Finding Hidden Treasures in Manufacturing

Visual Components Posted 11/04/2011

Planning ahead for short- and long-term growth is a basic strategy for business in any economic environment in all industries producing any kind of product. Industry looks for proven solutions that may assist in improving the bottom line regardless of which domain within the enterprise takes on the responsibility of implementation and deployment. These solutions are chosen and based on trends (what others have heavily invested in and boasted success in) or selected based on the sales perception that it will significantly alter the current business practices into a better paradigm.

There are many business solutions that have been developed, re-developed, combined or renamed to support the strategic plans and business goals of any company that looks to the future for continued success. Some of the most common are: Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Manufacturing Execution System (MES), Product Data Management (PDM), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Design Anywhere Manufacture Anywhere (DAMA), Engineering Change Management (ECM), Electronic Data Management (EDM), Knowledge Based Engineering (KBE), Time Critical Management (TCM), etc.

While each and every one of these business systems has benefits and a defined place within an organization decisions have to be made as to the implementation time (3-5 years in some cases), cost of investment and cost of ownership. There exists not only the initial investment but since these systems are ongoing processes they must be maintained at a cost, be it updates, contract consulting or modifications to meet new requirements. Additionally, there are enterprise-wide requirements to prepare for the change shift in business practices each system has to offer. Remarkably when backed into a corner to justify the initial investment and ongoing costs it is challenging because of convoluted factors involving various domains to associate any direct savings to the bottom line. Careful and total verification and validation must be exerted to determine if implementing a Business System really improves an enterprise’s bottom line or becomes another hidden expense.

However, there is an immediate method to discover and recover available monies that exist today in most manufacturing applications without having to invest in one or any of the Business Systems mentioned. It is a less radical move, can be activated concurrently with a Business System and will have an almost immediate payback based on the cost of these solutions (treasure search tools) versus the return (treasure).

Current Production Optimization
Most products have been in production for various periods of time depending on the product and market. Automobiles with a comparatively short production period (12 months) to electronics with even shorter periods of production (1-3 months) to those products “we’ve been making forever.” Each have factors that directly reflect hidden revenue (the treasure) that could be applied in a variety of ways within an enterprise from new construction, new product innovation research, competitive pricing to direct savings to the consumer.

To find these hidden monies (treasure) a role of a “productionologist” must be adopted to study the cycle times, material flow/handling and manufacturing processes used in existing or previously designed production. In the examination of those current and possibly future systems lay the hidden factors that govern the waiting returns. It used to be that manufacturing optimization search tools were unaffordable and challenging to use. In many cases, special skills sets were required to produce efficient and effective value in their use.

Here comes 21st Century technology that now provides affordable and “so easy a salesman can use it” solutions to discover and recover those dollars left behind on the conveyor belt or manufacturing floor. In applying these simple and cost effective solutions to existing manufacturing processes, operation cycle times can be reduced, and improvement to material flow can be identified to increase production throughput. That is where the treasures lay i.e. Manufacturing Optimization.

Manufactured part cost $20 (including non-value added costs)
Current production rate of 100 parts per hour
Ref: Part Sell price $60

Optimization increases production by 5%

(According to an Industry Analyst (CIMdata) report entitled “The Benefits of Digital Manufacturing,” organizations using digital manufacturing technologies can realize tremendous production improvements and reductions in resource waste, including a 30 percent reduction in lead time-to-market; a 40 percent reduction in manufacturing process planning; a 15 percent increase in production throughput; a 13 percent decrease in overall production cost; and a 40 percent reduction in equipment costs.)

Optimized production rate of 105 parts per hour
5 more parts per hour = 5 more parts sold with $40 profit ($60 sell – $20 cost)
$40 profit x 5 parts per hour more x 8 hours x 5 days x 4 weeks x 12 months = $384,000 / year…

             …all by improving production by 5% or 5 parts per hour.

Courtesy Visual Components 3D Digital Manufacturing OptimizationIn many production applications where new or similar products are manufactured Set-Based Design methodologies are used. Set-Based Design is the process of duplicating what has already been designed and applied in the manufacturing process while changing only what is required to meet the new product requirements such as tooling, fixtures and or specific processes. What is not done, especially if these changeovers occur frequently, is to revisit the original Set-Based Design entities to evaluate potential optimization. If 3D Digital Manufacturing Optimization was not introduced or used in the initial Design, these areas of “revenue thieves” (hidden treasures of time and cost) are replicated without consideration.

There are many reasons these conditions occur and until recently, product manufacturers accepted these types’ of hidden or truly unknown profit reducers, knowing that initial designs are imperfect with the first concept. Product design in this context can be a product or a manufacturing system that produces products. It is still a fact that designing a product as well as a manufacturing process is a chain of events that may require several iterations before getting right or accepted as close to right. This is not just for complex products but simple concepts as well. Even after “final acceptance” the product may incur several if not hundreds of ECN (Engineering Change Notices).

Traditional Approach to Product DevelopmentThe typical process in the life of a product is to throw the design “over the wall” to engineering. Engineering may inform designers that some part of the design would be costly, challenging or impossible to produce. The designs would be given back (over the same wall) to design to modify and redesign. With both design and engineering in agreement, the designs would be given over to manufacturing to determine out how to make the product i.e. tooling, fixtures and processes. There is still no assurance the design is ready for market even after reaching product release and production.

Ultimately, so much time and costs have been applied to the product that it is accepted. There may be known design issues and flaws but the launch date will be met. There are many, many cases of this that come to mind such as the gas tank design and placement on the on a small hatch back vehicle where the company knew of the flaws but elected to let it go to market and have litigation deal with the results which was thought to be a far less expensive solution.

The Treasure Map
To find the treasure you can revisit your existing manufacturing designs and production processes to discover the constraints in your design. Considerations like material, configuration, manufacturing method, production environment, quality specifications, etc. are easily examined using 3D Digital Manufacturing solutions (the Treasure Map) by simulating your existing concepts and optimizing them. Siginificant amounts of time and money are being wasted by inefficient designs or adopting the attitude that “it’s good enough” or “if it’s running don’t fix it.” Now, with affordable simulation solutions to identify these negative conditions it is no longer an acceptable attitude to “let it run.”

CAD and CAE solutions allow manufacturers to alter product and plant designs in seconds, and see how every change will affect the entire process. “What if” scenarios using 3D Digital Manufacturing solutions are used in how parts interact with manufacturing methods, proper layout and positioning functions and incorporate acceptable ergonomic standards. That is how the major OEMs use (or how they should be using) current technology to streamline the flow of revenue to the bottom line.

OEMs may not have taken these steps to confront their previous systems designs but that would be time well invested to find undiscovered treasure. Many of these same OEMs are creating “Live Models” of new systems for new product production, that is, 3D Digital representations of the manufacturing process. The advantage is that they can test out various theories or scenarios of improvement without disrupting production and be better prepared for “change over” when the time is right knowing ahead of time what to do, where to do it and what the result will be.

All companies regardless of location, industry or product are attempting to capitalize on the demand of the consumer (i.e. “Faster, Cheaper and Higher Quality”). Asset Management, Product Lifecycle Management, Flexible Production, Agile Manufacturing or Digital Manufacturing all are methodologies that provide insights and solutions to all stakeholders throughout the product process, which leads to a reduced time-to-market (and considerably less confusion and in-fighting).

While these companies are meeting the demands of the market / consumer so are the companies that provide the technology to produce the products. New innovations in materials, tooling, machines and production equipment are continually being improved or developed. These innovations may be worthy of review and applied to existing systems opening up the chest of treasures.

“It is essential to hold on to your values but wise to evaluate their worth from time to time as dynamics influence change.”


One Response to Finding Hidden Treasures in Manufacturing

  1. […] Finding Hidden Treasures in Manufacturing Visual Components Posted 11/04/2011 Planning ahead for short- and long-term growth is a basic strategy for business in any economic environment in all industries producing any kind of product. Industry looks for proven solutions that may assist in improving the bottom line regardless of which domain within the enterprise takes on the responsibility of implementation […] […]

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