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/

Sep 24 2014

From Trinkets to Space Ships, 3D Printing has arrived in Manufacturing

Toys to_Rocket Engine_3Dprinting_ now in ManufacturingA few months ago, I wrote about how Lockheed Martin is investing in a 3D printing initiative as part of a fully digitized manufacturing process, something they call the Digital Tapestry, that will be used to produce critical components for air and spacecraft.

Everything in manufacturing needs to be digital, said the article, and I agree.

But even I’ve been surprised by how fast this technology is moving. Digital manufacturing isn’t just the future. It has already arrived as a serious force in manufacturing. Three recent news items have brought this fact home quite forcefully.

In August, the Chicago Tribune ran a story about how 3D printing has already made the leap from low-end novelty applications to serious industrial use. According to the article, last year alone “more than 9,800 commercial [3D printing] devices — some large enough to print V6 engine blocks — were sold at an average price of $90,370 and for as high as $5 million.” That’s serious manufacturing equipment.

Less than a week later, I came across this news story: NASA and its partners are accelerating testing on 3D-printed rocket engine components. NASA says it has tested the “most complex rocket engine part ever designed”—an injector that would have required “163 individual parts to be produced and then assembled” using traditional methods, but requires only two parts when produced on a 3D printer. The part has performed well in tests and NASA plans to use it in space launches in the near future.

Upon reading that, I thought it would be hard to imagine a more critical, high-risk application than a space launch!

But then came along the news this week that doctors in China have implanted the first-ever 3D-printed vertebra into a human being! Surgeons opted for the 3D printed part over the traditional titanium solution, not only for cost reasons but for precision and effectivity. “The team at Peking University Third Hospital in Beijing created a perfect replica of a piece of the boy’s spine, which did not require surgical cement or screws upon implantation.” The boy is said to be recovering well.

It’s safe to say that if 3D printing is being used for everything from trinkets to space flights to a human spine, then it’s a technology to be reckoned with.

I wonder how many manufacturing enterprises are truly ready for this revolution. Has your company developed a strategy and roadmap for digital manufacturing? Have you started acting upon it? The winners in the era of digital production will not just be the early adopters of 3D printing on the manufacturing floor. It will be the companies that have developed the end-to-end infrastructure to support this new technology.

Think about it. If 3D printers can produce practically anything on demand in large quantities, then every other step in the process, from the first design to the plant floor, had better be digital as well. Otherwise, your 21st century production capability will be sitting idle, waiting for quality designs to be developed and delivered.

In the article from the Chicago Tribune that I mentioned above, William King, CTO of UI Labs, says, “Over the next decade, manufacturing will become completely digital. Factories will be run from tablet computers, and every machine tool in every factory will be connected to the Internet.”

A few years ago, that would have sounded optimistic. Today, it sounds like a warning.

If you haven’t yet thought seriously about how your design-through-manufacturing processes will need to change to keep up with this revolution, and how you’re going to get there, today would be a good day to start.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2014/09/from-trinkets-to-space-ships-3d-printing-has-arrived-in-manufaturing/

Sep 18 2014

Tips for Improved Productivity and Output

Lean manufacturing starts with a clean shop floorManufacturers are constantly looking for ways to improve employee productivity and increase output. Here are some tips to incorporate into your production process in order to reach those goals.

Empty the Workplace

In the manufacturing workplace itself, more is not always better. The general thinking might be that the more tools that are readily available, the better a worker can do his job. But clutter is the enemy – and can lead to unsafe working conditions. You can have the best tools available, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t find them.

Start with a clean slate. Look at an empty workspace and work forward. Determine which tools and supplies are the most crucial and, for now, rule out all others. Place them where they make the most sense for accessing. Note that this assessment should include where computer terminals are placed – or tablets – as we all embrace the paperless manufacturing transformation now underway.

Going forward, any tools added to the workplace must not obstruct access to the essentials. Next, add the secondary tools. Finally, identify the tools and supplies that are rarely needed, or those that are used in an emergency. Keep these tools separate. Have workers clean as they go and keep track of every tool used. At the end of the day, tools from each of the three groups should be returned to their respective space. The result is a Lean workplace that makes more sense, and is more safe.

Reorganize

Based on the exercise above, you might notice some obvious inefficiency. Perhaps it doesn’t make the best sense to have the secondary tools located near a high-traffic loading dock; or maybe management offices near assembly lines are too much of a distraction. Or it could be as basic as a workflow that forces workers to take too many steps.

As daunting as workplace reorganization is, it’s worth the time and effort. Using the housecleaning method outlined above, take a high-level look at floor operations while the facility is at its most organized. From there, you can reorganize as needed without unnecessarily disrupting production with excessive housecleaning.

From a digital housecleaning perspective, consider how files are organized on shared or cloud-based servers. Is there an intuitive naming and folder structure? Could a new employee find traceability or genealogy product details quickly? If not, perhaps a change is in order.

Use the Right Wires and Cables

Not all efficiencies are surface-deep. To improve productivity and output, you must anticipate disruptions and prevent them at the source. Faulty wires and cables are a major cause for expensive halts in a production line. In many ways, it comes down to wires and cables. (See this related post).

A manufacturing environment typically is more abusive than any other work setting. Think harsh chemicals, fluctuating temperatures, heavy traffic and the general wear and tear that comes with running a rigorous production line. It helps to be aggressive on this front, rather than waiting for an outage to shut you down and force your hand. Use industrial-grade cables and wires designed specifically for harsh environments. For example, some cables are made with jacket materials specifically made to withstand abrasions. Others are resistant to water, oils and chemicals. And some are designed for constant flexing or tension that can sometimes happen in manufacturing.

When faced with the option of cheap vs. durable, consider the expenses of more frequent replacements and repairs. By investing in the right cables and wires early on, you can reduce the expense of frequent repairs and ultimately improve productivity and output.

Compare Against the Competition

Once you’ve implemented the strategies above, consider enlisting a third-party group to evaluate your entire operation and compare it against the competition. Production consultancy companies can take a look at building design, flow and general operations and pinpoint problem areas at a very scientific level and make additional recommendations based on what has worked for similar manufacturing facilities. Many will look at production itself — such as the materials and processes you’re using — to make better product recommendations. If long-term productivity and output is your goal, it’s a worthwhile investment.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2014/09/tips-for-improved-productivity-and-output/

Sep 16 2014

Using MES to help Manage Energy? It may be Closer Than you Think.

MES_for_energy_managementEnterprises are paying a lot of attention these days to energy efficiency and sustainable operations. So too are manufacturers. Clearly, the factory floor is a major consumer of energy. Surprisingly, however, there is not much precedent for integrating a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) with energy management decision-making in any kind of dynamic way.

Is there the potential for important new applications in this area? Some recent discussions with customers and colleagues make me believe the answer is definitely “Yes.” And maybe closer to happening than people might think.

Consider what manufacturers are already doing. On the energy management side, there are many systems and applications for monitoring and reporting energy and water use, and companies use the reports generated by these systems to make decisions about energy and to initiate cost-saving practices. Some of these systems can even be dynamic—for example, turning off lights and HVAC systems when rooms are unoccupied, or adjusting settings based on time of day.

On the manufacturing side, energy use in a plant can be easily tracked and monitored, through sensors in the facility and also via the production equipment. For example, energy consumption by equipment is often monitored as part of an enterprise asset management program, as deviations in energy use can predict failing equipment.

So why not take these two silos of critical information—process control and energy consumption—and integrate them in real-time to give management a truly holistic view of manufacturing? It’s not a very big leap, and it’s easy to imagine that the results could be quite significant.

Here’s one example. Suppose a manufacturer pays more for energy after a certain level of consumption has been reached for the day—a variable pricing policy that is practiced in many areas of the world. This information could be linked dynamically to the MES to reduce energy costs. If it’s five minutes until midnight when the rate resets, and you can slow down the production line to avoid paying a big surcharge, why wouldn’t you? Other things being equal, this would be a “no brainer.”

You’d have to know the cost-savings would be worth the delay, taking into consideration other production runs, customer expectations, current scheduling flexibility, and so on. These would be complex decisions for a person to make in real-time, but they’re exactly the sorts of decisions that automated systems excel at making. The MES could monitor the energy usage in real-time, balance the considerations, and pace the production run accordingly.

Or here’s another example: production runs could be scheduled to take advantage of peak-hour and off-peak-hour energy charges, based on the energy requirements of the various runs involved and balanced against other scheduling issues. Again, this might be too complicated for mere humans, but it would be a snap for the ERP, MES and energy management systems working together. If you add Business Intelligence component on top of it – you may gain additional value of long lasting trends analysis over weeks or months.

Some companies are even talking about moving the energy cost to the Bill of Materials, so that energy costs are hardwired into the process control systems. This could get a manufacturer on the path to the “golden” production run where all factors are perfectly balance to achieve truly optimal manufacturing performance.

The two biggest investments to make this happen—flexible, dynamic process control systems and energy monitoring systems—have already been made by most large manufacturers, and are present in virtually all new plants. So it’s just a matter of leveraging existing resources to reduce operating costs and improve sustainability, something upper management will likely be happy to hear about.

What do you think? Is “MES as energy manager” around the corner in your company? Might your competitors already being doing it? I’m guessing the answers are “Yes,” and “Yes.”

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2014/09/using-mes-to-help-manage-energy-it-may-be-closer-than-you-think/

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