Ways Simulation is Improving the Development of Products
Simulations are taking over the entertainment world with improvements in movies and virtual reality in video games. One area that you might not expect to find simulation is product development. Not only is simulation a great tool for developers, but it is changing the industry as we know it. From engineering to avionics, the presence of virtual reality (VR) is increasing.
Benefits of Virtual Reality
Labs the produce products are finding that they can do more with VR. The main reason that augmented reality is beneficial is because designers can build and test products in theory before building a physical prototype or product. Manufacturers and designers are finding that it is more efficient and cost productive to take a VR route before a reality approach. There are four main areas that designers are finding the best use of VR in development.
Viewing Blueprints and CAD Designs. When customers come in to review their purchase orders, they want to see more than blueprint sketches. Instead, designers can pull up the design on their computer screens and show the customer a 3-D view of their product. This is a more realistic view of what the final product will look like and can show proper function better than a drawing or printing can show. Designers can spot flaws and adjust details easily in this form with less cost to the company and consumer. Customers can provide helpful feedback that can prevent problems after production. Together, they avoid miscommunication, and both save a lot of time and money in the end.
Smaller Scale 3-D Parts. One of the most expensive parts of design is creating scaled models of products before production. Sketches don’t give enough detail to those who are creating the parts and changes are more difficult. Using 3-D printing, engineers and designers can create smaller scale 3-D parts and test them out before creating a product to scale. This is a much more affordable option for companies.
Creating in a Virtual Space. Realtors and construction companies have been using VR to sell properties and show off homes pre-construction for a few years now. It has helped expand their potential buyers to those across the country, rather than limiting it to those who can walk through a model home. This same concept is open to other industries too. Cars, buildings, boats, and even small parts are easy to create and view in a virtual space for potential customers. The ways companies can save money in materials, storage, space, and resources are almost endless with VR.
Improving Prototypes. As mentioned, manufacturing and design companies have historically created products to spot problems and adjust designs. With more complex products, each piece is created individually to ensure they work together correctly. Simulation does more than create a 3-D model, it also allows designers to see how all the different parts will work together before creating the first physical prototype. Sizing of pieces is usually an expensive process to figure out, but with simulation, individual pieces are sized or alternatives found before creation to ensure the entire product functions properly. This saves recalls, tests, bad contracts, and most of all, stress.
Changing the Experience
Using VR in design and manufacturing is saving companies time and money. This allows them to create more products and earn more contracts. The digital transformation is improving the customer experience and changing the manufacturing market. The best part of all is that more superior products are created, helping everyone involved to succeed.
How Technology Makes Manufacturing Work
Manufacturing is the backbone of America, playing a part in so many different industries. Evidence of its importance can be found on stickers at the bottom of toys, tags on clothing, and even political discussions over the last decade. With China being a major competitor, it’s small differences that can make a manufacturing company successful. Just like every other sector, technology is taking manufacturing companies and helping them become more efficient and a player in the large, global arena.
The Design Difference
The process and complexity of designing products vary between industries. Even within industries, companies often manufacture many different types of products. Traditionally, molds and prototypes are made multiple times until it is done right. With technology, the processes are reduced with programs that help designers create 3D visuals. Program inspections more easily find flaws which means less time, materials, and energy are required to create correct designs.
Another benefit of technology in design is that the programs used to create the designs can be synced to machinery. The syncing cuts out a lot of waste, streamlining the overall process. Manufacturers no longer have to spend time moving files over, inputting complex programming codes, or training workers on design details and expectations.
The biggest benefit of technology and machinery is that it increases efficiency. When people are doing the manufacturing themselves or running machinery, it limits the hours that the facility is working. Automated systems are more efficient because they don’t require breaks and can manufacture different parts around the clock and every day of the year. The quality of the products is not compromised after long hours either, keeping standards high and the reputation of the company intact. With a higher production rate and high-quality products, companies can offer competitive pricing while still making a higher profit.
Automation is also great because it uses fewer materials in its production. Products that require complex designs are especially benefited by technology because fewer mistakes are made. The fewer materials that are wasted, the more money companies can save on their costs.
Boosting the Economy
Technology is the key to boosting the economy. When manufacturing companies do better, they can offer more jobs to the communities that house them. The more successful they become, the more they can expand and create more products. Some companies manufacture all their parts while others outsource small parts and help build other companies in their products too.
The items that they sell help create value, but it isn’t always the thing that gives them the competitive edge in their industry. While many people believe that things like location, taxes, and labor rates are the biggest factors in determining manufacturing success, this isn’t necessarily the case. Some of the biggest influencing factors include quality design, unique ideas, engineering, marketing, material sourcing, and customer support. There are many qualities that work together still determine if the company will be successful in the long run.
Technology is a key that many manufacturers have found to make all the difference in the way they run their companies and benefit the economy. While it may not make the only difference, it is a tool that can help manufacturers succeed in a world where cheap labor is often the compromise.
How 3D Printing is Advancing Business Transformation
Additive manufacturing or 3D printing is no longer a distant technology, becoming more mainstream all the time. This printing uses specialized equipment to create a physical object from a digital model and processes that bond and mold materials together. The two main components that set this type of manufacturing apart.
- Deposit Process: layers of raw materials are added a layer at a time then fused together.
- Materials Used: metallic powders, polymers, and other solids, along with some liquids such as photosensitive resin, and ribbons and wires for any semi-finished products.
The main benefit of 3D printing is that any shape can be created because of the freeform designing abilities. It takes fewer tools, less time, and produces less waste. Comparing this type of manufacturing with the more traditional process, it makes a lot of sense for companies to consider switching their machinery.
The Benefits of Manufacturing with 3D Printing
While many industries have already implemented 3D printing in some areas like energy, transportation, and consumer goods, it is currently entering cutting edge fields such as aeronautics, space, and medical manufacturing. This process really shines in areas where there are custom, unique pieces required. More industries are turning their eyes toward this manufacturing because of three main benefits; cost, creativity, and environmental benefits.
Cost. While the initial cost of replacing current equipment is a concern for many companies, 3D printing can cut costs over the long term. The traditional form of manufacturing requires creating multiple prototypes to work out problems, then working in small-series parts to put the entire thing together. Companies often keep spare parts on hand with all the extra materials to save costs, but that requires storage. With additive manufacturing, production steps are skipped, less tooling and materials are used, and time is saved overall. Cutting costs and increasing production times means that companies can make more money.
Creativity. Since 3D printing gives more flexibility, manufacturing companies have more creative license with their products. With previous technological limitations, creating complex shapes or objects would take a lot of time and extra materials to figure out. When raw materials are added in, rather than cut out, they are layered using sub-systems. It’s also easier to switch or add new materials quickly during the manufacturing process.
Environmental Benefits. Switching from mass production to customization gives more flexible steps and improve capabilities. As mentioned before, fewer materials are used when added instead of cut from a solid block of material, which creates less waste. With faster production times, less energy is used and lowers the carbon emissions put out by the company.
While these three benefits have convinced many manufacturing companies to make the switch, 3D printing also builds a larger network of suppliers and distributors. When they work together, they can share materials to create less waste and optimize their costs. Another big benefit to collaboration is that customers are placed at the forefront with a more service-oriented approach to production. Customers have more input and take part in more of the creative process, approving and designing along with the manufacturers. With 3D printing, the sky is the limit.
Wearable Augmented Workforce
The days of the future have arrived. Using robots in manufacturing isn’t new, but the robotic technology is advancing. Instead of hydraulic arms along an assembly line, new robots are coming to town. The Ford Motor Company is piloting a new device that is an exoskeleton worn by assembly workers who do a lot of manual labor. The purpose of the exoskeleton is to specifically help assembly workers more easily lift their arms above their heads, which they do more than 4500 times a day.
The name of the tool is EksoVest and is made by Ekso Bionics, which is headquartered in Richmond, California, the same site as a Ford factory. It is worn only on the upper body and is currently being piloted at two Ford plants. It not only supports the worker’s arms, but it also relieves stress on the shoulders by assisting to lift 5-15 pounds per arm once springs are activated. Some tasks require lifting tools, like drivers, torque wrenches, brushes, drills, and paint sprayers. Having the assistance to lift tools that weigh up to 8 pounds, a million times a year, can relieve a lot of wear and tear on the worker’s upper body.
The preliminary tests are showing that the hydraulic, non-powered vest helps assembly line workers reduce strain and risk of injury from tasks that are done on the frequent, short tasks that are so typical of assembly lines. This can help boost worker longevity and morale, allow workers to stay in their jobs for more years, and reduce injuries. In fact, workers are missing fewer days of work, transferring departments less, and are requiring fewer work restrictions. This helps keep workers safe, happy, and feeling valued.
While increased safety is a major benefit, there is another one that speaks to many manufacturers bottom lines; productivity. When workers are assisted in their work and can move more easily, they move faster. The faster they move, the faster the tasks are completed, and the production rates go up. This helps to create a more finished product without overburdening workers.
The idea of EksoVest brings an important issue to the manufacturing world. While automation seems to be the way of the future, there is value in augmenting a human workforce too. Robots that assist in the work are a valuable resource and help create a more economical answer to expensive automation concerns. With a human physically wearing the robotics, they have more control while still having the physical help from a machine.
For now, the two pilot programs are at factories in the United States. Ford is hoping to expand the technology to more of their factories and help give support to even more of their assembly line workers. Meanwhile, the manufacturing world will watch and wait to see how an augmented workforce influences the overall company.
MES and the Future of Manufacturing
Global manufacturing is continually growing and expanding to include new technology. Since incorporating the use of manufacturing execution systems (MES), growth in the manufacturing sector has only increased. In 2014, the global MES market was valued at around $7.86 billion and is projected to be worth $19.36 billion by 2023. To understand the full picture of where the MES market will take manufacturing in the future, it is helpful to understand its role in the past.
The History of MES
In the 1970s, software first entered the manufacturing scene. It helped take some simple tasks, like accounting, inventory, and other housekeeping items and automate them. While this was helpful, it wasn’t enough to help with more substantial tasks like tracking, controlling, and planning materials.
In the last ten years or so, MES software hit the manufacturing industry with some big promises to fulfill. Operations department were needing something that could help with the substantial areas, like planning, quality control, tracking information, and handling manufacturing indicators. MES was developed to be able to tick all the boxes. This helped companies monitor all this information, along with connecting the information between different complex systems.
As more innovations in technology came around, the potential grew. This has attracted attention from other software developers, bringing more options at differing price ranges to manufacturers. Cloud-based systems and storage expanded a lot of options for managers to access information at any time, in almost any place. Artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and IoT portions of software were able to help increase automation, cutting back on precious work hours for employees. As the manufacturing industry has grown globally, the contributions of MES software has become more important than ever before.
The Future of MES and Manufacturing
A very telling number shows that 34% of manufacturers use MES software already or plan to in the near future. Once a software becomes standard in the manufacturing industry, it becomes even harder to function without it. As manufacturing reaches more countries and becomes even more global, MES software becomes even more vital to keeping up with production.
The two biggest benefits of using MES are increasing efficiency and cutting costs. Efficiency is improved by improved production planning, streamlined workflow, and resource optimization. Whether it is in the back office or on the plant floor, MES software is becoming invaluable at reducing scrap, rework, and holding times on products while also maximizing throughput and use of materials. While each of these improves efficiency, they also help cut costs for materials and the amount of labor involved. Overall, employees are less stressed, and companies are better able to hit their targets and follow regulated compliances standards.
MES software will continue to grow and offer a greater ability to keep factories, plants, and head offices connected to make faster decisions with information that is quickly available. More MES software options are always being developed to help companies of any size, all around the world. Lower prices and help to install the complex systems will also help businesses implement the right MES software for their needs, including manufacturers in many different industries.
While no one knows for sure what MES will look like in a decade or two, it is obvious that MES software will hold an important role. Keeping manufacturing companies connected to each function in their entire plant or factory is an important part of being successful. As technology improves and expands, so will the abilities of the manufacturing industry.
Liberating Design: How Retailers and Designers are Embracing 3D Printing
One of the biggest benefits of using a 3D printing technology is customization. Mass producing products work in some industries, but not everyone can make a profit off this business model.
Even when mass producing products is the main manufacturing plan, there are still plenty of opportunities to make a bigger profit from offering customization to clients. This hasn’t been something that manufacturers have always had warm fuzzies about, but it’s catching their eye as it grows in popularity.
One example of customization options is being explored by Adidas. While it is still in the prototype phase, they are partnering with strategic manufacturing partners to bring 3D printing into their business model.
Since runners crave custom shoes to help them run more comfortably, the company hopes to deliver a more individualized experience. One day, they hope that customers will walk into their stores and hop on a treadmill for a new type of analysis.
Through different scans of the foot and additive manufacturing software, the freedom to design a custom pair of shoes for the customer can be done on site with 3D printing. This also allows customers to choose their preferred colors and look to make a shoe that is truly customized to them in effort aspect of the product.
Changing the Field
A more personalized form of manufacturing is being explored by more industries than just shoemakers. It is reaching into different forms of wearables, housewares, eyeglass frames, medicine, orthopedics, luggage, toys, jewelry, and more. The list of companies seeking this type of service is growing constantly to meet the new standards that customers want.
Traditional manufacturing uses solid materials, then cuts away to create an item. Another name for 3D printing is additive manufacturing because it does the opposite in creation; materials are added layer by layer to create the product. This liberates design for retailers for several reasons.
- Modeling software allows customization with fast changes
- Many materials are available, like plastic, paper, epoxy, resins, and nylon are all available in this process
- Special orders are created on the spot, cutting down wait times for customers
This process brings value to not only the customer but also to the company. Having the personalization edge is attractive to customers, bringing in more revenue. People feel empowered and more in control of the products they want to buy, unleashing a lot of creative ability for the designers and customers alike.
Data collection is a valuable resource for companies with this manufacturing style as well. Knowing exactly what their customers want and need from them helps companies know where to focus their efforts. If trends are tapped into wisely, mass production can bring down the cost of these items, being displayed and sold for less than the customization options. All of this points to one thing; value to the customer, brand, and experience for all parties.
If you are looking to up your manufacturing game, it is important to consider getting on the 3D printing train. This is more than just a trend, it’s the wave of the future in the industry.
How to Optimize Your Production Planning and Scheduling to Save Time and Money
One of the most complicated parts of being in the manufacturing industry is managing production times. As a vital part of a supply chain, each company relies on another to stay on a schedule and do their part to complete the job. The most successful companies have a plan that is realistic and well organized to make sure they are meeting all their goals. There are five main things to consider when learning how to optimize your production schedule; forecasting, managing inventory, efficiency evaluation, equipment, and training.
Every good schedule starts with a plan. While there is no way to plan for every possible problem that can happen, it’s better to plan a little extra time into a plan for possible complications. It is also possible to prepare for certain types of demands. Looking at historical data and doing a little bit of research can leave your company more prepared for various demands.
If you have put in the time to forecast properly, you can avoid duplication of effort, limited equipment use, and conflict demands. Have an internal system that notifies others if there is a scheduling conflict. Have the oversight to manage equipment and supplies available to avoid double booking projects or running out of space during a peak season.
Proper forecast and doing some preparation will help you avoid costly mistakes like setbacks and terrible customer experiences.
Inventory control is an important part of manufacturing because companies must keep enough on hand to keep the business going, but not too much that you end up with large storage problems. It has never been easier to manage inventory stores than it is today with all the different software programs available to help keep track of supplies and historical data.
The best way to manage inventory is a process that:
- Determines ideal amounts to have on hand
- Fill orders
- Send it to customers
- Refill the used supplies to keep the optimum levels on hand
This is one continuous cycle that might change through the year with peak seasons and availability of materials and machines.
Efficiency is the name of the game when deciding standard practices for your manufacturing business. Once you have worked on a process, you find the most efficient way to do a task. This happens in every home with household chores, every commuter who drives the same route, and manufacturers completed the same tasks.
You learn the best order, pieces, and timing when you have done a task enough. Managing your standard practices involves finding the tasks you do every day, or just an average day, and then make it a standardized practice. This helps you know a timeframe for completing the tasks in a predictable, reliable way that is most efficient which can be passed on to others.
Managing equipment becomes a natural step to creating a plan and standardizing your practices. Learning to anticipate periods of heavy use helps your company to spread out jobs to manage power use and conflicts to scheduling.
An important part of manufacturing equipment is servicing the equipment to prevent breakdowns. If you can schedule this in during non-peak production times, it will help prevent problems when you most need the machines. There are all types of conditions that can influence this decision, including temperatures, seasons, holidays, and energy usage.
If possible, spread the workload out to reduce chances of overworking your equipment. This can be done by buying multiple machines, using more than one facility, or rotating machinery.
Manufacturing companies are required to complete many different safety certifications and inspections because there are so many risks. It is important to protect your workers and your reputations by providing sufficient, regular training to your workers.
Training is not just about safety. This gives you an opportunity to make sure processes are being taught and run in the most efficient way possible. During these times, you can also do quality control and inspections to evaluate areas you can improve. Setting expectations can go a long way when done before bad work habits are established.
It also provides a way for workers to communicate with managers, directors, and company leaders. Since they are the ones doing a lot of the footwork, it is important to let them know they have a voice. Ideas are a great way to innovate your practices and improve processes.
Optimizing Your Production
Using schedules to plan and schedule your operations will save you time and money. Avoiding the possibility of losing a job, having an unhappy customer, and possible injuries or setbacks will save your company time and money. As all manufacturers know, time is money and everyone could use more of both.
How to Put Human into Your Manufacturing Process
In manufacturing, it seems that the human-factor is disappearing when you look at it on the outside. It is easy to make that assumption when you think about all the machines, software, and automation that is currently there, as well as the innovation that is ongoing. However, there is a large human part of this industry that cannot be replaced.
Today, consumers are looking for a more personalized and efficient process for manufactured goods. These emphasize an experience that focuses on the one-on-one approach to products and processes to create individual requirements. Some of the most common tools available to manufacturers today are:
- Computers and Digital Tracking Equipment
- Design Software
- Global networking
Each of these tools helps manufacturers get a better glimpse at their company, customer, and ability to improve their business. Here is a bit more about each tool and how it benefits the process.
Computers and Digital Tracking Equipment
The biggest advantage to using computers and digital equipment is that they speed up processes. From designing products on the computer to inputting the tasks into the equipment, workers always know where they are in the process. It saves work and keeps tasks on schedule. This streamlines the work all through the manufacturing line and through the supply chain.
With the improvements of computers and digital tracking equipment, software to increase design abilities was close behind. Manufacturing has the designing ability for finding flaws faster and cutting down time creating prototypes.
The internet has made the world smaller for everyone, including companies doing business. With all the shipping and correspondence given through the web, companies have a more global presence. This allows people to create markets for customers who want improved products.
As great as these tools are, there is no way for humans to ever be completely replaced. The interaction required to use them and improve a business requires a person who can work autonomously and think critically. Many people have looked at manufacturing and assumed it would only be a matter of time before humans are replaced entirely in this industry, but that just isn’t true. Humans are required for multiple areas here. That doesn’t mean that their roles will not change because they must.
The Company’s Responsibility
The main responsibility that companies have is to put the message forward, letting others know where the benefits of technology come into manufacturing. Thoroughly explaining the transformations required in their processes helps to convey the importance to their workers. People are a necessary component in this process, meaning that they can make or break the process.
After education, the most important thing to do is to work on morale. A company that has workers with high morale will have employees who are willing to learn new processes, improve techniques, and want to help improve the company. Tools need to be utilized to their full potential, but it does no good without a knowledgeable user.
While these tools are helpful, they cannot replace the human aspect. Humans are required to engage teams, innovate processes, and interpret information to act. The whole point of technology is not to replace humans, but to bring them to the front and center of manufacturing. It is only humans who can create the experiences, quality, and professional aspects to manufacturing for customers and employees. The industry of tomorrow will be one that makes life more interesting and creative for those who need it.