Faced with trying economic times, many industries have been severely weakened by decreased demand and tighter budgets. In Europe, the results of one such collapse in the automotive market can be seen in widespread excess capacity and manpower.
But these conditions are not universal. In contrast to the European auto market, demand for new aircraft has led to an order backlog at Airbus of 4,682 planes as of December 31, 2012. Valued at over $600 billion, this backlog would keep its production facilities humming for well over seven years.
In either circumstance, be it bust or boom, business leadership has to focus on managing the product lifecycle as efficiently as possible at every stage. In difficult market conditions, the challenge is to maintain market presence in the face of low demand, disproportionate costs and the introduction of new products despite tight cash flows.
In boom times, such as those seen at Airbus, the organization must satisfy hungry customers with on-time delivery and attention to quality. Failure here can cause grievous harm to the company’s reputation, a case in point being the battery travails at Boeing’s Dreamliner aircraft, which led to its unfortunate global grounding.
Demands such as these have led PLM software to become indispensable through every product stage, be it conception, design, manufacture, service or eventual obsolescence.
Today’s manufacturing realities make it mandatory to do more with fewer resources, chiefly manpower. Businesses are adopting digital manufacturing as the go-to for solving these dilemmas. Also, an increasing reliance on technology and software is leading to the creation of huge datasets that can further help companies to boost efficiency. Data infrastructure aside, the sheer benefits of digital manufacture are too compelling to ignore: according to Patrick Michel, Vice President, DELMIA Solutions and Marketing, in Digital Manufacturing: The Green Path to Growth, deployment of digital manufacturing can generate annual returns between five to ten times that of the original investment.
Developers of software that address different aspects of PLM are now seized with the urgency to create products that can fulfill the emerging calls to action in manufacturing. ‘Digital’ is the way to go, and the visualization tools (such as CAD/CAM) and tools to manage the manufacturing process (such as planning & scheduling, quality control and process documentation) seem just the ticket to get us there.
A Boost for Product Development
Siemen's Fibersim 13
A key example of a product that can significantly reduce development time is Siemens’ Fibersim portfolio of software for composites engineering in the aerospace, automotive, marine, and wind energy industries. It addresses the entire composites engineering process — from conception, laminate definition, and ply creation through simulation, documentation, and manufacturing. What’s more, it is integrated into the leading commercial 3D CAD systems (Catia, NX and Creo Parametric) to help capture a complete digital composite product definition. Last month, Siemens announced enhancements in the software’s latest version, Fibersim 13, that have been reported to reduce design and analysis time by up to 80 percent and shorten some design for manufacturing processes by up to 50 percent.
A similar solution released last year is Camstar's NPIAccelerator (New Product Introduction Accelerator). The product, powered by Camstar Cloud, is meant to enable design and testing professionals to substantially speed up the new product innovation processes.
“NPI is the lifeblood of leading brand owners. Yet during the early prototype and ramp-up phase, multiple disparate sources provide silos of information that fragment data analysis and slow the NPI process,” said Manash Chakraborty, Vice President of Supply Chain Quality Solutions for Camstar. “Correlation of data and root cause analysis are difficult, time consuming, and costly. NPIAccelerator changes this paradigm. Data aggregation and analysis shifts from a burden to tangible, actionable intelligence.”
Dassault's Perfect Package
More recently, Dassault launched its ‘Perfect Package’ – a new industry solution designed for consumer packaged goods companies based on its 3DEXPERIENCE platform. The solution helps to consolidate fragmented package design procedures to achieve quicker development of package designs.
According to the company, “It significantly reinforces innovation, shortens package design cycles, lowers materials costs and virtually eliminates the chance for costly packaging-related recalls by creating tighter integration and control of artwork development and copy management.”
Dassault has also partnered with Airbus to deliver its software SIMULIA for the structural analysis and virtual testing of next-generation aircraft. SIMULIA will be used in Airbus’ Accelerated Development for Vulnerability and Nonlinear System (ADVANS) to forecast the strength and performance of its aircraft structures by using very large simulation models and high-performance computing clusters, thus validating full-scale aircraft designs virtually overnight.
Innovation in Manufacturing Execution Systems
Camstar Enterprise Platform
On the operations end of the manufacturing process is Camstar Systems, known for its Camstar Enterprise Platform that includes applications for manufacturing execution, quality management and operational intelligence. The Platform’s 5.1 Version, introduced August 2012, is claimed to provide the world’s only fully web-based configuration for manufacturing execution systems, which can be monitored anywhere using a mobile device. With automatic enforcement, auditing and visibility of the manufacturing process, users can configure the platform to see the right information at the right time.
PTC's Global Manufacturing Process Management
Global Manufacturing Process Management, an alternate solution offered by PTC, is a company-wide and globally-accessible system that can help an organization overcome difficulties such as disjointed information and separated teams by implementing design and production planning that can ultimately synch with ERP infrastructure.
Process Documentation, Data Capture and ‘Big Data’ Storage
Cogiscan's Track and Trace
Cogiscan has been awarded a US Patent in September 2012 for the use of RFID tags to identify reels of electronic components, along with antennas and readers embedded in storage locations, feeder setup stations, feeder trolleys and placement machines. The RFID Smart labels, or reusable tags on reels of components, enable a “track-trace-and-control” solution that eliminates recording and data entry bottlenecks during manufacturing. For example, workers using bar code readers to scan bar code labels on component reels can gain error-free and hands-free tracking of components, inventory recording and scheduling.
The company recently implemented an FDA-approved TTC (track, trace and control) solution at a global medical device company, in tandem with a conveyor solution provided by MyAutomation and linked to an MES system provided by Rockwell Automation.
Cogiscan’s platform has also been used in Detroit Diesel Remanufacturing, a Daimler division, to provide process validation, route control and traceability during the assembly of engine control modules. The system ensures that all prescribed production steps have been followed, proper material inputs have been received and quality procedures have been followed, for every serial-numbered unit that leaves the plant.
The key benefits of TTC are claimed to be a reduction in manufacturing costs through improving overall productivity; reduction in material costs by having the right material, in the right place, at the right time; smooth production flow due to always on-time availability of materials; and the elimination of human errors. ROI is usually achieved within 3 to 9 months.
With increasing computational power and platforms such as Dassault’s SIMULIA, manufacturers are taking increasing recourse to simulation in product design and development as well as manufacturing. According to a CIMData study (Beyond Simulation Data Management - Why Innovative Approaches are Required), the quantum increase in simulations is leading to a deluge of data that may ultimately reach such proportions that we may be incapable of processing it for further use.
However, Tecplot Chorus is a new simulation analytics framework that combines data management, analytics and physics visualization for the management of large numbers (tens or thousands) of CFD simulations. Tools for evaluating the resulting metadata are also provided.
It has been reported that quality management, when integrated within a PLM environment, can reduce failure costs by over 50 percent and reduce total cost of quality by eight percent.
Last week, Siemens introduced a new, web-based quality management solution for issue management and CAPA (Corrective and Preventive Action) as a part of its Teamcenter PLM software. The new solution integrates quality and change management processes, enhances decision-making and supports Eight Disciplines Problem Solving (8D), a method used to approach and resolve problems, typically employed by quality engineers. It provides greater visibility into quality management processes and faster time-to-closure of quality issues. It also offers a more complete and consistent process for root-cause identification, correction, prevention and verification, which directly impacts the risk of recurrence and enables continuous quality improvement.
While each of these products have specific manufacturing processes and industries targeted the net result of software solutions such as these is that each facet is becoming increasingly digitized. And by addressing issues of cost and time-to-market, PLM software may be on its way to not only becoming ubiquitous, but also ushering in a new age of manufacturing standards.