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A series of Canadian application stories from leading CAD/CAM, PLM and ERP providers.
Manufacturer uses Siemens PLM Software to create high-performance transmissions in racing time
As enterprise IT organizations continue to adopt green principles, they’ll take another look at technologies that reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions, both within the IT shop and across the business. Enterprises going green will give a nudge to technology markets such as collaboration, videoconferencing, thin-client systems, and data centre outsourcing. With the number of enterprises adopting green IT practices increasing, IT managers will take a hard look at technologies that can help their operations become more efficient and sustainable. Two technology markets – collaboration and visualization software – that are already soaring will get an additional boost from companies implementing a green IT initiative. Collaboration software like team workspaces, Web conferencing and other messaging and social computing tools for individuals and teams is a fast-rising priority for enterprise IT organizations. In 2007, a Forrester survey found that 15 per cent of enterprises in Europe and North America rated implementing a collaboration strategy as a critical priority, and another 34 per cent called it a priority. With enhanced collaboration and teleworking tools, enterprises can cut carbon emissions from employee commuting and reduce their office space footprint. The advent of green IT may provide afterburners to the virtualization market’s rocket ride. The consolidation of application workloads that results from server virtualization is widely recognized as a powerful impetus to green IT initiatives, offering users both operating (power) and capital expense reductions. Other technology markets that don’t have the same strong uptake as collaboration and virtualization may also get a boost from enterprise customers looking to green their IT operations. Videoconferencing has long been a stepchild of IT and communications systems. Expensive bandwidth, balky interfaces, and unsatisfactory user experiences have impeded adoption and use. Green IT may change this picture by introducing environmental responsibility as a new factor in a company’s consideration of videoconferencing systems. New HD-based conference room systems have dramatically upgraded the usability and overall experience of video communication, but the six-figure-per-room price tag of such equipment can be hard to justify. However, reduced travel costs can be substantial, as seen by Cisco, where company travel expenses were reduced by $240 million. The benefits of putting most PC processing power in a managed data centre environment, leaving only a keyboard, monitor, and virtual PC operating system at the desktop – known as thin-client systems – improves the manageability and security of distributed computing, ensuring, for example, that all users have the same software image. Despite the benefits, questions and resistance remain, and the standard "fat-client" desktop PC is still by far the choice of corporate IT. But in that same survey, another 20 per cent to 25 per cent of enterprise respondents were either planning to implement or were interested in thin-client alternatives. Environmental factors such as reduced power consumption and longer product life cycles were among the reasons that these users will take another look at thin-client options. Long envisioned by pundits as the ideal future state of corporate IT infrastructure, data centre outsourcing has never achieved adoption in line with its theoretical attractiveness. Our survey data from 2007 indicates that fewer than one in five corporate IT shops outsource data centre management or mainframe computing operations – and that a quarter of companies that do outsource plan to bring those services back in-house. But this meager adoption may get a lift from green IT. Activity aimed at making corporate data centres energy efficient has reached a fever pitch. For a number of companies, outsourcing part or all of their infrastructure will be the way to tap service providers that are much more energy efficient, thereby reducing energy costs and cutting carbon emissions. Companies taking a second look at data centre outsourcing will follow one – or a mixture – of three primary paths. The first is traditional outsourcing where companies offload their entire data centre infrastructure and personnel to an IT services provider. The second is colocation where companies put customer-owned IT equipment into data centre facilities that service providers. This is an option for companies that want to avoid the capital outlays associated with expanding, optimizing, or building new data centres. The third path is a new umbrella term – cloud computing – that encompasses both new data centre architectures and software-as-a-service (SaaS) business models. Outsourcing application workloads to such cloud computing centres will often give user companies the added fillip of tapping greener energy sources to power their computing services, reducing the carbon footprint of their IT operations. Christopher Mines is a senior vice-president with Forrester Research (www.forrester.com). His research focuses on how green IT will change the design, marketing and operation of IT systems.
In the competitive automotive market, there is no room for error when it comes to product shipments. Materials are typically ordered "just in time," so any delay or errors can stop auto-plant production cold.
Historically, the majority of a manufacturer's costs have been labour. When Henry Ford introduced the moving assembly line in 1913, labour accounted for an estimated 80 per cent of total costs. One of Ford's key beliefs was that labour costs could be greatly reduced by eliminating unnecessary steps from the manufacturing process.Ultimately, machinery accomplished what Ford and many others set out to do: streamline the production of goods and improve efficiencies on the shop floor. Machines could complete the same tasks as humans on an assembly line, but at a much quicker pace and at significantly lower costs. As a result, production and assembly processes required fewer workers and labour costs dropped considerably. Faced with tighter margins and increasing competition, job shops and custom manufacturers today are embracing innovative new ways to take shop floor automation and business management to the next level. Driven by new applications and technology advancements, these solutions are enabling businesses to minimize costly manual labour practices throughout the manufacturing process to obtain a level of efficiency that their predecessors could only have imagined. In addition, these solutions allow shops to maximize other resources, including their existing investments in machines, systems and applications. One of the new tools responsible for driving this level of efficiency on the shop floor is intelligent numerical controls (INC). Capable of running on virtually any machine - from the simplest lathe to multi-function machines running the most advanced algorithms - INCs monitor and measure the output of production data, such as job starts, machine hours and part counts, without manual intervention. These controls provide seamless integration with almost any application and peripheral, including shop management systems, while also interfacing with barcoders, feeders, robots, probes and tool setters to help streamline production.It is critical for job shops and custom manufacturers to have access to this production data, along with employee information and other operational data, in a single system to more effectively manage production. The integration between the shop floor and back office provides a more holistic view of the organization. It enables management to better plan and schedule projects, ensuring that business is always running smoothly and that customer expectations are being met. While computer numerical controls (CNC) have been in use for decades, intelligent numerical controls are a very recent introduction. Based on standard PC motherboard architecture, these controls truly represent the state-of-the-art in numerical control form and function. Whereas previous controls relied on hard-wired control mechanisms, intelligent controls rely on software. The difference is significant. For example, every machine purchased with CNC controls was, in essence, obsolete the day it was installed. It could be upgraded with new controls, of course, but this was extremely expensive and time consuming. In contrast, intelligent controls are upgradeable simply by installing new software. Should additional computing horsepower ever be required, the components of the intelligent control are as easy to upgrade as the components of any personal computer.The true value of intelligent numerical controls is apparent when they are integrated with an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system on the back end to automate the collection of production data and enable communication with business and production systems on the shop floor. Production data can come directly off machines into the ERP system, providing a level of accuracy unattainable through traditional data entry methods. Moreover, by automating this process, job shops can always have the most up-to-date data in real time, and they can also better control headcount and costs.ERP integration with INC controls offers powerful additions to a manufacturer's competitive arsenal. Far more than simply reporting machine run times and parts produced, the integration of ERP and INC systems helps to drive all aspects of manufacturing effectiveness and efficiency. The product of ERP/INC integration can be as basic as real-time reporting of machine data to the ERP system. However, since INC is a software-based environment, manufacturers can now achieve unprecedented synergy between not only the INC and ERP systems, but also a wide range of affiliated applications, including robotic controls, automated tool management, metrology, cooling systems, material feeders and tool setters. Achievement of such integration typically involves the use of an application program interface (API). Well-designed intelligent numerical control software includes not only a resident API, but also a well-documented, easy-to-use .NET interface. With these components in place, integration between multiple systems is a relatively straightforward process. One of the benefits of the integration shown in Diagram 1, is real-time data transfer from the machine to company management. Among the possible data being transferred are:• Job setup time (accurate tracking of setup time and costs);• Job starts and stops (machine time costs, maintenance schedules, tool changes);• Machine operator time (accurate labour tracking, not only by work centre but by job); and • Material usage (pulling material from inventory within the ERP system as material is depleted on the job).Such basic integrations offer all of the advantages you would expect, including reduced human error and improved accuracy. Perhaps most important is the instant addition of the data to the manufacturer's ERP system. This empowers managerial decision making. Any purchasing manager responsible for raw materials can tell you how important that becomes during times of material shortages or price volatility. While the basic integration of ERP and intelligent controls is powerful, imagine what you can do by taking the concept one step further. In Diagram 2, the same use of the API is applied to integrate with several other systems in the work cell. The diagram shows tool usage data flowing from the automated tool crib, through the API, into the intelligent control, and out to the ERP system. We also see that the tool usage data are being combined with tool wear data from a metrology system. The entire overall system is now working more effectively and efficiently than ever before. For example, tool wear data combine with tool availability data. The metrology system authorizes the automated tool crib to issue new tools when they are needed. Purchase orders are automatically issued, just-in-time, based on rules set up within the ERP system. Costs are tracked more accurately than ever before, and finite adjustments to the system are now possible. In this example, we've only leveraged the intelligent control to integrate ERP with the tool crib, metrology, machine data, material usage and labour. Similar integration, based on the straightforward use of the intelligent control's API, greatly broadens the possibilities. As shown in Diagram 3, an entire manufacturing operation can now be integrated. Integrating two systems, however, can be problematic, and integrating three or more can be overwhelming. But history shows that such integration is possible. Consider, for example, the integration of your PDA with your cell phone and laptop. This was originally looked at as an impossible dream until the appropriate APIs were developed. Now, such integration is commonplace. It has changed the way we do business and the way we live. The integration of the manufacturing environment, made possible through the use of intelligent numerical controls and ERP, holds similar promise. At the very least, it will change the way we manufacture. Given the history of manufacturing breakthroughs, it could just change our world.Dan Deanovic is the director of development for Exact JobBOSS, a provider of job shop software.
Experts at London, Ont.'s Integrated Manufacturing Technologies Institute bridge the gap between research and reality
Facing substantial costs associated with outsourcing, chemical and pharmaceutical firm Merck KgaA turned to a computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) system to cut production time by 50 per cent at its manufacturing facility in Darmstadt, Germany. Previously, the company used a computer-aided design (CAD) system to design and manufacture fixtures and components for special machines. This method allowed the company to define the geometry of complicated 3D components, but a numerical control (NC) programming bottleneck made it impossible to produce components with anything other than the simplest contours. As a result, the company had to send more of its machining workload out to suppliers at a cost that was considerably higher than doing the job in-house.Merck manufacturing managers recognized that the lack of efficiency in the computer numerically controlled (CNC) programming process was becoming a major problem. They decided to implement a CAM system that could tightly integrate with the existing CAD system, Solid Edge, and selected Esprit from DP Technology. The solution automatically recognizes the CAD attributes and then creates the tool path necessary to machine the given feature, eliminating the time and potential for error involved in entering them manually. The CAM system also allows the programmer to automatically update the previously defined tool path based on new or modified geometry. The savings"The time required for programming has been reduced so significantly that it has cut the typical time to produce parts by about half," said Achim Goettmann, CAD/CAM programmer for Merck. For example, the CAM system programs a part called a release chamber, which has a number of holes and cylinders that are used to make a neurotransmitter release with slices of organic materials. "We could have produced the program for this part on a machine controller but it would have taken a long time to define the machining parameters for each of the holes and cylinders," Goettmann said. "Instead, when we read the file into Esprit, the software understood each of the features and automatically set up the machining parameters."The system has also enabled the company to produce parts that it previously had to outsource. For example, a pill controller is used to present pills at various angles so that they can be visually inspected. The grooves that the pills slide in are very complicated 3D contours. The part is excited and the resulting vibrations move the pills along the slots. The middle section has a unique shape controlled by the size and form of the pills being inspected. The creation of the CNC program for this part was the first job done with the system and was intended to determine whether the CAM system was the right choice. "Despite the complexity of the geometry, this part was very easy to program," Goettmann explained. "We defined the design of the part in the CAD system and pushed a button to move the geometry into Esprit. The CAM system recognized the standard features such as the holes and bosses. Then I defined the contoured slots as toolpaths. The entire part took only a single day to design and program. Then we set the job up to run unattended on a machining centre overnight and we had good parts the next morning."The CAM system recognizes features contained in the solid model and automatically adjusts such information as the diameter and depth of holes that need to be drilled. The company saved additional time by creating tool libraries inside the CAM system. These include all of the cutting tools that are used on a regular basis and "sync lists" that define machine setup parameters. The company also uses the "process manager" to define machining operations that are performed on a regular basis so they can be inserted into any new program. "The bottom line," said Goettmann, "is that the job of the programmer has changed from manually entering the code line by line and hoping that an error wasnÃt made, to supervising the work of the computer and making high-level decisions about the best way to machine the part."Another benefit, said Goettmann, is that "part complexity is no longer a criterion for manufacturing outside Merck, so we have been able to dramatically reduce subcontracting expenses. By keeping complicated jobs inside, we also have greatly reduced the potential for confusion and misunderstanding between design and manufacturing."Jerry Fireman is the president of Structured Information, a technical communications company based in Lexington, Mass.
Motor & Drive Systems 2019
January 23-24, 2019
2019 Automation and Technical Showcase
February 4, 2019
ARC World Industry Forum
February 4-7, 2019
Hannover Messe 2019
April 1-5, 2019
April 8-11, 2019
Advanced Design & Manufacturing (ADM) Canada
June 4-6, 2019