Integrating Design & Automation Silos

  • October 20, 2014
  • Feature

Bill Lydon’s Automation Perspectives

By Bill Lydon, Editor

A recent design and engineering conference emphasized the need for manufacturing automation and design engineers to collaborate instead of working in independent organizational silos. The ASME 2014 International Design Engineering Technical Conference was co-hosted with the Computers and Information in Engineering (IDETC/CIE) Conference in Buffalo-Niagara, NY, on August 17-20, 2014. The conference opening remarks noted that Henry Ford’s Model T was not the first car, but its revolutionary design and manufacturing methods disrupted the entire automotive industry.  The Model T production line enabled the first mass-produced car to be affordably priced and created a large new industry.  The elegant simplicity of Ford’s accomplishments makes it deceptively easy to look back and think his innovations and methods were obvious. An open mind is required in order to embrace change and innovate.

The Future of Manufacturing

Helmuth Ludwig, CEO of Siemens Industry USA, discussed the future of manufacturing requires the integration of the entire product design and production lifecycles. He noted the United States continues on the path of recovery. Manufacturing is showing continued gains driven by a new era of productivity in large-scale manufacturing.  Since 2010 there has been a resurgence of American manufacturing, and more than 600,000 manufacturing jobs were added. Ludwig described how software is driving productivity, efficiency, time to market, and flexibility, and is changing the entire industrial value chain. Software can perform product and manufacturing design and allow simulation of operations before committing to physical installation. Software is enabling efficiency and customization and is removing the constraints manufacturers have had for centuries. Simulation allows product designers, manufacturing engineers, and automation engineers to collaborate and make changes that improve production efficiency, quality, and profits.  America’s manufacturing future will depend on its ability to educate and train the next wave of workers to be proficient with the latest software tools.

Ludwig described the benefits gained by discrete industries that are taking an integrated approach to product design, production planning, production engineering, production execution, and service using product lifecycle management (PLM) software and totally integrated automation. The ability to virtualize product design, manufacturing processes, and associated automation significantly improves production startups and model changeovers. He described the concept of a “virtual digital twin” to verify production processes in simulation before the physical changeover. Real world examples have increased production availability by 80%. Another application used the simulation of an existing press line to identify potential improvements. This resulted in performance enhancements and operating energy savings of 40%.

The next manufacturing frontier is “make-to-order manufacturing,” which is a focus of Industry 4.0.  For example, medical implants meeting exact patient specifications could be created by starting with a Computerized Tomography (CT) scan and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan. This scan information is used to create a CNC program to build the physical implant with a milling machine or 3-D printer. These technologies are changing business models and allowing some industries to use on-demand manufacturing. There will be no more product inventories, because each product will be custom made for the individual. Additive manufacturing is another area that will increase manufacturing flexibilities, lower development time, minimize tooling costs, and supply production runs.

Education Challenge

The manufacturing sector needs more engineers, technicians, and skilled production people to be successful. Ludwig said the burden of closing the training gap belongs on those who train, not those who need training.  Ludwig encouraged companies to help in closing the education gap. Siemens has contributed to education. In 2014, Siemens they gave more than $3 billion of in-kind software to manufacturing programs at high schools and colleges. He also believes that manufacturing has an image problem that can be fixed by industry, government, and educators. We need to inform the future workforce that manufacturing is a forward-looking and innovative industry. Investing now will strengthen United States manufacturing sector and create meaningful jobs.

Integrating Silos

The challenge is for automation, design, manufacturing engineering, and other key groups to work collaboratively.  By working together, groups will gain the greatest value from the application of these new technologies. Two key steps for these groups are to innovate collaboratively and educate their management about these technologies. ASME suggests that manufacturers can start small by collaborating on smaller projects so groups can learn and gain proficiency.

Related Articles

Did you enjoy this great article?

Check out our free e-newsletters to read more great articles..