An Interview with Allison Grealis, President of Women in Manufacturing (WiM)

In the second of our 3-part series, we explore how manufacturing companies resolve obstacles to workforce attraction, retention and advancement in a fascinating interview with Allison Grealis, president of Women in Manufacturing (WiM). WiM is a national trade organization with over 1,500 members actively working in manufacturing industries and focused on supporting, promoting and inspiring women in the manufacturing sector.

ALLISON GREALIS President, Women in Manufacturing

RB:       Why is there a need for a women-specific trade organization in manufacturing?

AG:      A WiM member explained the value of WiM this way: “Sometimes you just need a sounding board and the comfort of knowing that you’re not alone.”

Right now, women make up about 29% of the manufacturing workforce. WiM meets an important need to bring women together, across companies and sectors, to share best practices and strategies for success in manufacturing.

We’ve been doing this work for eight years. Back then, WiM was a little networking group with a handful of participants. Today, WiM is a national trade association with over 1,500 members. Our rapid growth is a reflection of the growing recognition that diversity in the workforce is important. Bringing women together to focus on career advancement is an important part of the ongoing change we want to see in our industry.

RB:       What are the key components of a gender-balanced manufacturing organization? What benefits can we expect to see by removing obstacles that prevent women from seeking careers in manufacturing?

AG:      It’s important to note that not only is manufacturing good for women, but women are also good for manufacturing. The benefits to bringing more women into manufacturing are numerous, but here are two practical ones: First, as we all know, manufacturing has a significant skills gap. To fill it, we need to look at more than 50% of the population. Women must be recruited in every role to address our industry’s need. Secondly, when there are more women in manufacturing companies and taking on leadership roles, we will see manufacturing companies grow and our industry as a whole thrive. Research tells us that when companies are more diverse, and when there are more women at the leadership table, those companies are more profitable.

Achieving gender balance for most manufacturing companies is a long-term goal. But companies who want to retain and promote women into leadership roles should implement strategies like (1) Taking steps to keep the work interesting and challenging; (2) Supporting flexible work schedules; (3) Providing opportunities for professional development and educational and training programs; and (4) Identifying and enhancing the visibility of leaders.

RB:       Your membership is made of up women actively working in the manufacturing sector. Can you tell us why female mentorship is particularly important in manufacturing? Does WiM provide outreach?

AG:      Mentorship is important in all fields, but mentors can be especially valuable in workplaces and careers where it can be a challenge to find similarly situated role models. As it has been often said, “It is difficult to be what you can’t see.”

WiM offers extensive networking opportunities to help women at all levels and locations connect with each other, find mentors, and build the networks they’ll need for success. We host a range of professional programming events at the national level as do our 16 local chapters across the country. And we have a robust membership directory online so that our members can find each other and make connections.

RB:       How do you envision support from Dassault Systèmes and other corporate sponsors toward achieving WiM’s mission?

AG:      The support of Corporate WiM Members is vital to providing the opportunities and programming that our members enjoy. At the same time, Corporate Members like Dassault Systèmes can and should connect their women employees with WiM’s resources in order to better their skills and strengthen their networks. For example, WiM operates a number of leadership development programs from a virtual learning series to immersive training courses. These programs can help support the next generation of women leaders, something that benefits our Corporate Members and our industry as a whole.

RB:       Manufacturing industries such as aerospace, automotive, defense and industrial products have not been very successful at attracting and keeping female workers. What could manufacturing learn from Life Sciences and other industries that have achieved better outcomes in recruiting and retention?

AG:      While it’s true that there is lots of work to do to recruit and retain women in industry careers, we are seeing signs of progress. You mentioned automotive and defense. Right now, GM has a woman CEO and CFO. And, at the start of 2019, four of the top five defense companies in the U.S. will be led by women. Of course, these case studies in success do not mean that our work is done, but they do show that traditionally male-dominated industries are capable of change. There is a lot of reason for optimism. WiM is focused on building on the change we’re seeing to help companies retain and advance women and help women thrive in manufacturing careers.

RB:       Thank you for sharing your insights, and your time.

Now that you’ve read this insightful interview with Allison Grealis, take a deeper dive by reading about the coming skills gap in manufacturing, as well as a recap of the exciting events at the 8th Annual WiM Summit.

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Introducing AGVs on the Shop Floor? Here is What You Need to Keep in Mind (Part 1)

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

Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) have been around in factories as early as the 1950s, where a “driverless vehicle” manufactured by Barrett Electronics, in Illinois, could follow the electromagnetic field of a wire located in the factory ceiling or, later on, embedded in the floor[1].

However, since the acquisition of AGV manufacturer Kiva Systems by Amazon in 2012 and Amazon’s decision to stop sales and use Kiva robots exclusively to improve their logistics, there has been a surge of interest for industrial AGVs. According to a 2017 article from a Loup Ventures analyst, the AGV market could be by 2025 “one of the fastest growing sub-markets within the entire robotics space”, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 35% for the 2015-2025 decade.

Kiva AGVs move shelves of product at an Amazon fulfillment center

In this article, we will see what drives companies to use AGVs in their facilities, what needs to be considered when choosing an AGV System (involving a fleet of AGVs) and finally what are the impacts in terms of IT systems.

Why Use AGVs?

Today, industrial AGVs are mainly used for material handling within a warehouse or factory or sometimes outdoors. Some typical usages include:

  • Transporting received materials to storage areas
  • Supporting kitting operations and just-in-time deliveries
  • Delivering work-in-progress parts to manufacturing production lines
  • Transporting finished goods to shipping areas

So transportation is the key function. In spite of recent advances in computer vision, object recognition and robot grasping techniques, humans are still usually needed to pick and place individual parts, while pallets are typically transported by AGVs.

An AGV System may bring different benefits listed below.

Forklifts are known to be dangerous!


According to a 2016 regulatory notice from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), forklift accidents result in roughly 85 fatalities and  34,900 serious injuries every year in the United States. When truck manufacturer Scania considered using AGVs for material handling in their production areas, a key objective was to help achieve a forklift-free production, since forklifts were regarded as “one of the most dangerous work equipment at Scania[2].

Forklift AGVs are the most common type of AGVs and look pretty much like regular forklifts. Some models also have space for humans, allowing to steer the AGV manually when needed. Like all AGVs, they include sensors that ensure that the vehicle slows down or stops when encountering a human or an obstacle. They operate at a controlled, limited speed, accelerate smoothly and have a predictable behavior, thereby limiting accidents[3].

Damage Reduction

Forklift drivers may be distracted, tired or simply have a bad day. As a result, they may damage products or hit equipment and structures. AGVs of course are more reliable and can work 24 hours a day. Following the introduction of AGVs, Valio, a Finnish producer of dairy products, has managed to reduce damage to vehicles, stock and site by 90% in one of its cheese factories.

Cost Reduction and Better Operations

In a Lean Manufacturing perspective, AGVs reduce transportation time, which is non-value added time in manufacturing operations.

If AGVs replace fixed automation systems such as conveyors, they can reduce costs thanks to quicker implementation, staged investment and additional flexibility.

If AGVs replace or relocate employees, they can allow to reduce labor costs and increase productivity. After automating transport routes using a mix of conveyors and AGVs, AMAG Automobil, a car importer and dealer, has optimized its production throughput time by 20 to 30%.

An AGV System also leads to a more regular flow of material, with clean shop floors making room for AGV navigation paths. It can also bring improved inventory accuracy if properly connected to a Warehouse Management System.


In this article we have addressed several benefits of AGVs including safety and cost reductions. Part 2 of this article will list some key considerations when planning for an AGV system.

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[1] The No-Hands train, a 1958 implementation of Barrett Electronics’ invention in a refinery
[2] A State of the Art Map of the AGVS Technology and a Guideline for How and Where to Use It, thesis from Lund University Faculty of Engineering for Scania, 2017
[3] As of August 13, 2018, a Google search of “accident report detail” along with the terms “AGV” or “automated guided vehicle”, and restricted to the OSHA Web site, provided two OSHA fatality reports, dating back from 1997 and 2008. By contrast, a similar search with the term “forklift” resulted in 493 OSHA fatality reports.


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ELDER DESIGN – Simplifying life for an aging population

Working to reshape the world for a rapidly aging global population, designers and engineers are learning to apply the concepts and technologies of their fields to address the clouding eyes, aching bodies and broad life experiences of the elderly.

Modern design reflects the fact that today’s designers and engineers are being asked to do something remarkable: retool the world for a rapidly aging global population, and do it on a tender and personal level.

From easy-open pickle jars for arthritic hands to accessible parks and cities that promote social interaction, bright young designers are learning to look at products, buildings, transportation networks, communication grids, open spaces and community structures from an older person’s perspective.

The need is great and growing. Due to falling birth rates and longer life expectancies, the world’s percentage of elderly people – defined by most demographers as those 65 and older – is rising dramatically. According to the World Health Organization, the number of people over the age of 65 is expected to triple from 524 million in 2010 to 1.5 billion by 2050. For the first time ever, people over 65 outnumber children under five. The elderly also represent the fastest growing demographic segment worldwide.


Technologists and policy planners have started to act. For example, to help guide design for the aged, engineers at Nissan, Ford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed old age “suits” that simulate the physical infirmities of an 85-year-old, complete with cloudy vision, stiff joints and wobbly balance. Experiencing the physical effects of age helps engineers better understand the needs of the elderly.

Even new technology is getting the elder-design treatment. While the elderly have tended to adopt new technologies at a lower rate than the general population, that trend might be changing. A report on technology use among seniors from global think tank Pew Research Center found that some segments of this group – especially among the more affluent and educated – are using digital technologies at a higher rate than typical for past generations.

For example, smartphone ownership among people 65 and older has doubled since 2013 in the United States. In the Netherlands, at least five insurers reimburse users of smart home sensors, which monitor indicators such as changes in gait that could give advance warning of a fall. Amazon’s voice-controlled digital assistant Echo answers questions, calls relatives, controls appliances and even reads the news. On-demand online services deliver groceries, medicines and rides to the doorstep of otherwise home-bound people.

“Over the years, I have learned to put myself in place of the user I design for,” said Sahar Madanat Haddad, founder and chief designer of Sahar Madanat Design Studio in Amman, Jordan. “This comes from first understanding the user, being attentive to their needs, spoken and unspoken, and studying their day-to-day life. It’s simply designing with empathy. When it came to designing for the elderly in particular, the first thing that we noticed is that most elderly do not want to use products that look assistive.”

Her latest product, a household emergency response kit to perform CPR and defibrillation, looks like a stylish, rolled pad that is, according to the product concept, “As simple as a pillow and a blanket, and as familiar as tucking someone in!”

Similar efforts are popping up worldwide. Sha Yao, an industrial designer who graduated from Soochow University in Taiwan with a degree in Japanese language and culture, created a spill-proof tableware set for Alzheimer’s patients. Students at the National University of Sciences and Technology in Islamabad, Pakistan, have developed a cloud-linked, wearable Tremor Acquisition and Minimization (TAME) glove, which suppresses wrist tremors that can hinder the performance of daily activities.

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

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Why is Optimization Important for Supply Chain Planning?

Some problems have clear answers. How much is two plus two? The answer is clearly four. Other problems are not so clear cut. Where should I locate my next warehouse? How should I position inventory to provide a reasonable level of customer service at a reasonable cost? Is it better to ship from the factory to a distribution center via rail or truck? In most cases, there is no single “right” answer to this kind of question; there can be many, or at least several, solutions that are perfectly reasonable, with little or no real difference in terms of the end result.

This ambiguity is central to the world of supply chain planning. As with most other planning and management disciplines, the supply chain offers a constantly changing array of choices where every decision is influenced by multiple factors and has an effect on many different but related aspects of operations. At its core, supply chain planning is often a matter of choosing between customer service (often directly related to speed and/or responsiveness) and cost.

It’s not MRP or DRP

Material Requirements Planning (MRP), and similarly Distribution Requirements Planning (DRP), ignore trade-offs and just apply fixed assumptions and straightforward formulas to lay out a plan for scheduling purchases, production, shipping and inventory levels. Given the same assumptions, these processes will come up with the same answer every time. But that answer can be impractical or impossible to carry out because the calculation relies on fixed assumptions (lead time and lot size, for example, are assumed to be fixed).

MRP might calculate that the factory will need 100 brackets for a production order due to start on March 5, for example, and only 60 are expected to be on-hand and available on that date. The system will recommend buying a standard lot of brackets, say 500, with a due date of March 5 and an ordering date of February 5 since there is an assumed lead time of four weeks. If this plan is laid out on February 15, 10 days after the order should have been started, that’s just too bad. MRP will expect you to get those brackets in less than the stated lead time.

Optimization, on the other hand, might recognize that half of that lead time is transportation and the purchase might be expedited by switching to a faster mode. There might be an alternate supplier with shorter delivery time. It may be possible to delay the production order start and make some adjustments in the production schedule to complete the product in time in spite of the late start. Optimization is designed to consider alternatives to come up with the ‘best’ plan, given the options available.

Supply Chain Examples

Supply chain planning is full of decisions that require a kind of ‘judgment’ to compare alternatives and find the best solution where there is no straightforward ‘right answer’.

Think about where to locate a new distribution warehouse. It should be close enough to provide acceptable shipment lead time to as many customers as practical using the least costly transportation alternatives. It should be stocked with the right mix of products, in the right quantities, to fill a high percentage of customer orders within the expected order processing and fulfillment time. There are many ways to achieve these goals and optimization will test many combinations to determine which produces the most favorable result.

Replenishment dynamics must also be factored in – distance and lead time from supplying warehouse, supplier or plant; quantity and timing of replenishment while consid13ering transportation lead times and costs for different shipping alternatives. And there’s often an opportunity to reduce cost and improve service by stocking only certain products in certain warehouses and fulfilling a single order from multiple stocking points.

Optimization is the engine that makes supply chain planning possible. It is the tool that allows planning software to go beyond strict mathematical formulas to what can be considered a small step toward artificial intelligence – software simulating something resembling human reasoning.


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

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The What, Why and How of Digital Twin in Discrete Manufacturing

The goal of a Digital Twin is to have a software copy that behaves as closely as possible to its real-world twin, capturing every single attribute of that physical thing. We are often focused on Digital Twin of a product – because as products evolve their Digital Twin can be updated to reflect the new product, it can also predate the new product. But what about the benefits of having a Digital Twin for assets? Consider a manufacturing plant, we can start with small pieces of equipment that are vital to the production – the more critical that equipment is, the more likely is it that a Digital Twin will deliver benefits. The component, of course, must be significant enough to warrant the (high) cost of developing a Digital Twin or have enough pre-existing models available to construct a first-generation Digital Twin. The key for executives is to understand that Digital Twins can bring immediate benefit to a manufacturing plant (and the products it produces), but they are a long-term play rather than a quick fix.

It’s Not Just The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

When considering Industrial Transformation programs, many companies start with asset performance management (APM) owing to broad data collection and advanced analytics to improve maintenance and general asset performance. Digital Twins can go far beyond operational aspects such as APM. Rather than analyzing past performance only, the Digital Twin can also investigate the future and consider many what-if scenarios to determine how best to use an asset over time.

Digital Twins of production assets are often based on the design and implementation models created and refined during the development process. In discrete manufacturing these are developed on a product lifecycle management (PLM) platform that, traditionally, has been quite separate from IIoT and other business platforms.

Ebook: Forging the Digital Twin - intersection of PLM, business and operation platforms

Modern PLM systems bring together product and process development, allowing interaction in the development process. As Digital Twin technology advances, we are starting to see the integration of these models into the manufacturing process itself. The future of manufacturing will see great benefits, especially as orders reduce to a size of one and design changes become daily events. Digital Twin can be used to study how product design changes can be applied in the plant and how plant changes could affect production (for better or worse). Simulation of products is already becoming mainstream as Cloud computing makes available enough resources to run complex simulations. As PLM, business and operations platforms are integrated, the potential benefits of Digital Twins across manufacturing will become achievable.

Bringing together all the data, applications and models needed to profit from Digital Twins is a long process. Many will start with IIoT platforms as they promise the data, communications, analytics, and applications that form the basis of Industrial Transformation. However, PLM, simulation and manufacturing process design are maturing technologies in discrete (especially complex discrete such as aerospace and defense) manufacturing. It makes considerable sense to start Digital Twin deployment from a PLM platform that already integrates design to production processes. Many discrete Digital Twin programs look specifically at the design of machines and products; most of the data and models required are in or can be supported by modern PLM platforms. As Digital Twin grows, an extension to the rest of the enterprise will be necessary.

Platform choice today for discrete Digital Twin development and management depends on the starting point. Manufacturers that use a mainstream PLM platform should look to their PLM provider to discuss how they can build a long-term Digital Twin strategy. However, users of PLM platforms do not necessarily use applications from that single vendor only – they might use PLM from one and CAD and simulation from others. Similarly, a vendor may not support third-party tools in his Digital Twin environment. At this early stage of Digital Twin deployment, incompatibilities like these can be expected.

The alternatives to Digital Twin on PLM include having an enterprise-wide business platform that supports IIoT technologies and a wide range of Digital Twin applications, or a pure IIoT player who would be more open, but this approach might take considerably longer to deliver real value.

While Digital Twin deployment is a long-term strategy, one of the benefits is that you can start small with single pieces of equipment or a critical part of a product and grow without losing the investment made. With its multiple benefits, we urge manufacturing company executives to explore the opportunities provided by Digital Twin technology and how it can drive the Industrial Transformation initiative.

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

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