities.

The Speed Imperative

One market force driving change above all others is the need for OEMs and their vendors to deliver more affordable products and get them into the hands of aerospace customers faster.

The key to improving cycle times is for OEMs to involve suppliers earlier in the product design process.

Kent Statler, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Commercial Systems at Rockwell Collins, a provider of avionics and information technology systems based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (USA), believes the key to improving cycle times is for OEMs to involve suppliers earlier in the product design process.

“Growing cost pressures and the logarithmic increase in complexity of air vehicles require closer risk-sharing partnerships between systems integrators and their suppliers to meet customer expectations,” Statler said. “For their part, suppliers have a responsibility to participate in the conceptual phase and contribute ideas.”

Michael Yates, president of Tactair Fluid Controls, a US-based manufacturer of hydraulic and pneumatic controls for the aerospace industry, said the trend requires a closer relationship between OEMs and their suppliers. “Lower-tier suppliers must understand their responsibilities, and that happens only when there is open communications,” he said. The stronger the relationship lower-tier suppliers can create with OEMs, the better the chances of the supply chain delivering the optimal customer experience.

This article was reprinted with permission from the Compass Magazine, “The Cloud business in the Age of Experience,” Issues #5 – 2014, published by Dassault Systèmes.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2014/10/the-oem-handoff-shifting-design-responsibility-puts-greater-burden-on-aerospace-suppliers/

Oct 01 2014

5 Ways to use Technology to Run a More Productive Warehouse

productive_warehouseImproving the productivity of a warehouse has never been more possible due to advances in technology. Let’s explore some of the tools available to warehouse managers to maximize productivity in the five warehouse management processes described below.

1. Collaboration

Communication by email is a great communication tool, however, when it comes to time-sensitive communication; direct contact is much more efficient. Make use of one or more of the wireless technologies available to increase your productivity. A key in selecting technologies is that they must integrate and work together. Whether you choose to communicate through radio, laptop or smartphone, invest in a system that all departments can use consistently. This will give your warehouse real-time efficiency and improve productivity.

2. Receiving

Handle it once. The more times an item is handled and the more individuals involved in the handling, the more time and money you are wasting. Materials must be received and stored with total accuracy. Your database for inventory must be updated as merchandise is received.

Having one person in receiving checking off received materials from a list, then sending the materials for stocking, then sending the list for database updating is not efficient. Inbound processing and the right Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software can allow one individual to check in materials and record the inventory in one step. Those materials can then be routed to the correct location in your warehouse.

Select a system of barcode scanning or RFID and take the extra handling out of your receiving operations. This system will also allow the data from incoming shipments to be sent directly to the purchasing and AP departments to update the information for timely payments of invoices.

Just-in-time delivery is a method for keeping excess inventory from building up in your facility. The more material you have just sitting on shelves, the more money you have tied up in that inventory.

3. Inventory Layout

The organization of your warehouse is extremely important since it determines how efficiently new materials are put away and items are retrieved for shipment. Invest in a storage system that meets the needs of your facility.  Your layout should be designed according to your unique operations.   If certain items are ordered and shipped together, that is how they should be stored. If a numerical system works best, then that is the system to use.

If your materials are stored on pallets, have the right system in place for easy pallet access. If you use bins, have the racking system to accommodate them. The better your material organization and access, the less time you lose in preparing orders for shipment.

The critical thing to keep in mind is that workers should not have to make several trips around your entire facility to pick orders for shipment. The more time employees spend while traveling around inside your facility, the more productivity that you are losing.

4. Picking procedures

Picking and packing are another area where otherwise efficient warehouses can quickly fail. If the wrong materials are pulled, someone not only has to retrieve the correct merchandise, but also the wrong items must be returned to where they belong.

When your stock is organized and marked with (for example) SKUs or a different system, your employees will be less likely to pull the wrong materials for shipments.  With the right software, you can combine pick lists to complete several orders and then sort the individual items directly in your shipping department.

5. Loading and Shipping

When it comes to loading and shipping, first in is not first out. Trucks must be loaded in the reverse order. The last items placed in the truck will be the first items unloaded.

GPS systems can help you optimize your loading, routing and deliveries. This last step will help you ensure customer satisfaction. You will know where shipments are if customers have questions.

Make use of the organization, communication, storage and software solutions available to keep your warehouse operations up to date. These implementations will improve your productivity, reduce errors and improve the bottom line for your facility.


If you liked this post, there here are others you may also find interesting:

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2014/10/5-ways-to-use-technology-to-run-a-more-productive-warehouse/

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