Oct 18 2017

Megan Nichols

How Is 3D Printing disrupting the supply chain?

The typical supply chain is often praised for its efficiency. After all, it’s a process that has been refined and remastered over the years to incorporate the latest innovations, technology, and methodology. While it’s a highly efficient process, it’s not without its flaws.

Most supply chains involve an extensive design process upfront. This is immediately followed by sourcing the necessary materials, which can be both lengthy and costly. It’s only after this step that you can begin making progress on the finished parts. With so many moving parts, it’s difficult to maintain status as a model of organizational efficiency. However, the manufacturing and logistics industries are on the cusp of a new revolution. 3D printing promises to change how supply how the supply chain operates and businesses are starting to take notice.

 

Effects on shipping, inventory, and production

Manufacturing leaders at GE are committed to 3D printing in the future. Whereas most consumers are familiar with machines that print with plastic, GE recently made headlines for their development of the world’s largest additive machine for 3D printing. The device is spearheaded by a new business division known as GE Additive.

But GE doesn’t have to wait for their new machine. They’ve already announced plans to manufacture 40,000 jet fuel nozzles by 2020. GE is also designing an Advanced Turboprop that replaces more than 850 parts of a normal aircraft engine with only 12 3D-printed components. It is expected to run within a Cessna Denali aircraft by the end of 2017.

They’re also making some serious financial investments into the sector of 3D printing. GE invested more than $1 billion in the technology through new acquisitions in 2016 alone, and they plan to expand their GE Additive business by an additional $1 billion within the next few years. All of this comes in addition to the $1.5 billion GE has invested in 3D printing since 2010.

GE isn’t alone in the race to use 3D printing in vehicle and engine design. Boeing and Airbus have both made significant investments in the technology and automotive manufacturers have been 3D-printing highly detailed prototypes for years.

UPS creates a nationwide network of 3D printing facilities

One of the biggest disruptions to the modern supply chain comes in the form of on-demand parts printing. Consumers have become accustomed to the idea of instant gratification in television programming and Internet access. It was only a matter of time until the trend caught reached the manufacturing industry.

UPS is one of the driving forces behind the concept of on-demand parts printing. The idea is simple: customers contact UPS whenever they need parts. UPS responds by producing the parts, via 3D printing, and delivering them directly to their doorstep. Not only does this cut down on the overall production time, but it can be much more cost-effective than machining or printing these parts in your own factory. UPS benefits from the brand new income stream of manufacturing, storing and shipping parts.

But UPS has customers all over the country. To accommodate these accounts, they’re launching a nationwide network consisting of more than 60 facilities from coast to coast. Apart from maximizing profitability on behalf of UPS, this also makes the technology more accessible to manufacturers and consumers alike. They’re also expanding their services to include parts of Asia and Europe.

The company already maintains more than 1,000 warehouses around the globe that are dedicated to the storage of spare parts. Supplementing this inventory with on-demand parts printing and custom-printed parts not only disrupts the supply chain, but it completely transforms it.

Since UPS specializes in shipping and delivery services, they’ve found a partner in Fast Radius and their On Demand Production Platform. While they currently serve customers in numerous industries, including aerospace, automotive, medical device manufacturing and more, they’re the perfect fit for the new joint venture.

Paving the way for a rise in 3D printing

Although the technology is still in its infancy, 3D printing is certainly on the rise. Next-gen innovations like GE’s large-scale additive printer and UPS’ nationwide network of 3D-printing facilities will undoubtedly make the technology more accessible to all, but there are other ways you can benefit, too. Industry experts are optimistic about the flexibility it offers the supply chain.

Increased accessibility to hardware, software and even raw materials is constantly driving down the cost of 3D printers. While 3D printing has been hampered by a lack of materials in the past, today’s suppliers are working hard to maintain their inventory and meet their customer needs.

Tech-savvy professionals are also becoming more familiar with the concept of 3D printing, which ultimately makes it easier to find qualified staff members to fill your roster. Businesses too are jumping on board to provide employees hands-on training while integrating 3D printing into daily operations.

Making the disruption work for you

Working with the disruption and allowing your business to expand and evolve is the key to making this revolution work for you. There will always be naysayers and those who are scared to abandon their traditional methods, but the onset of the digital supply chain might leave you with no other choice.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2017/10/how-is-3d-printing-disrupting-the-supply-chain/

Oct 11 2017

MACHINES THAT LEARN: Artificial intelligence may transform manufacturing, but adoption is slow

Manufacturers recognize that artificial intelligence offers an exciting future, enabling greater automation, improved predictive maintenance and a move to mass customization. While adoption so far remains slow, experts agree that the combination of human expertise and industry-wide collaboration will pave the way for success.

FANUC is running a Zero Down Time application on its new FIELD system, which collects data from more than 6,000 robots in 26 factories and analyzes it with a form of AI known as machine learning. (Image © FANUC)

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) – defined by San Francisco-based computing company NVIDIA as “human intelligence exhibited by machines,” are being made at breakneck speed. Al comes into play every time we ask Siri or Alexa a question, view a recommendation by Netflix or add a friend suggested by Facebook.

While AI helps drive many everyday consumer interactions, its power has only recently been felt among businesses.

“AI has reached a tipping point in what it can do for enterprises,” said Mark Purdy, managing director and chief economist at Accenture Research in London. “This is thanks to developments in processing power, data storage, data retrieval, sensors, and algorithms. As a result, businesses are now able to optimize processes with intelligent automation systems, augment human labor and physical capital and propel new innovations.”

Business AI breakthroughs are everywhere. Computer scientists at Stanford University’s AI Laboratory in California have trained an algorithm to visually diagnose potential skin cancers. Microsoft has demonstrated a speech- recognition system that makes the same or fewer errors than professional transcriptionists. Scientists at MIT’s Computer Science and AI Laboratory in Massachusetts have mined data from more than 3 million taxi rides to develop a smarter way to move people around Manhattan. And major automakers have used deep learning, a machine learning implementation technique, to create autonomous vehicles that scan, analyze and then respond to their surroundings, aiding drivers in optimizing their decisions and actions.

ADOPTION IN MANUFACTURING

The manufacturing sector, however, is lagging. In an article for media intelligence company Meltwater, Brent Dykes, director of data strategy at Utah-based software company Domo, said that “analytics maturity is a key milestone on the path to being successful with AI.” According to global consulting firm McKinsey, however, manufacturing industries to date have only captured about 20%-30% of the potential value of data and analytics – and most of that has occurred at a handful of industry-leading companies.

Forrester, a global business and technology research and advisory firm, said that much of this existing value is in preventive maintenance, a specialty of global factory automation equipment producer FANUC. The company is running a Zero Down Time (ZDT) application on its new FIELD system, which collects data from more than 6,000 robots in 26 factories and analyzes it with a machine-learning application. Any issues that could lead to a failure are highlighted, and FANUC sends parts and support to address the issue before downtime occurs.

“FANUC’s FIELD system enables companies to utilize the vast amount of data available to them,” said Steve Capon, technical manager at FANUC UK. “Manufacturing is set to become more intelligent than ever before. By using AI, the scheduling of predictive maintenance requirements to reduce downtime is a reality.”

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

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2017/10/machines-that-learn-artificial-intelligence-may-transform-manufacturing-but-adoption-is-slow/

Oct 04 2017

The Challenges of Robot Adoption

With the new experience economy, made-to-order is becoming a way of life for consumers. To meet this increasing demand in volume and variety, manufacturers need advanced production systems to keep pace. With new robot technologies being introduced, and as production systems are becoming more and more flexible, and as robots are being more widely adopted in different industries, robot manufacturing systems are becoming more and more complex.

Robotic manufacturing processes, with their clear advantages of speed, cost reduction, and accuracy, are being widely adopted for a broad range of production needs. But robot integrators frequently find it challenging to deliver material handling, arc welding, spot welding, coating, or drill and riveting programs that work with certainty on the first run. When robot programming is not part of the design phase, programmers are forced to implement fixes and workarounds on the shop floor. Costs escalate and the production cycle time grows.

THE CHALLENGES FACING ROBOTIC WORKCELL PROGRAMMERS

Increased Complexity

Robot processes are inherently complicated, considering all the signaling and peripheral equipment and tooling. Some of the latest developments in robot technology make it even more difficult for robot programmers. Multi-armed robots, for instance, introduce a new layer of flexibility and complexity to the work cell. Programming multiple robots and multiple robot arms are extremely challenging on the shop floor. It increases the amount of risk to the product, tooling, and project schedule. To further complicate work cell operations, the individual applications themselves add their own inherent complexities.

Spending time on the shop floor

Many variables can complicate robot programming, from changing part or tool designs to the number or type of fasteners or unreachable robot locations, such as pick-ups or drop off points. Coupled with stringent cycle time requirements, programmers cannot really be sure how a robot or tool will perform until the initial check can happen on the shop floor. At this point in time, it is very late in the project. When design or programming changes are needed, validation turns into a hands-on trial-and-error process. While product designers and tool builders develop fixes, time slips away, and project costs escalate.

Lost production time

When robots are running production, stopping production to implement a change results in an immediate loss of productivity. Without the tools to validate the changes before taking the robots offline, every change made is risky. Unexpected problems can lead to a lengthy production stoppage or even tool breakage. In this case, it is the unknown that will cause catastrophe.

Expensive shop floor damage

When work cells are validated on the shop floor, accidents can happen. Collisions are costly. Some of them happen because programmers lack first-hand knowledge of the physical process; they may not have knowledge of how the tool operates, hence they are working without being able to see the results. If significant damage occurs to tooling during the build phase, the project timeline is lengthened and the tooling costs go up. If the damage happens during a change of tools or process during a production run, a temporary fix may need to be implemented to resume production at a significant loss of throughput.

The need to fine-tune work cell performance

To optimize task assignments of multiple robots, programmers need to equalize the task load across robot resources so no robot is overutilized or underutilized. Balancing weld spots between robots, for example, can significantly increase throughput for manufacturers – but this is a time-consuming challenge for the robot programmer. Locating an underutilized resource to balance with can take up a lot of time and may result in a lot of trial and error with no real success.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2017/10/challenges-of-robot-adoption/

Sep 21 2017

4 Ways To Call The Shots When Your Business Uses Vendors

Many businesses work heavily with third-party vendors for everything from marketing to scheduling, customer service and more. While vendors may provide your own business with substantial benefits and much-needed services, there is a risk that you could miss out on the chance to adequately control your operations as a result. You understandably need to maximize the benefits that vendors can provide to your business while finding a way to maintain superior control of your business. These tips can help you to accomplish the results that you desire so that you can take full advantage of vendor relationships.

 

Vet the Vendors Carefully

Before you start working with any new vendor, you should spend ample time checking out their credentials. The easiest and fastest way to accomplish this goal is to use a business credentialing service. Everything from pending legal actions to financial strength, credit history, and more may be reviewed through this type of check. While there is a fee associated with using vendor screening services, you will also enjoy the incredible benefits associated with making a wise decision about which companies to work with as a result. You may even consider vetting your vendors again each time a contract renews in the future for the best outcome possible. This is because some of these factors may change over time.

 

Check References and Reviews

While it is important to vet your vendors by reviewing their credentials, it is also critical that you check their references and read reviews online before you establish a relationship. References may be provided by the vendors, and you can contact them via email or phone in most cases to ask them direct questions that you are most concerned about. Online reviews may give you a better understanding of how their customers or clients view the level of service or the quality of products they provide.

 

You can find these reviews however you want to, whether it’s a simple google search or a specific vendor rating website. Either way, be sure to take reviews with a grain of salt. Regardless of the actual rating, the review will help you to gain a more well-rounded view of what it may be like to work with different vendors.

 

Read and Understand Contracts

The next step you should take before you start working with any third-party vendor is to read through each contract carefully. Contracts may dictate the length of the relationship, the required actions of the vendor, your own ability to act in different ways, the fees and more. If you have questions about clauses or do not understand what they are saying, consult with an attorney. You should always be comfortable with your own requirements outlined in a contract as well as with fees, limitations and more.

 

Negotiate the Terms of the Cancellation Clause in Contracts

The cancellation clause in the contract is critical because it gives you an exit option in the event you are not happy with the relationship or with the level of service that the vendor provides. Use your lawyer to negotiate the terms of the cancellation clause so that they are favorable for you. Remember that your business lawyer may also be able to negotiate other terms that you may not be comfortable with so that they are more advantageous to you. Do not be timid about negotiating because the contract terms can have a direct impact on your business in the years to come. If you don’t know where to find help, there are lawyer directories that can point you in the right direction.

 

Third-party vendors can provide your business with incredible benefits or much-needed services in different ways, but remember that these vendors also may gain greater control over your company than you would like to relinquish at times. As a business owner, you must retain adequate control over your business at all times, and you also must ensure that your vendors are reputable and responsive. You may be able to set up strategic relationships with third party providers when you follow these helpful tips.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2017/09/4-ways-to-call-the-shots-when-your-business-uses-vendors/

Sep 20 2017

THE SHIPPING SURVIVAL GUIDE: Juggling efficiency with bigger container ships

As the prices paid to move cargo over long distances have plummeted, shippers have turned to ever-larger ships in search of volume-driven savings. But that strategy is putting a massive financial burden on the ports needed to service them, creating friction between shipping interests that depend on one another to survive. Both sides are looking to information technology improvements for relief.

Jebel Ali Container Terminal 1 (Image © DP World, UAE Region)

Shippers of containerized cargo know exactly how to lower their costs: move more cargo per ship. As a result, the industry is scheduled to welcome its first 20,000 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) ship in 2018 – a leviathan so big that few ports in the world will be able to service it.

For shippers, the motivation for bigger ships is a simple question of economics. “The cost of moving a box from Hong Kong to New York in 1973 was about US$5,800 per box; today it is about US$2,500 per box,” said Richard Larrabee, former director of port commerce for The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a decline made possible by rapidly escalating volumes of cargo moving on larger and larger ships.

Growth in demand for containerized shipping is historically strong, projected to increase by 6% to 7% this year, according to RS Platou Economic Research, a division of the Oslo, Norway-based RS Platou Group, a leading international broker and investment bank serving the offshore and shipping markets. Meanwhile, Tokyo-based International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH), a nonprofit organization, reports that global cargo levels in 2013 reached more than 651 million TEUs. While the growth rate in demand for space is respectable, ship capacity grows in tandem, with an estimated 1.6 million to 1.9 million TEU of new shipping capacity scheduled to hit the water in 2015, a net fleet expansion of nearly 7%.

But “container shipping is a low-margin industry,” said Keith Svendsen, vice president, Operations Execution, Maersk Line, the global container division of the A.P. Møller-Mærsk Gruppen, a Danish conglomerate. “In 2014, only Maersk Line and three other lines reported significant positive earnings before interest and tax margin. The industry’s margin as a whole averaged 3.1%. Profitability is, to a high degree, dependent on the industry’s ability to lower costs and increase efficiency. The main lever is economies of scale, illustrated by the increase in vessel size.”

SIZE MATTERS

As ships grow bigger the channels, ports, facilities and associated logistics services must grow as well, a reality that is creating friction between shippers and the facilities that serve them.

“I believe the defining trend is the owners’ pursuit of optimum ship size, which appears to be toward bigger carrying capacities and lower unit costs,” said Shashi Kumar, professor of International Business and Logistics and academic dean at the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA).* “Everything else is driven by this: the widening of the Panama Canal and improvements to the Suez Canal; new investments in ports and terminals; dredging deeper channels; and even the motivation (for carriers) to form alliances.”

Port facilities and terminal operators complain that ship owners have forced them to bear the brunt of the burden to invest, without a sufficient increase in volume to offset the cost.

“These ultra large container vessels put us, as a port operator, under pressure,” said Mohammed Al Muallem, senior vice president and managing director, UAE Region, DP World, a global container handling specialist with more than 65 marine terminals in Dubai, one of the seven United Arab Emirates. “On the one hand, they help shipping lines to reduce unit costs. But they also require the port industry to invest in longer berths, deeper drafts and bigger cranes to translate on-water economies of scale to land.” DP World has invested more than US$6 billion over the past five years, Al Muallem said, adding capacity and upgrading infrastructure of its terminals, including its flagship Jebel Ali facility in Dubai.

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

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2017/09/the-shipping-survival-guide-juggling-efficiency-with-bigger-container-ships/

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