Art to Part Manufacturing Shift

  • January 25, 2013
  • Feature
January 2013
By Bill Lydon, Editor
At the recent Aberdeen Manufacturing Industry Summit, held December 4-5, 2012, there was a great deal of discussion about improving the process from design to manufacturing. It reminded me of the “art to part” discussions in the past. Art to Part has been a vision since the 1970’s to have a holistic computer aided design to manufacturing process. The level of technology to achieve this is becoming available. In addition to adoption of the technology, manufacturers need to make organizational changes to fully leverage the technology.
The vision is to design a product, machines, and production line as a holistic process. Software design and modeling tools are available to optimize, debug, increase yield, improve quality, and cost reduce manufacturing processes before a production line or single machine is built. Open standards enable the linking of modeling software to automatically generate controller code for robots, machine tools, PLCs and other industrial controllers. The PLCopen XML interchange standard, for example, is being used with the Siemens Mechatronics Designer, MathWorks Simulink, and DEIF PLC Link software to automatically generate programs.
A common thread in the discussion at the summit was the need for the people in traditional silos to collaborate. Collaborating organizations get the most value from modeling, simulation, PLM, and other tools. A participant in one of the breakout sessions commented that at his company they have a sign that reads, “Doing business the same way for 100 years.” He is trying to initiate change and sometimes thinks many in the company are taking that sign literally. Many people agreed that these attitudes need to change. Another part of the discussion is the inertia in companies including legacy systems & procedures, politics, processes, bureaucracy, silos, and existing organizational boundaries that make change difficult. The goal should be to take full advantage of the collaboration enabled by new software to make new product design, automation, and production seamless.
Adopting these technologies has the potential to give companies an edge over their competition by lowering costs and risk. Collaboration between engineering and manufacturing is important early in the design process. Many times a designer may not know he’s creating manufacturing inefficiencies. Using the new tools to collaborate in the design stage provides manufacturing insights to make recommendations to improve manufacturing efficiency without impacting the design from the functional standpoint.
High volume product production in a competitive world requires a review of all manufacturing options, including investing in new machines and processes. By using simulations, the tradeoffs between using existing or off the shelf machines as opposed to designing new machines can be analyzed to determine the best return on investment.
Efficiency is the bottom line and the key to global competitiveness. Michael Kane, Vice President of Manufacturing for Tiffany & Co., stated that achieving their company goal of more rapid time to market for new products requires an alignment of goals, risks, rewards, and process boundaries. He commented that interdepartmental collaboration to take a holistic view of the entire process has improved their overall knowledge as a company.
Real World
Deborrah McDonald, Team Lead of PLM MES at Mercedes-Benz’s fuel cell division, provided a compelling presentation of her project driven by a corporate mission to make automotive fuel cells a reliable and affordable solution. The Mercedes Benz Canada Inc., Fuel Cell Division is the first fuel cell stack Production facility for Daimler built in a little over one year. McDonald termed this project “mission impossible” due to the short timeframe. The project became mission possible based on teamwork and collaboration. She suggested that success requires vision, a holistic view, creativity (do things differently), courage (dealing with unknowns & tight time line), collaboration, solid team, good vendor relationships, and very high level management support.
Thoughts & Observations
Having technology to collaborate is one part of the equation but to be successful attitudes and organization needs to change. This shift may be analogous to the evolution of ERP systems which are cross departmental including finance/accounting, manufacturing, costing, capacity, human resources, customer relationship management, and supplier relationship management.

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