Inventory Optimization in the Supply Chain

Every company wants to have the right amount of the right inventory in the right place at the right time, and that has been the primary focus of Material Requirements Planning (MRP) software and its successors and descendants including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and Distribution Requirements Planning. Traditional planning systems use traditional logic that calculates a time-phased replenishment plan. But very few professionals have been totally satisfied with the MRP approach. While the MRP approach does develop a reasonable and logical plan that’s far better than guesswork, min-max, or order point strategies, it is entirely dependent on the accuracy of the forecast and does not recognize or react to anything outside of the “normal” – like supply chain disruptions, delays in production or distribution, or changing costs, availability, or priorities.

Optimization (for a more general discussion of optimization see the previous blog, Why is Optimization Important for Supply Chain Planning) is designed to take those dynamic factors into consideration by comparing different strategies in order to determine a “best” approach among all the alternatives. The user sets the priority by defining what “best” means – lowest overall cost, best customer service, minimum transportation cost, staying within warehouse capacity limits – or more likely some combination of these. Lowest overall cost to maintain 95% service level without exceeding warehouse capacity anywhere in the network, for example.

The system will then try many, many different combinations of replenishment opens (quantity and timing), transportation choices (truck is faster but rail is cheaper), warehouse inventory strategies (it’s more economical to store a larger quantity at a feeder warehouse serving more distribution points but transportation costs will likely be higher and customer service will suffer), and other trade-offs to find the best combination within whatever restrictions may exist – like warehouse size or container volume limits.

Understand, of course, that all these factors are changing constantly. Fuel and transportation costs are notoriously volatile as are taxes, duties, and capacity availability. Likewise, customer demand is always changing, often unpredictably, and there are those supply chain disruptions mentioned previously. The good news is that optimization routines can be rerun as often as you like. Even though you don’t want to be changing strategies minute-by-minute, it’s really useful to see the impact of any disturbance that takes place and be able to quickly identify and react to an issue that might affect customer service…and to know the best way to react.

Inventory optimization in the supply chain is focused on where to hold inventory in the distribution network to deliver the desired level of customer service at minimal cost within any limits or restrictions that exist. That may mean that some items are stored in larger quantities closer to the source and distributed in smaller quantities more often down the chain while others are more likely to be held closer to the customer for quick delivery. Optimization brings all those considerations together in a comprehensive plan that delivers the desired performance at minimal cost.

 

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/2018/12/inventory-optimization-in-the-supply-chain/

The Value of Simulation for Collaborative Robots – Part 2

This is the second of a 2-part series on Cobotics simulation.

In a previous blog I introduced the concept of Cobotics, or the use of Collaborative Robots and described the benefits of cobotics work cell simulation which include:

  • Secure accessibility for both humans and robots
  • Secure human tasks using ergonomics validation
  • Human / robot interaction validation
  • Optimum production capacity
  • Human safety compliance

This article will introduce Virtual Commissioning and how it increases the value of Cobotics and more generally, the production work cell.

What is Virtual Commissioning?

First, some numbers:

  • 75% of projects exceed the final budget
  • 30% of projects are delayed, leading to additional cost and lost sales
  • 60% of commissioning time is used to identify and eliminate problems with control software, protocols, and integration.

On the other hand, in a robot work cell:

  • 1/3 of the time is dedicated to the component set-up and tool tuning (mechanical domain)
  • 1/3 of the time is used by the robotics engineer to set-up the robot program and trajectory
  • 1/3 of the time is used by the programmable logic controller (PLC) programmer to complete the global work cell availability

For security reasons, it is impossible to have these three teams physically working together in the cell. Consequently, because some companies split the day into three shifts to have engineers working consecutively, delays in work cell set-up are increasing.

Fortunately, there are solutions

  • Offline Programming – decreases the time needed to work physically in the work cell by programming  the robot trajectory in a robotics simulation software
  • Virtual Commissioning – a realistic and intelligent virtual run-time environment for Control Engineers to debug and validate PLC programs prior to physical build

How Co-Simulation for Virtual Commissioning is possible

The co-simulation environment is composed of two domains:

  • The work cell is designed in a 3D environment. Robots, machines, and humans are animated, and sensors are modeled and can simulate with maximum accuracy in terms of performance, reachability, and collision-detection based on the device program and input/output.
  • The definition PLC environment is able to emulate different PLCs available on the market or be connected with a real PLC (hardware in the loop)

Between these two domains, a dedicated fast speed connector is provided that allows real-time communication both ways – orders are sent from the PLC environment to the work cell device and simulation information is sent back from the work cell simulation (sensors information, robot program status, etc).

Thus, all 3D devices are directly controlled by the final PLC program and can realistically simulate the complete behavior of the work cell.

There many benefits of Virtual Commissioning

  • Reduce the risk of errors and damage during ramp-up
  • Improve the quality of delivered PLC code by validating all possible scenarios including non-nominal mode (on average, 80% of the code is dedicated to addressing non-nominal mode)
  • Simulate equipment failure (sensors) and validate the PLC code to address these type of events
  • Validate all safety monitoring scenarios
  • Reduce immobilization of the work cell and reduce debug time and costs at the customer site

The Value of Virtual Commissioning for Cobotics

Obviously, virtual commissioning can be used with the same value because human interface can be modeled and human interaction can be simulated.

Another value is to provide a virtual environment for workers to train in safe conditions and at full capability. It can also validate all scenarios including human error and device failures.

A New Perspective

Imagine putting yourself in the shoes of a worker working with a cobot!  What can be better than being able to:

  • Validate a process thanks to an immersive, human-like experience
  • Train for dedicated tasks
  • Be reassured in front of a cobot
  • Be convinced that this robot is, in fact, more than a robot and can become a partner

Coupled with simulation, this technology helps to provide a smooth transition by introducing robots in the virtual world.

Conclusion

To summarize, simulating a cobotics work cell provides:

  • A collaborative work cell layout design
  • Ergonomics in the same environment
  • Human safety validation
  • Production performance simulation
  • Offline programming, Virtual Commissioning
  • Worker training
  • An immersive experience
  • New collaborative equipment design

Simulation of collaborative robots develops your imagination and can accompany you to the next level – an industrial transformation process.

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2018/12/the-value-of-simulation-for-collaborative-robots-part-2/

Steel and Aluminium Tariffs Will Impact Manufacturing Well Into 2019

While we may have avoided a full-blown trade war, the tariffs on steel and aluminum are still in place, which makes it more difficult for companies that rely on these two metals to continue to work in the current economy. How will these tariffs continue to impact the manufacturing industry into the next fiscal year?

What Are These Tariffs?

These tariffs date back to 2017 when the current presidential administration announced that they were planning on restricting the import of certain materials from outside the United States. Most of the manufacturers in the states were against these new taxes because of the negative impact it would have on the manufacturing industry. Steel would be subjected to a 25 percent tariff, and aluminum would have its price raised by 10 percent.

Tariffs have been implemented at various times throughout history, so they aren’t a new concept. However, these are the first of the Trump Administration.

Who’s Affected and Who Isn’t?

These tariffs wouldn’t affect everyone, such as imports coming from Canada or Mexico because of their shared borders. In addition to Canada and Mexico, other countries that are exempt from the steel and aluminum tariffs include Australia, South Korea, the European Union (EU) and Argentina.

The exact effects of these tariffs remain to be seen, but for example, if the exemption is not renewed for the European Union, the impacts could be far-reaching. Steel manufacturers in the European Union would likely have to change their manufacturing techniques to reduce costs and ensure profits are sustainable. Additionally, should the EU lose its exemption, about $7.8 billion in U.S.-imported goods might face taxation.

China and Japan are two of the countries that are not exempt from these current tariffs, and it nearly launched a full-scale trade war between the United States and China as a result. That has been avoided for now, but the tariffs are still in place — and the two countries continue to go back-and-forth with updated lists of taxed items in response.

The Estimates: $10 Million and Climbing

Experts are estimating that these tariffs could cost U.S. based manufacturing companies more than $10 million over the next five years. This will impact companies across a variety of industries. Directly, it will affect companies that are using steel and aluminum to create their products, leading them to pass those costs on to their customers. Ford and GM, both U.S.-based car manufacturers, are expecting to have to pay more than $1 billion in extra tariff costs. On a broader scale, it will also impact the buying power of companies and consumers that rely on metal products to run their businesses or make their lives easier.

When it comes down to it, everyone is going to pay more, either directly or indirectly, because of these tariffs, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to be going away anytime soon.

The automotive industry may be getting some relief, though. Unofficially, word has come down the pipe that the president may be planning to scrap the 25 percent tariff that he was planning to implement on imported cars and car parts.

What Can Be Done to Adapt to the Tariffs?

If the tariffs aren’t going away quickly, it’s up to manufacturers to adjust to these new expenses. One option that is being explored in Europe and could be adapted in the United States is the idea of reusing waste heat to reduce other costs. The steel industry especially relies on generating a lot of heat, and much of it is wasted or directly released into the atmosphere.

Instead of letting this heat go to waste, it could be collected in heat pipes to be used to generate energy which could, in turn, lessen fuel costs and offset the increased cost of steel and aluminum.

For now, at least, these tariffs are here to stay, and they will continue to impact the manufacturing industry for the next year, and possibly even longer into the future. Companies will need to adapt to these new tariffs to be able to maintain their profit margins while preventing a substantial increase in their prices. Most of the previous import tariffs didn’t last — President Bush’s taxes were put into place in 2002 and only lasted until 2003, for example, so this may be just another thing that manufacturing companies need to ride out until the current tariffs have been lifted.

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2018/12/steel-and-aluminium-tariffs-will-impact-manufacturing-well-into-2019/

Making an Impact at the Women in Manufacturing Annual Summit – Dassault Systèmes sponsorship helps to provide a platform for women to plan their manufacturing career success

A skills gap is on the horizon in the manufacturing industry—and women are a rich, under-utilized source of talented workers. Key to bridging the impending chasm is the ability for organizations to engage and promote women, an idea wholly supported by one of the industry’s leading networking groups, Women in Manufacturing (WiM).

The work of influencers to effect positive change could be seen and experienced this month at the 8th Annual WiM Summit, where sponsors such as Dassault Systèmes helped to provide a platform to expand women’s participation and influence in the industry. Held this year in Indianapolis, Indiana, the summit changes location every year, moving around the country to maximize participants’ opportunities to develop a diverse and broad network in manufacturing.

ANGELA REGAN, DELMIA Global Director of Business Development

According to Angela Regan, Dassault Systèmes’ Global Director of Business Development for the DELMIA brand and chairperson of the Massachusetts chapter of WiM, the summit is a highly motivating experience that happens at the end of the summer, after a traditionally busy and exhausting season in manufacturing. “Women go to this event to get the wind beneath their wings. We get re-energized.” Regan has seen firsthand how the workforce gap will affect the industry in the near future. “This is a critical issue. A significant amount of effort must be made in order to shore up and expand the pool of talent available to our industry.”

Making an Impact

This year, one theme dominated at the summit: Making an Impact. From keynote presentations to breakout sessions and plant tours, presenters covered a broad spectrum of topics that spurred attendees to ask themselves: In what way do I want to make an impact in my career? How can I accomplish those goals?

Among the unique and practical ways to explore these questions were sessions on crisis management and how to recover from significant business interruptions and professional goal-setting. Ellen Van Ousten, a professor at Case Western University and instructor of the WiM leadership certification program considered the role of emotions and how to leverage them in leadership and life. Another session led by Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire, CEO, 2020 Women on Boards encouraged women to spur change by serving on corporate and non-profit boards where they have the power to make or influence decisions.

Dassault Systèmes’ Sponsorship

Dassault Systèmes participated in this year’s summit by providing transportation to and from the plant tours. Participants from the summit visited Praxair Surface Technologies, Major Tool & Machine, Fastenal Company, Crown Equipment, Rolls Royce and Salesforce.

As an MC for the break-out sessions, Regan introduced various speakers, including Cindy Bolt, Senior Vice President for Salesforce Industries, who leads a global industry strategy team for the Manufacturing, Automotive, and Energy sectors and discussed the important role that women play in the fourth industrial revolution. Other influential speakers included Molly Ford, Senior Director of Global Equality Programs at Salesforce, who inspired attendees with her recommendations for millennials looking to take on the world: first, do your job well and succeed, then people will listen to you.

WiM at Work

A frequent and enthusiastic attendee at WiM events, Regan reminisces about what she’s learned through her participation with the organization over time—important ideas she needed to hear and learn in order to grow at different points in her career.

“When I was first asked to come to this event, I found myself sitting in a conference room listening to women who, in addition to being Dassault Systèmes’ customers, quickly became incredible role models for me.” Regan’s relationship to WiM has grown to where she now participates on panels to inspire new recruits and works alongside members to promote each other’s manufacturing careers.

At WiM events, Regan wears two hats, as a representative of Dassault Systèmes, and a promoter of Women in Manufacturing. “With my Dassault Systèmes hat on, I’m always interested in discovering where our customers are in implementing a digital journey for their organization. That said, the nature of WiM events—in which women are there to support each other in their careers—allows me to have a more bonded interaction with people who happen to be prospects or customers. We’re all there to help each other. I’m there to create an ongoing relationship with a network of women I’ll be connected with throughout my career.”

Creating New Opportunities

In her role at Dassault Systèmes, Regan has created opportunities for WiM to share specific ideas and strategies for engaging women by leveraging and reaching out to the company’s network of customers.

Through Regan’s efforts, WiM President and founder Alison Grealis will speak at COExperience in New Orleans in 2019, an event created by an independent community group utilizing the Dassault Systèmes suite of solutions. Grealis will identify specific ways women can help to fill the skills gap in manufacturing for these active and engaged users and customers. Grealis will also serve on a panel to discuss women’s roles in digital manufacturing at Dassault Systèmes’ upcoming Digital Manufacturing Symposium. At both events, Grealis will have the opportunity to introduce her organization to the many Dassault Systèmes’ customers in attendance, while showing how they can get women to take on important manufacturing roles at their own organizations.

 

Now that you’ve read about the platform and resources WiM provides, take a deeper dive by exploring the other articles in our series on Women in Manufacturing. Learn the perils of the coming skills gap and read a fascinating interview with Alison Grealis, President and Founder of WiM.

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2018/12/making-an-impact-at-the-women-in-manufacturing-annual-summit-dassault-systemes-sponsorship-helps-to-provide-a-platform-for-women-to-plan-their-manufacturing-career-success/

Introducing AGVs on the Shop Floor? Here is What You Need to Keep in Mind (Part 2)

This is the second of a 2-part series on the implementation of AGVs on the shop floor.

Things to Consider When Planning the Introduction of an AGV System

What to Automate?

First, companies need to identify a candidate process to automate, the material flow paths within the process and the load to be transported automatically. A first estimation of employee relocation impacts, rationalization gains, quality improvements and improved work conditions can help decide which processes to target at this point.

What Kind of AGV?

The choice of the process and of the transported load will largely define the kind of AGV to select. There is no standard nomenclature for AGV types, but the most commonly cited ones are the following:

A forklift AGV

  • A Unit Load AGV

    Forklift AGVs, to move and lift pallets both at floor level and on stands

  • Unit load AGVs, to retrieve and delivery pallets, boxes or containers, equipped with decks for load transportation and load transfer
  • Towing AGVs, to move trailers or trains of trailers within the factory
  • Assembly AGVs, to move work-in-progress parts to the assembly line, usually at a slow pace
  • Light load AGVs, to transport small parts or baskets, for example in hospitals

Which Navigation Technology?

AGVs need to continuously assess their position, which can be done in different ways. The choice of navigation technology not only depends on what AGV suppliers may propose, but also on the environment in which the AGVs will operate, and on the desired flexibility for changing AGV paths.

Light Load AGVs, used to carry supplies at the Queen Elisabeth University Hospital. Photo credit: MrGRA

The laser guidance navigation technology is one of the most popular navigation methods today.  A rotating laser on top of the AGV emits a beam that is reflected by marks positioned on walls. The exact vehicle position is computed through triangulation.  This technology is flexible and highly accurate but is sensitive to dirt and sunlight.

Other technologies include:

  • Wire guidance: a current-carrying wire generates a magnetic field (low cost, reliable and robust, but not flexible and sensitive to metal in the ground)
  • Magnetic tape or grid guidance: a magnetic tape or magnetic spots are placed on the floor (low cost, flexible, but sensitive to dirt, sunlight, damages, and metal on the floor)
  • Optical guidance: a painted or taped line on the floor guides the AGV (low cost, flexible, but sensitive to dirt, sunlight and damage to the line)
  • Natural navigation: using a registered map of the facility and a camera or laser, the AGV identifies elements in the facility, such as pillars or walls, and computes its position according to them (highly flexible, does not require a specific infrastructure, but preferably used only in simple and constant environments, sensitive to sunlight)
  • GPS navigation: satellites are used to determine the position of the AGV (adapted to the outdoor environment, but low precision and cannot be used inside)

Charging station used at the Hamburg container terminal. Photo credit: Wolfgang Klein

Which Charging Strategy?

AGVs operate on batteries and there are different options to manage charging:

  • Battery swap. When the battery level falls beneath a certain point, the AGV is redirected to a station where the battery is replaced by a fully charged one. The swap can be done manually or automatically. The advantage of a battery swap is that it limits the unavailability of the AGV to a minimum. The disadvantage is that extra batteries must be purchased and stored.
  • Automatic charging. When the battery level falls beneath a certain point, the AGV is redirected to a charging station. During charging time, the AGV is not available, which means that more AGVs are needed, for example, the battery can last during all day shifts and be charged at night.
  • Opportunity charging. The AGV is redirected to a charging station when an opportunity arises. This is a solution to consider if AGVs are stopped and idle several times a day.

IT Impacts

Unless AGVs simply move back and forth across predefined and independent paths, there is a need for a central management of the fleet of AGVs. All AGV vendors propose an AGV Control System, which is proprietary software allowing to:

  • Program vehicle routes, using a map of the facilities and of possible paths previously entered in the system
  • Fulfill transportation orders, by selecting an available AGV and ordering it to go from point A to point B using a given path
  • Monitor vehicle statuses and locations
  • Interact with other systems, such as ERP or Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) Systems

Having a well-working AGV Control System also means addressing the IT challenges of a reliable wireless network and integrating with IT and OT Systems. Simulating the AGV fleet before its commissioning can also bring a lot of benefits.

Wireless LAN

Individual AGVs need to maintain constant communication with the AGV Control System through a wireless network, either to receive orders or send back field data.

The deployment of the wireless solution needs, therefore, to be carefully planned and tested. For instance, if antenna fields do not have sufficient overlap, this can result in the AGVs sometimes losing contact. The industrial environment may also cause interferences or other issues. For example, industrial metal surfaces such as those used in racks can cause a reflection of radio waves, preventing a well-functioning connection.

Integration with Other Systems

In order to fully automate transportation operations, the AGV System needs to communicate with other Systems, such as the ERP and MOM systems.

Transport orders need to be created and scheduled according to demand and capacity. The Warehouse Management System then needs to check the availability of the storage bins, communicate the location of the palette or goods to be transported and update the inventory after the transportation has been done. Integration with other components of the MOM system (Production, Quality) can allow a full traceability of the materials from receipt to final delivery.

AGV Fleet Simulation

Finally, a program that can simulate the operations of a future AGV fleet can prove useful to:

  • Verify that the AGV fleet has been properly sized,
  • Assess the efficiency of the routing and of the battery charging strategies,
  • Experiment “what if“ scenarios with unexpected events, such as a human crossing the path of an AGV or several AGVs being down.

Conclusion

Cheaper and more accurate sensors, better vision recognition, quicker-charging batteries, intelligent collaboration within an AGV fleet… AGVs will benefit from all these advances in the future, making their usage even more compelling and their deployment easier. In the meantime, and as we have seen, companies need to evaluate the business case for AGVs, select an AGV type that can support all the required loads, make sure the environment is suitable for the AGV navigation system, implement a reliable WLAN infrastructure for AGVs and properly integrate other systems, such as MOM software, with the AGV Control System.

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2018/12/introducing-agvs-on-the-shop-floor-here-is-what-you-need-to-keep-in-mind-part-2/