Apr 18 2018

Technology Makes Manufacturing Work

A company I know has a thriving business making small electrical components by the millions, selling them to major electronics companies around the globe. If you’re wondering how a U.S.-based company successfully competes with Chinese manufacturers, and actually sells a lot of product to these same Chinese companies, the answer is technology.

A tour of the plant reveals a modest manufacturing area, parts of which crank out parts 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Another part of the facility, actually bigger than the production floor, is dedicated to the design and building of the automated production equipment that enables this company to produce a wide variety of high quality products in large quantities at a competitive price. They ship nearly every order within 24 hours of receipt, about two-thirds from inventory and one-third made-to-order.

Another company a few miles away makes dimensionally complex machined parts, most of which are produced on fully automated CNC machining centers, 24/7. Their market success is based on their ability to fashion these complex shapes from a single block of material, a task made very challenging by the intricate shapes required.

The production equipment in this case is off-the-shelf – if you can consider million-dollar machines off-the-shelf – in the sense that anyone could buy one or more of these machines and produce the same parts…if they had the control software to drive the tools to produce the intricate geometries required. This company did not invent or develop the parts they sell- they are built according to the specifications provided by customers. The company did not invent or produce the production machinery. They did develop the control programs that make it all possible.

In both of these cases, the company is selling a product that is not in itself unique. They are successful because their technology allows them to produce the product, better, faster, at less cost, and/or with unique characteristics because of the manufacturing technology they developed and employ.

Among the many companies that are manufacturers and make their money selling the products they produce, there are many whose competitive edge is not actual manufacturing. These two companies excel at manufacturing technology. Also consider Apple. Most of Apple’s products are produced by contract manufacturers. Apple is more of a design and marketing company, even though their revenue comes from selling manufactured products.

Manufacturing is important to the economy because it is one of the few ways to create value. But actual production of products is not always the key to success. For many manufacturers, the competitive edge comes from design, engineering, marketing, customer relations, support, sourcing, or some other aspect of the business that elevates the product offerings to a superior value proposition for the customer. And those attributes are not necessarily based on or sensitive to labor rates, taxes, locations, or other perceived limitations. In fact, they can be the key to overcoming advantages that competitors might enjoy.

This post originally appeared on Navigate the Future, the Dassault Systemes North America blog

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2018/04/technology-makes-manufacturing-work/

Apr 18 2018

Four ways Simulation is improving product development

Growing up, one of my friend’s parents was a structural engineer. I can still remember him laboring away at his desk, measuring and calculating any number of design options to determine which was the safest. When CAD was developed, it felt like a God-send. None of us would have guessed the industry could get more advanced than that.

Fast forward 20 years, and I now have friends whose kids are using CAD to develop models in elementary school robotics programs. As surprising as it may be, the shock and awe that once belonged to CAD has moved on to a new tech player: virtual reality (VR).

For many of us, the first thing that comes to mind when we hear VR is gaming. But VR is fast becoming an increasingly important—and normal—part of everyday design in a variety of industries, from engineering to avionics. A recent survey by PwC found that one-third of US manufacturers are already using VR in some capacity—and I’m guessing that number will grow quickly in the next few years. Product development labs at the most innovative companies are utilizing VR, augmented reality, and 3-D printing to build and test products before they ever become part of the physical world. Indeed, simulation is fast becoming a critical part of efficient manufacturing and design. The following are just a few ways VR has already found a home in product development.

Viewing Blueprints and CAD Designs in 3-D

Say you need to buy a new car. Would you rather see a picture of the car on your computer screen—or see it in 3-D—before committing to the purchase? As I noted above, VR is blowing CAD out of the water—or at least out of the computer screen—by allowing design engineers to see their mock-ups in 3-D, rather than on a digital or printed page. The change is important both for designer and customer, as it allows the engineer to find potential issues before physical construction is ever undertaken. It also allows the customer to offer feedback and avoid any potential miscommunication before the product or building is finalized. Imagine how much wasted money and resources will be avoided simply by creating the potential for 3-D design.

Building 3-D Parts in Smaller Scale

There’s nothing like a model to help communicate your vision to customers or business partners. But for decades, the cost of creating a scaled model was cost-prohibitive. Many in the design phase needed to rely on sketches alone to convince someone to make an investment or design change in the product. No more. Using increasingly affordable types of 3-D printing, engineers and other designers can easily output their design—and test it—to make it even better.

Creating a 3-D Rendering in Virtual Space

I remember when I first heard about realtors and construction companies using virtual models of their properties to sell to potential clients. All of the sudden, their customer pool was not limited to their local geographical area—it was open to anyone, anywhere in the world. Such is the beauty of VR. This world of “virtual showrooming” means that manufacturers of cars, boats, buildings, and even model homes no longer need to have those products in stock for potential customers to experience them. The savings in resources, space, storage—you name it—are nearly endless.

Testing and Improving Prototypes

Back in the day, designers had to test one part at a time before taking the chance that the full product would work well together. But to me, one of the best parts of simulation is that it allows designers to gain a holistic view of how their design will be impacted by any number of design changes, without ever committing to one of those parts being created. Which parts manufacturer’s pieces will fit the best? How will adding one design feature change the speed? Functionality? Those are all things designers can find out before the piece is ever built. That doesn’t just save time. It saves stress—product recalls—lawsuits—bad contracts. The list goes on and on.

Basically, simulation allows us to solve problems—and find even better alternatives—earlier in the development cycle so that better products can be pushed out to market faster than ever before. Rather than testing being the last phase of development and design, it’s a living, breathing part of the design process. The growth of digital twins will only enhance designers’ abilities to make safer, stronger, more advanced, longer-lasting products for the consumer market. It’s just one more example of the ways digital transformation is improving customer experience—and the best part is, the customers never have to physically “experience” anything until the best possible product is created

This post originally appeared on Navigate the Future, the Dassault Systemes North America blog

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2018/04/four-ways-simulation-is-improving-product-development/

Apr 11 2018

People and Data in MOM and PLM in the IIoT Age

In my long career in manufacturing operations, I have had many discussions with product design teams for discrete manufacturing. These discussions have ranged from pure delight to taxing because while the product designers were smart and creative they were also somewhat self-centred. Sharing of data has been a natural extension of sharing ideas, goals, and success for those of us who have worked together in design and operations, and data sharing usually resulted in new products.

Manufacturing Process Management

Manufacturing process management (MPM) addresses the design of manufacturing processes from product design to engineering to manufacturing bills of materials (BOM), and it defines how the product will be built. It is the process that brings product lifecycle management (PLM) and Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) together to ensure manufacturability and efficiency of the production process. MPM is not a one-off activity and should always be a part of any continuous improvement program in a product or process.

Defining and converting BOMs is a vital part of MPM and is often a people-centric process. Tools are available to help convert BOMs, and PLM systems ensure different versions of BOMs are consistent. But much of the value-add comes from the design and manufacturing engineers who handle the data. These versions will be used beyond PLM and MOM, and so data management is critical; therein lies an age-old issue: master data management (MDM).

The primary task of corporate business systems such as ERP is to handle data across the enterprise. ERPs have systems to ensure data is consistent between applications, and support manufacturing data for business processes under their charge. For example, purchasing systems know what parts to buy, and sales applications know how to configure products for customers. Both these systems require their own BOMs that are consistent with the primary engineering BOM (EBOM) and manufacturing BOM (MBOM). Most ERPs manage these within their MDM systems. PLM systems that maintain the engineers’ view of the truth compete with ERP systems that contains IT’s view, and nobody wins.

Data in the IIoT Age

The LNS Research definition of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform includes data management from Cloud to Edge. We have discussed how MOM data will migrate to the IIoT platform. With PLM, things are a bit different as leading design software vendors are basing most of their design and operations data management on PLM backbones that have existed for some time. There are some real short-term benefits for manufacturing as the integration of MPM data from design and manufacturing becomes straightforward (and there is no argument about where master data resides).

There are critical long-term decisions to be made about master data across the enterprise. Most of these decisions are not technical but could be imposed by vendors if manufacturers do not define their enterprise and operations architectures, consistently and cohesively. This is a classic area of information technology / operations technology (IT/OT) convergence – where to put and control master design data, especially MBOM and EBOM (most other BOMs have different views on these). Some manufacturers would want PLM data closely related to the design tools used to create it, and will build out their PLM backbones to support manufacturing. This is particularly the case for complex discrete manufacturers where engineering design is the lead activity for product creation and production. These manufacturers need to work with their PLM vendors on a roadmap towards an IIoT platform that will support PLM and business systems.

Many manufacturers that do not yet have closely integrated IT/OT may use two independent master sets of data – EBOM and MBOM in the PLM system, and sales BOM and others in the ERP. It is important to note that many large ERP vendors have PLM systems entirely built into their offerings. These can be used with a variety of engineering and CAD tools. This allows full ERP-centric MDM but may not have the power to support MPM. As we move towards data-based on IIoT platforms, here are some things to do:

  • Make sure that enterprise and operations architectures can coexist, especially while integrating product design and manufacturing
  • Define the requirements for BOM and other design data management across the enterprise and ensure that your IIoT platform can support it
  • Talk! Most difficulties of BOM management relate to a lack of communication between IT and OT, and a hefty dose of “not invented here syndrome.” With good data design and a robust platform, everyone will benefit from tighter integration between design and manufacturing.

Download the complete LNS Research white paper: MOM and PLM in the Age of IIoT: A Cross-Discipline Approach to Digital Transformation

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This post originally appeared on the LNS Research Blog

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2018/04/people-and-data-in-mom-and-plm-in-the-iiot-age/

Apr 04 2018

MANAGING BY METRICS Information management becomes mining’s greatest tool

Even the world’s most technologically sophisticated mining companies are coming to understand that people, equipped with the right information, hold the keys to success.

In Nunavut, Canada, about 2,600 kilometers (1,616 miles) northwest of Toronto, a massive hauling truck broke down recently at the Meadowbank gold mine, threatening to cut production by 5%, which could have cost the company millions of dollars.

But the mining company, Agnico Eagle, recently incorporated new mine planning and ore production software.

Instead of spending several weeks planning using old tools, the company simulated various life-of-mine plans, tested their impacts on production and shifted operations in just days.“Having tools like these provides a smooth workflow that allows you to look at various options and evaluate several differences in designs,” said Eric Ramsay, senior mine geologist with Agnico Eagle.


A growing chorus of industry leaders is calling for more mining companies to invest in lean business processes, as Agnico Eagle has. The industry’s future, these leaders say, depends on how well mining companies coordinate dynamic information across complex operations.

“Lean” refers to a manufacturing process Toyota refined in the 1970s and ’80s and that spread worldwide to transform modern manufacturing operations. Lean embraces simple concepts that never stop evolving, largely because they depend on every employee having just the right information at just the right time to function at peak efficiency.

“It is important for mining companies and practitioners of lean to make a clear distinction between lean thinking and automation,” said Paul Smith, director of Shinka Management, an Australian consulting firm that helps mining companies develop lean business practices. “Lean manufacturing has traditionally shunned expensive, high-tech solutions to process management, instead opting for low- or no-cost improvements wherever possible.”


Mining is a volatile business that traditionally operates on boom-or-bust cycles subject to the swings of nature, local politics and share prices. New technology improves production, but industry experts agree it’s not enough. Not just operational practices, but also business models, must be lean to eliminate waste, smooth out the peaks and valleys of production, avoid accidents and adjust to the always-present unforeseen.

“Open pit is easier to automate, but the underground mine is like a mini-city,” said Mike MacFarlane, a 35-year mining industry veteran who, as a consultant, urges companies to think differently. “Every day the road changes; all kinds of complex decisions have to be made along the way. The biggest lever point is engagement with employees.”

Read the rest of this story here, on COMPASS, the 3DEXPERIENCE Magazine

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2018/04/managing-by-metrics-information-management-becomes-minings-greatest-tool/

Mar 28 2018

You want it when?

Ecommerce is growing rapidly, taking market share from brick-and-mortar retailers at an alarming pace. Many traditional retailers are closing stores while trying to beef up the ecommerce side of their business and experimenting with such strategies as in-store pick-up with no shipping charge. Wal-Mart recently announced that they will be asking retail employees to drop packages off at customers’ houses on their way home from work.

This shift in the retail landscape is having a profound effect on logistics. Despite all the advantages of on-line sales – virtually unlimited selection, lower operating cost leading to lower pricing, incredible convenience, 24/7 shopping – online shopping has one big disadvantage: the customer has to wait for delivery, and may have to pay for shipping as well. So the competitive battlefield for ecommerce vs. brick-and-mortar lies in the warehouses and delivery trucks that are proliferating and searching for faster and cheaper solutions.

On the real estate side, stores are closing, and malls are dying, while Amazon and other e-tailers are building warehouses all over the countryside in order to shorten delivery lead times. Remaining retail stores are searching for new ways to manage store-level inventories to efficiently support in-store pick-up and short distance shipping for online orders.

There are some interesting developments and experiments on the transportation side as well. We’ve all read about delivery drones, even though this intriguing approach to quick delivery is unlikely to become a major factor in the near term, if ever. Similar trials with autonomous delivery carts in some big cities also make interesting reading and are a tad more practical and thus a bit more likely to become a lasting part of the logistics arsenal.

The less flashy but more significant innovations are improvements in the existing transportation modes and logistics systems that are needed to transform package delivery from a relatively higher cost specialty segment of the trucking industry to a more efficient resource for higher volumes and quicker delivery.

And autonomous tractor-trailer rigs will be showing up on the highways very soon. Despite all the press coverage and attention on self-driving cars, the technology being developed and tested for personal vehicle use will hit the road in a semi much sooner. The human driver is the weak link in the trucking world – mandatory rest periods extend delivery lead times, distracted driving and human error cause accidents and delays, safety and comfort features for the driver add cost and weight to the rig and burn fuel. Autonomous vehicles can operate 24/7, and do so more safely and more efficiently (in theory, experience will validate these assumptions in the coming months) while reducing the carbon footprint of this growing part of the manufacturing and distribution supply chain.

Innovations in material (package) handling, warehouse robotics, and management systems (utilizing Industrial Internet of Things sensors and smart, location-aware devices for real-time monitoring of packages and shipments en-route) are also in the works. Companies are looking everywhere for cost savings and improved speed as the retail landscape reinvents itself in the Internet age.

These logistics changes could well lead to a change in the nature of demand at suppliers’ factories. Undoubtedly, intense competition will reinforce the existing trend toward a wider variety of products and product variations with lower volume and shorter lifecycle per variant. Innovations in the plant, including 3D printing and increased automation, will surely be among the tools factories will call on to meet the challenge.

This post originally appeared on Navigate the Future, the Dassault Systemes North America blog

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2018/03/you-want-it-when/

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