Jun 21 2017

ASK THE EXPERT: Dassault Systemes’ Fred Thomas on Embracing Digital Continuity

Fred Thomas, DELMIA Global Industry Director

What is Digital Continuity, and how does it support the manufacturing operations management process? How do companies with disparate, legacy systems adapt to the speed in which they have to respond, on a global scale, to the changing needs of their customers? If the concept of a ‘single source of truth’, a unified environment integrating all the disciplines within an organization sounds like a much-needed solution in your company, check out this interview on The Record with Fred Thomas.

Manufacturers in today’s world will, on some level, use technology to support certain aspects of their operations. Let’s face it – they’d be remiss not to, given the benefits modern technology can bring.

But the scale and nature of these technologies within company ecosystems varies hugely. While some manufacturers will have their finger on the pulse and adopt the best available technology for their business as soon as it becomes available, for the last decade or so, many have plodded along with legacy systems that do a certain job, but perhaps don’t allow a company to reach its full potential.

“What has happened in manufacturing over the last ten years has been nothing short of amazing,” says Fred Thomas, global industry director for the DELMIA brand at Dassault Systèmes. “Tere have been pressures on manufacturers to reduce cost, increase quality, become more flexible with regard to responsiveness to customers, and take a more global approach to marketplaces. In most cases, manufacturers have responded very well to all these demands, but they’ve had to respond within the context of what they’ve had to work with from a systems and technology standpoint.”

Continue reading the rest of the interview here. Excerpted from The Record, issue #4: Spring 2017

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2017/06/ask-the-expert-dassault-systemes-fred-thomas-on-embracing-digital-continuity/

Jun 14 2017

3D PRINTING: Disruptive technology poised to transform manufacturing

Two important milestones in the long march toward a three- dimensional printing revolution were achieved in late 2012 with little or no fanfare. First, General Electric announced that it had purchased a small precision-engineering firm called Morris Technologies, based near Cincinnati, Ohio (USA), and planned to use the company’s 3D printing machines to make parts for jet engines. Then The Economist disclosed that researchers at EADS, the European aerospace group best known for building Airbus aircraft, were using 3D printers to make a titanium landing-gear bracket and planned to “print” the entire wing of an airliner. Both companies cited the fact that it is far more economical to build titanium parts one layer at a time than to carve them out of a solid block of the expensive metal, generating significant waste material.

The twin developments at two of the world’s largest, most sophisticated manufacturers suggest that 3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, is moving into commercial use.“It’s not just GE and Airbus,” said Abe N. Reichental, president and chief executive officer of 3D Systems, a leading provider of 3D printers that is based in Rock Hill, South Carolina (USA). “Increasingly, we see 3D printing becoming the manufacturing platform of choice in a variety of fields, from specialty automotive parts to personalized medical devices.” The company says half the printers it sells now go into manufacturing settings.


Companies such as 3D Systems and Stratasys are driving down the costs of their printers, and more than 100 materials, including engineered plastics, rubbers, waxes, metals and composites, can now be 3D printed. In late February, scientists from Heriot-Watt University in Scotland even announced that they have successfully used 3D printing techniques to layer live stem cells into different configurations, raising the possibility that the technology may one day be used to print human organs.

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

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2017/06/3d-printing-disruptive-technology/

Jun 07 2017

Collaborative robots are making automation possible for SMEs (Part 2)

This is the second of a 2-part series addressing the impact of adopting collaborative robots in the SME manufacturing environment. 

Previously, we saw that collaborative robots (cobots) were innovative robots that could collaborate with workers in a shared workspace, instead of being confined behind fences. We also discovered that they were a good fit for SMEs.

In this second article, we will focus on the current applications of cobots and the impact of their continued adoption.

What are the applications?

Collaborative robots open a new field for automation, executing repetitive tasks that until now were still handled by humans. Using grippers, cameras, and sensors, they can locate, pick and place parts, then count and inspect them (watch this video).

Some key applications include:

  • Machine tending (for example CNC or injection molding machines) – At Dynamic Group, provider of complex injection molded plastic components, a UR 10 cobot from Universal Robots takes over the entire injection molding cycle[1].
  • Picking and placing, packing and palletizing – At General Motors, a FANUC CR-35iA cobot is used to stack tires in a crowded workspace. The CR-35iA has a payload[2] of 35 kg (77 lbs).
  • Assembly – At GE Lightning, a Sawyer cobot from Rethink Robotics inserts components into a LED street light fixture before human coworkers complete the assembly.
  • Quality inspection – At Scott Fetzer Electrical Group, a company specialized in power supplies, motion controls and drive systems, UR 5 and UR 10 cobots from Universal Robots are used to test small motors, switching them on for a minute and off for 30 seconds during 400 hours. Data such as max amperage, average amperage and number of cycles are collected by the cobot.
  • Polishing, welding, gluing – At Franke, a kitchen manufacturer, a UR 5 cobot is used to glue mounting blocks to the sides of kitchen sinks, using only the required amount of glue for each join.
  • Assistance for physically demanding tasks – A specific category of collaborative robots provides strength amplification, which helps prevent musculoskeletal disorders.

What will be the impact of collaborative robots?

Cobots favor the automation of many processes in countless SMEs and even large businesses. Therefore, one could wonder what will be the impact of these changes on companies, on workers, on MOM systems[3] and on the society as a whole.

Impact on companies

As could be expected, the introduction of collaborative robots helps increase productivity. At Continental Automotive Spain, changeover times have been reduced from 40 to 20 minutes. At Elalex, a commercial shelving manufacturer, the installation of a cobot freed seven man-hours per day.

Overall, the users of cobots from Universal Robots indicate a payback period from 2 months to 2 years[4], depending on the different customer implementations.

Cobots can also help increase product quality. At Trelleborg Sealing Solution, products are now more uniform from a quality perspective, thanks to automation, which results in increased demand from customers.

Impact on workers

Going over the cliff? The "Thelma and Louise" point. Photo credit: jphilipg

Going over the cliff? The “Thelma and Louise” point.
Photo credit: jphilipg

Impact on workersAt first, the introduction of collaborative robots was a source of anxiety for workers. They were concerned about the complex operation and worried about the cobots costing them their jobs. The two cobots introduced at Scott Fetzer Electrical Group (SFEG) have been named Thelma and Louise because personnel first thought they were driving them off a cliff.

After a while however, employees realized that cobots can help them in their daily jobs by taking over the physically demanding or unsafe activities. It made workers proud and feel empowered as they imagined new uses and viewed cobots as tools to help them at their jobs. At SFEG, Thelma and Louise are now known as a “part of the family” on the production floor.

In many instances, workers are reallocated to other tasks and the increase in sales resulting from the benefits of automation often prevents staff layoffs.

Cobots can also help preserve workers’ mental and physical health by taking care of repetitive and dangerous tasks. For example:

  • At SFEG, a cobot cuts 16,000 wires daily, a manual job until now that could result in carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • At Bajaj Auto, one of the largest motorcycle manufacturers in the world, physically challenging bolt-tightening operations are performed by cobots.
  • At BMW, four cobots now work in collaboration with humans to equip BMW X3 doors with sound and moisture insulation. This avoids elbow strain that required hourly worker rotations when the process was 100% manual.

Impact on MOM systems

As the adoption of cobots increases, Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) systems will need to adapt.

Some changes will bring more simplicity, others will bring new challenges.

On the simplification side, the maintenance of cobots is usually minimal, so extended maintenance procedures enforced by a maintenance management system appear less relevant. Training by demonstration supported by a user-friendly touch interface means that there is no need to develop and maintain extensive sets of robotic programs.

On the other hand, many capabilities of systems such as traceability, quality, planning optimization, safety management or warehouse management remain highly relevant in an increasingly competitive and regulated environment.

Because cobots are flexible and can be moved quickly from one process to another, Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) systems need to be flexible enough to quickly adapt to these changes.

Cobots can favor local production environments, meaning more factories with unique processes could add difficulty in coordinating or optimizing global operations. MOM systems should be able to simply manage a distributed production environment (ideally extended to the supply chain), without adding extra complexity. They should also be light-weight, modular systems.

Indeed, if cobots are bringing automation to SMEs, then MOM systems should become lean, simple and adaptive so they can also bring their benefits to SMEs.

Impact on society

Thanks to productivity gains and reduced human labor costs, cobots can help maintain manufacturing jobs in developed countries or even bring back outsourced facilities to their original location. This trend is known as reshoring.

Because of their ease of use and flexibility, cobots can support the trend for massive personalization, along with technologies such as additive manufacturing. They can also support local production in small and medium facilities thanks to their low cost and easy deployment – a trend also supported by additive manufacturing.

Currently, it looks like companies that have used cobots for automation have gained a competitive advantage that helped increase sales and reallocate workers to new tasks.

Will this still be the case, as cobot usage increases, possibly becoming a commodity? As more and more routine tasks get automated, will they be compensated by new jobs? Economists and experts disagree about the impact of automation and artificial intelligence on employment, so I will not risk an answer here!


[1] Picking the part, inserting it in the injection molding machine, starting the process, picking the molded part, transporting it to a trimming fixture and once this is done, picking and presenting the finished part to an operator.

[2] Payload = Carrying capacity

[3] MOM = Manufacturing Operations Management

[4] Based on examining a subset of 8 customer testimonies found on Universal Robots’ Web site.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2017/06/collaborative-robots-are-making-automation-possible-for-smes-part-2/

May 24 2017

INTEGRATED ORGANIZATIONS: Working as one improves industrial-equipment makers’ competitiveness

With increasingly sophisticated products, supply chains and customer expectations, industrial-equipment manufacturers are experiencing intense pressure to deliver. Compass spoke with Cambashi founder Mike Evans about strategies to manage the industry’s growing complexity.


Cambashi founder Mike Evans

COMPASS:  What challenges are industrial-equipment makers facing?

MIKE EVANS:  Machine builders must accelerate time-to-market of new machines while reducing costs and ensuring greater safety and reliability. They must also comply with strict standards and stringent regulations.

Customers also demand that today’s machines do more than ever before, with advanced monitoring, sensors and automation bringing ever-increased functionality. This increased complexity is challenging to manage and makes it harder to compete effectively.

Like most businesses today, industrial-equipment makers also have to connect within and beyond their enterprises on a global scale. Many companies that internally managed sales, design, engineering and installation now outsource these specializations. But coordinating multiple streams of information is problematic. If these streams remain unconnected, labor and capital are wasted through repetition of work and errors in engineering and manufacturing.

How can industrial-equipment manufacturers manage complexity to deliver a better customer experience?

ME: Companies are moving to customer-centric teams where skills and tasks are organized around customers’ needs. On behalf of their customers, they have to make and install machines that have 100% operational uptime.

That’s a big order. What strategies can help manage it?

ME: It definitely requires an integrated working methodology that allows customers to see exactly what they are buying, often simulated in the context of their own operations before the machines are built. That leads to fewer mistakes and more satisfied customers. Within an integrated working methodology, all parts of the enterprise touch. Customer, supply chain, product data, mechatronics and software are all combined on one platform used by each and every stakeholder.

What are the commercial and technical advantages?

ME: Synchronizing requirements drives the efficiency, which allows more functionality to be incorporated into machines while delivering improved output. This virtuous circle is completed when improved profitability allows greater investment to replace labor with capital.

Technology is the enabler. Properly deployed, advanced and integrated technology leads to greater precision, remote monitoring and machines that can, for example, automatically compensate for wear to improve accuracy. These advances lead to more output from machines for the same or lower cost. Connecting the activities of the extended enterprise also eliminates waste. An engineer may be able to support more than one site, for example, because they can oversee and optimize machine operations and maintenance remotely.

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

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2017/05/integrated-organizations-working-as-one-improves-industrial-equipment-makers-competitiveness/

May 17 2017

ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING – Business challenges drive aerospace companies to advance 3D printing technology

Additive manufacturing (AM) or 3D printing has moved well beyond prototyping. Today, most aerospace companies use it to improve the functionality of existing components and fabricate non-structural parts for commercial and general aviation aircraft.

AM enthusiasts envision the day when this revolutionary process will be used to “print” entire fuselages, wings and critical engine parts with complex geometries, including embedded sensors and other electronics. To achieve that disruptive vision, however, AM needs to overcome some difficult hurdles, according to Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), a US Department of Energy research facility in Tennessee. ORNL is collaborating with hundreds of companies across multiple industries to advance AM.

“In some applications, such as rapid prototyping or specific medical devices, where many parts have been printed, additive manufacturing is pretty mature, but for most applications it’s embryonic,” said Bill Peter, director of the US Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL.

Quality assurance with 3D printing

Each year, ORNL hosts more than 5,000 visitors representing about 700 organizations who want to discuss, among other technologies, additive manufacturing. Those visitors make clear, Peter said, that one of AM’s biggest hurdles is to achieve quality levels that instill as much confidence in AM-produced parts as in those made with traditional processes, including parts that are critical to the end product’s performance and safety.

“Their biggest concern is that there is no methodology for establishing the integrity of additively manufactured components,” he said.

Small modifications in process parameters and the resulting microstructures of the deposited material, such as powdered titanium or nickel, can drastically change how the end product behaves, Peter noted.

“Long term,” he added, “we’ll use a framework of data analytics and visualization systems to show how to repeatedly build a complex part with the level of quality that aerospace manufacturers require, but we are still a few years from reaching a full solution.”

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

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2017/05/additive-manufacturing-business-challenges-drive-aerospace-companies-to-advance-3d-printing-technology/

Older posts «

» Newer posts