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With a little help from 3D printing and some robotics, four-year-old Emma Lavelle has overcome the limitations of a congenital disorder and can use her arms for the first time. Using a Dimension 3D printer from Stratasys, Inc., researchers at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Philadelphia were able to create what little Emma calls her "magic arms." The device is a custom-designed robotic exoskeleton that enables her to conquer greatly limited joint mobility and underdeveloped muscles.But 3D printing isn’t just giving a little girl new arms – it’s also beginning to change the way products are manufactured. In addition to its role in manufacturing robotic exoskeletons, NASA has used the 3D printing technology to develop a human-piloted rover to explore Mars."Some of our world's greatest ideas are being 3D-printed," says Scott Crump, chairman and CEO of Stratasys. "Engineers want their technical work to connect to a greater good, and 3D printing is helping them bring their ideas to fruition to improve lives and the world around us. As more people become aware of the possibilities of 3D printing, its impact outside of traditional manufacturing and design realms will continue to grow."The technology can help manufacturers design and build prototypes faster as well. "It seems that almost any problem involving three-dimensional objects can be solved faster and better with the use of additive manufacturing technology," 3D-printing market consultancy Wohlers Associates wrote in its Wohlers Report 2012.
The Curiosity Mars rover has landed safely and has been sending back stunning images of the red planet. But did you know that the software used to design the rover is very similar to the kind used in manufacturing? Check out some of the work the University of Leicester has done with NASA and Siemens PLM Software to help develop different spacecraft.
In the context of an ERP system’s lifecycle, selection and implementation represent an organization’s platform and preparation for enhanced business value. The delivery of actual business value – and return on ERP investment - happens later on in an ERP system’s lifecycle, during the post-implementation optimization phase. It’s during post-implementation optimization where organizations should be looking to leverage ERP-driven benefits of integration, transparency and automation. The benefits first start to accrue once the organization successfully integrates the system into its business processes. This happens when the users finally accept, adopt and become comfortable with the new, ERP-supported business processes. From that point onward, these best-in-class organizations accelerate benefits realization as they continuously review, revise and improve their business processes (leveraging, of course, their ERP system capabilities).Although most companies never experience the steep part of the value realization curve, almost all are capable of doing so – provided that they’ve successfully implemented ERP.Of course, the obvious questions are: how does an organization do so? And, where should it start? To answer the first question, a business has to focus on continuous improvement. That means constantly benchmarking performance, setting new goals, driving improvements and evaluating performance. The second question is answered below. Benchmarking performance – What you need to get startedTo plot a path to a better state of being, you need two pieces of information: a starting point and an ending point. The starting point is an understanding of current performance. How much do you lose on obsolete inventory? What percentage of your orders are shipped on time? What is your current defect rate? How long does it take you to close your books? Values like these will act as baseline benchmarks. When choosing benchmark indicators, you should pick those that drive strategic and operational goals.How should you go about measuring the values? Start with a set of business process maps that accurately reflect business functions. If you’ve recently completed an ERP implementation, you should have a set of fairly accurate process maps. If you don’t have an accurate set of process maps, make them. These documents are indispensable to this type of continuous improvement project.With the maps in hand, quantify the key baseline metrics on a process-by-process basis. In all likelihood you’ll need to analyze key financial data and interview key users to get the data you require.Goal setting – Modeling improved business processesWith the starting point set, your next task is to figure out what the future value looks like. To get started, you’ll need the following:• Strategic and operational targets• Business process maps• Baseline metricsIf management hasn’t formally articulated and quantified strategic and operating targets, it will need to do so. Once completed, the project falls back on your plate. You’ll need to figure out how business processes can be reshaped to drive the identified goals. How? By studying the process maps, learning the ERP system’s capabilities and interviewing key users, all with a view to making operations more efficient and effective. Can you reduce the number of procedures in a given process? Can certain manual tasks be automated? As you model the improved business, you should project the value of the improvements.Planning and executionYour next task is to find the easiest, cheapest, fastest and least disruptive way to implement the changes. You’ll need to create a project plan that accounts for cost, schedule and resource requirements. As with any project that involves change, we strongly suggest that you first secure buy in from key stakeholders and senior management.Thereafter, it’s up to you and your team to execute the proposed plan. As the plan is implemented, it’s important that the process maps be revised to reflect ongoing changes.Performance evaluation – A measure of ERP-enabled valueAt the conclusion of the project, your task is to quantify the processes and measure them against the benchmarks. The difference yields the incremental business value resulting from post-implementation optimization efforts.At this point, the project has come full-circle. The revised process maps and resulting performance indicators become the benchmark against which the next set of improvement projects are measured.Jonathan Gross is vice-president of Pemeco, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in ERP selection and implementation. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . This article originally appeared on Pemeco's website at www.pemeco.com.
Siemens PLM Software has announced it will offer a free student edition of its Plant Simulation software as part of its Tecnomatix portfolio. Full- or part-time students at any academic level can now download the digital manufacturing application at no charge and to help them develop real-world skills that are highly sought after within the global manufacturing industry.Plant Simulation is a 3D visualization and discrete event simulation software. The student edition can be installed on computers running Microsoft’s Windows operating system to create digital logistics models through the use of built-in object libraries to optimize material flow, resource utilization and operations. The digital model enables students to run experiments and “what-if” scenarios while having access to extensive analysis tools, statistical models and charts to evaluate different manufacturing situations and to prepare them to make fast, reliable decisions in production planning.“With the current crisis in manufacturing – from a global aging workforce, increased product complexity and current education gap – we are expanding the software and resources we provide students and professors,” said Bill Boswell, senior director of partner strategy, Siemens PLM Software. “Our customers need the next generation of engineers to enter the market with digital manufacturing expertise. With free access to Tecnomatix Plant Simulation, students can now develop those skills to address this critical gap.”The Plant Simulation student edition is non-transferable and is not intended for commercial use. To download the free student edition, click here.
Bill Lewis, Senior Marketing Manager at Siemens PLM Software, spoke with our sister publication Design Product News' editorial director Mike Edwards at the recent Siemens PLM Connection conference in Las Vegas. Lewis went into depth on his company's High Definition PLM vision aimed at the customer user experience from Siemens applications such Teamcenter 10.1, NX and Solid Edge, as well as embracing data files from its competitors.
It doesn’t matter how fancy your ERP system is. It doesn’t matter how closely the system’s capabilities match your company’s needs. It doesn’t matter that the ERP system is SaaS, comes with the latest flavours of business intelligence, or can be used by mobile workforces on their smartphones. No, none of this matters if the system isn’t implemented correctly.Do you think that Marin County’s SAP implementation project failed because the software didn’t have the sophistication to manage a single county’s relatively modest informational needs? Heck, SAP powers Johnson and Johnson and its 117,000 employees spread across 250 operating companies in 60 countries.Do you think that Oracle’s PeopleSoft software was incapable of handling Montclair State University’s needs? Dozens of universities and colleges use PeopleSoft to manage their institutional needs.In these cases, failure had little or nothing to do with system capabilities. Implementation efforts were the difference-makers. And, in reading the back-and-forth finger-pointing that’s publicly aired in court filings, it’s apparent that these projects suffered from a lack of leadership.Whether you’ve already selected your software or are in the throes of an ERP selection project, it’s time to stop and reflect. You need to understand what leadership skills your team needs to drive it to a successful implementation outcome. Here are a couple of key characteristics of effective ERP implementation leaders.Your ERP project leader is a trusted advisorIn my previous life as a commercial litigation lawyer, I was bound by a fiduciary duty to always act in my client’s best interests. I not only had to avoid real conflicts of interest, I also had to avoid anything that could be perceived as a conflict of interest.ERP project leaders should be bound by similar obligations. Why? Because conflicts can cause project leaders to make recommendations or take actions that may harm the company. Business leaders aren't ERP experts and they don't pretend to be. They hire ERP project leaders because they're the experts. They rightfully expect that these people will act in their best interests. When so-called "leaders" fail to do so, they've breached a trust.Here's one common example: many vendors and resellers (VARs) have formal or informal referral arrangements with other firms. Under these arrangements, firms typically pay each other (up to 30 per cent of billable fees) to assign staff to each other’s clients' projects. Oftentimes, firms staff their clients' projects with less-than-the-best personnel to earn referral commissions. In my view, ERP project leaders should never have an excuse to use less-than-the-best.Here's what business leaders can do to ensure that their ERP advisors don't bring baggage into a project. They should expressly ask whether the leader is subject to any formal or informal referral arrangements, and the extent to which such arrangements could impact staffing decisions. They should also ask whether the project leader profits from the sale of software, and whether his firm is profiting from software sales to the company. To the extent that it does, and to the extent that your company hasn't yet received an independent opinion about the value of the software, it might want to get one.Your project leader - extensive industry, business and ERP project expertiseYour project leader is charged with the responsibility to drive all stakeholder groups to deliver an on-time, on-budget implementation in accordance with defined performance expectations. You are charged with the responsibility of finding that qualified candidate.Your project leader should boast an impressive track record - one that proves his ability to successfully lead ERP projects. When assessing candidates, it is very important not to confuse functional or technical experience with ERP project management experience. These roles are important, but are no substitute for project leadership expertise. A project leader is akin to an orchestra conductor, while the functional and technical resources are more akin to individual musicians. Who would you want leading your project?Preconceptions and stigmas aside, hiring advisors or consultants to manage ERP implementation projects is effectively an outsourcing arrangement. However, it is fundamentally different from most other types of outsourcing arrangements because companies tend to outsource non-core functions. Although managing ERP projects is not a core competence of most businesses, ERP does cut straight through the core of your business. A poor implementation is capable of crippling – even killing - a business. So, if you’re trusting your ERP advisor with the core of your business, you should make sure that the advisor is competent and looking out for your business’ best interests.Jonathan Gross is vice-president of Pemeco, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in ERP selection and implementation. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . This article originally appeared on Pemeco's website at www.pemeco.com.
For almost three decades, CVG, Inc. and CVG-Avtec Systems, Inc. has offered systems engineering services to the aerospace and defense industries, providing custom hardware, software, algorithms, simulations and analyses to solve its customers' toughest real-world engineering problems. Growing beyond its service origins, CVG-Avtec has grown into a communications systems provider, supplying advanced data communications products to aerospace, telecommunications and defense organizations worldwide.As a provider of advanced communications systems, CVG-Avtec generates a large volume of complex engineering products. This environment inevitably results in a high quantity of engineering changes. CVG-Avtec needed a way to accurately track all of the bill of material (BOM) changes and have the ability to view previous revisions with a clear history of the product’s lifecycle.The company initially tried to track and manage their engineering change/revision process with Excel spreadsheets. Managing detailed change information with Excel spreadsheets did not provide the security or history tracking that CVG-Avtec needed to effectively manage product revisions and the manual entry of information was highly susceptible to data inaccuracies. The company also tried using their existing ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system to manage revisions. Tracking different revisions of the same BOM in their ERP system proved to be time-consuming and tedious, requiring the creation of a different BOM part number for each revision that did not have any relation to each other.CVG-Avtec knew that it needed a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system to meet its goals. Designed to manage detailed engineering information, a PLM system would allow CVG-Avtec to clearly see and understand what the actual changes are from one product revision to the next, as well as implement staged workflows for review and approval on all changes to ensure accuracy, accountability and create structured processes. Prior to selecting a solution, the company evaluated several PLM vendors. It chose the Empower PLM solution from Omnify. “We selected the Empower PLM solution because it offered many of the features we were looking for such as robust search capability, flexible workflow processing, easy import and export of data, and report generation,” says Quang Le, configuration management for CVG-Avtec. “In addition, the tool allows us to create different groups such as Users, Engineers, and Administrators, to control access to certain information.”All of CVG-Avtec’s product data is now centralized and managed within Empower PLM. The company met its primary goal of eliminating the tedious task of managing BOM information within their ERP system that required multiple BOM part numbers for all BOM revisions. With features such as complete BOM revision control, audit trails, BOM comparisons and full BOM hierarchy views, Empower PLM makes CVG-Avtec’s BOM management process much easier and more efficient. All BOM revisions now exist solely in the Empower PLM system with only the current released BOM residing in ERP. Managing revisions in Empower PLM has not only resulted in about 70 per cent time savings compared to managing this process in their ERP system, it also ensures that manufacturing is building to the correct BOM every time. “By keeping all revisions in Empower PLM, I no longer need to worry about changing effective dates on individual BOM parts in our ERP system in order to maintain current and prior revisions,” says Le.  “This not only keeps the BOM in ERP visually clear and simple to read, it has helped us to improve revision tracking and accuracy by an outstanding 100 per cent.”The Empower PLM workflow engine, which provides both parallel and serial processing, has streamlined CVG-Avtec’s engineering change and release process. Using stage-based workflows helps CVG-Avtec to assure appropriate personnel have verified and approved all product changes, permitting only necessary users to view, change, accept, and/or reject changes at any particular point. This guarantees that the change information is accurate and ready for the next phase and creates better resource efficiencies by only including appropriate team members on their specific stage(s). Revision history, markups/redlines, and full audit trail functionality provide CVG-Avtec with visibility into who, what, where, when and why on all changes made to any item in the Empower PLM system. The company has implemented formal release processes for new part requests and BOMs, and is now able to formally document the changes to existing parts and BOMs. This provides CVG-Avtec with the structured processes, history tracking, and accountability they were looking for to meet their product development goals. “Empower PLM has helped improve our configuration management processes tremendously,” says Le. “Having the ability to easily bring up past product revisions, retrieve all information and associated documentation, such as datasheets and vendor quotes, and see all redlines has helped to reduce the time spent searching for information by at least 95 per cent which allows me to do my job much more efficiently and effectively.”  Omnify Software is a provider of business-ready, product lifecycle and change management solutions designed to meet the needs of manufacturers in the electronics, mechanical, medical and defense industries.
By now you know that ERP should be treated as a business project, part of a larger transformation project. You probably also know that ERP success depends on your business' ability to find an ERP vendor that's capable of meeting your business' key requirements. But, you're probably wondering, "What the heck are business requirements?", "When should we define them?" and "Where should we start?".
Autodesk, Inc. has announced the immediate availability of Autodesk PLM 360, the cloud-based alternative to product life cycle management (PLM) that the company unveiled last November at Autodesk University. The solution is meant to be a "powerful, affordable and easy-to-implement solution at a fraction of the cost of traditional PLM systems," the company explained.
SolidWorks product manager Craig Therrien spoke with Manufacturing AUTOMATION's sister publication, Design Product News, at SolidWorks World 2012 in San Diego, Calif. In this exclusive interview, Therrien explains why both designers and supplier-manufacturers can benefit from exploiting the Costing module inside Premium and Professional copies of the SolidWorks 2012 release.
Hayward Gordon designs, manufactures and distributes process equipment, products and systems relating to pumping, mixing, filtration and bulk solids handling. With 78 employees and branch locations in Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal, Hayward Gordon is headquartered in Ontario, home of its custom-built 50,000-sq.ft. office and plant facility, which opened in 2006.
Altium business development manager Lawrence Romine spoke with Manufacturing AUTOMATION sister publication, Design Product News, at SolidWorks World 2012 in San Diego, Calif. Romine outlined how Altium product design software bridges the ECAD-MCAD gap, in conjunction with Mecodes mechatronic collaboration design software and the SolidWorks solid modelling platform.
There is a lot of talk about cloud computing today, and its exponentially growing presence among enterprise technology, particularly product life cycle management (PLM). While PLM "in the cloud" is available today, its adoption can be slow. Customers are having a difficult time deciphering when, how and even whether to use PLM in a cloud. With the type of sensitive information that is managed in PLM, there has been some apprehension about moving to the cloud. Adoption is slowly gaining momentum as more customers see the available options and advantages.
All business leaders want to take their organizations to the next level. In an effort to do so, many have invested heavily in ERP implementations and have suffered through associated business disruptions. Notwithstanding their good intentions, most companies haven't come close to realizing the value achieved by those featured in various ERP case studies. Revenues haven't leapt 20 percent. Operating costs haven't been slashed by 15 percent. And on-time deliveries haven't reached record highs of 95 percent. So, what's holding them back?
InterWrap Industries manufactures and distributes plastic and paper products for packaging and industrial use. You may see its product wrapped around a stack of lumber, a hay bale or a roll of steel. The company has a reputation for relentless research and development, innovative value-added services, and the strategic adoption of technology. Its dynamic personality and commitment to continuous improvement have raised the bar in the industrial packaging industry.

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