The Era of Advanced Manufacturing
manufacturingtechnologyinsights

The Era of Advanced Manufacturing

By Viren Joshi, CEO and President at Sigma Electric Manufacturing Corporation

Viren Joshi, CEO and President at Sigma Electric Manufacturing Corporation

Global leaders of precision die cast & sand cast metal products and Investment cast and sub-assemblies in the manufacturing industry

Advanced Manufacturing

The future of global manufacturing is being shaped by the introduction of a host of advanced manufacturing programs. From augmented reality, predictive analytics, and additive manufacturing to digital design, advanced robotics, and new materials, innovation in manufacturing is being rapidly introduced to enhance organizational competitiveness and drive economic prosperity. Since the last one decade, the derangement for competitive advantage in manufacturing has largely revolved around finding new sources of low-cost labour. Since then, the cost has been rising at a faster pace and manufacturers are under intense pressure to find methods to improve their competitive position.

"Leading edge global manufacturers are already using some of these most advanced technologies to make high precision components"

Technological development will be the change agent for the next wave of manufacturing progression over the following decade, which will be one of the most profound revolutions ever seen in our history. This development, today known as Industry 4.0,and expected to have further advanced variants, is characterized by cyber-physical systems (CPS) and dynamic data processes that use massive amounts of data to drive smart machines. A confluence of forces—falling prices and rising performance of enabling hardware and software, the digitization of industry, increasing connectivity, and mounting pressure on manufacturers to be more flexible and eco-friendly— is likely to accelerate adoption of the future advanced manufacturing technologies.

The term “advanced manufacturing” has been around for decades and means many things to many people. At Sigma, we define advanced manufacturing as a set of highly flexible, automated, data-enabled, cost-effective manufacturing processes, incorporating cutting-edge technologies like robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), real time data analytics, IoT, 3D printing, computer aided engineering software (CAE) and computer aided design (CAD), cloud computing, machine learning (ML) and enhanced machine to machine learning (M2M) communications, and more. This kind of advanced manufacturing programs offer a range of benefits that taken together will redefine the economics of global-manufacturing competitiveness in most industries. In fact, leading edge manufacturers are already using some of these most advanced technologies to make high precision components.

Advanced manufacturing technologies can augment productivity in a number of ways. They dramatically increase flexibility by making it feasible for manufacturers to offer customers the option of “easy to do business with’ or have it their way.” Manufacturers can make products in small batches for specific customers; adjust production lines in response to design changes, and even speed-up time to market by generating prototypes very fast.

Advanced-manufacturing technologies promote innovation by allowing manufacturers to develop new products that can be cost competitive in comparison with conventional processes. These processes are environment friendly because they often consume fewer raw materials and generate less scrap. They improve safety as well by ensure workers are exposed to fewer hazardous materials. At Sigma, we believe that these technological tools will have the greatest potential to influence the manufacturing landscape and will enhance productivity in the coming years. The advancements in manufacturing implemented at Sigma are:

Autonomous Robots:

A new generation of automation systems links industrial robots with control systems through information technology (IT). New robotic and automation systems equipped with standardized interfaces and sensors are beginning to complement and eliminate human labor in many processes. This enables us to cost-effectively produce items on a smaller scale and improves the ability to enhance quality. At Sigma, we implemented twenty-two such robotic automations which has resulted in over 15% productivity enhancement over the last two years.

Real-Time Monitoring and Visualization

Manufacturing hardware is linked together and machines are able to communicate with one another and automatically adjust production based on data generated by sensors resulting in improved productivity.

Robotic IOT Painting Facility

It’s not unusual to control lighting, temperature, and other mechanical components automatically or remotely. With the Internet of Things (IoT) making it possible to access data on about everything from temperature to equipment effectiveness in real-time, it’s easier than ever to control and monitor a facility remotely. The data collected by the IoT allows facility management to be more effective in preventing maintenance issues and reduces the time spent on repairs and maintenance tasks. We have completed this installation in our recently opened new Aluminium die casting facility in India.

Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV)

Automated Guided Vehicles are used to consistently and predictably transport material to places that might otherwise be serviced by fork lift trucks, conveyors, or manual cart transport. They are typically used where high repetitive movement of material is required, but where little or no human decision-making skill is required to perform the movement. They are especially useful in serving processes where change is constant, and barriers such as conveyors are undesirable. In order to minimize the excess transportation / motion (waste) and to enhance safety and reduce fatigue to human, we have successfully completed the trials and five AGVs are being installed in our manufacturing facilities

Automated-Pick and Place for Palletization

In the past decade, the automated end offline palletizing of same package types has become proven technology. The use of an articulated robot enables the implementation of new innovative robot-based concepts for the high speed in line palletizing. With form fitting gripper systems, the incoming packages are moved actively and accurately into the correct target positions. Hereby the robot motion is synchronized with the conveyor speed thus allowing a reliable layer forming process. We have planned that all assembly lines at Sigma will be equipped with automated pick and place palletization by 2020.

Condition Based Monitoring (CBM)

Condition Based Monitoring is a type of predictive maintenance that involves using sensors to measure the status of an asset overtime while it is in operation. The online data collected can be used to establish trends, predict failure, and calculate the remaining life of asset. CBM has a number of benefits. It helps to ensure the equipment reliability and worker safety, and also reduces failure rates and unscheduled downtimes. Moreover, because maintenance activities are scheduled ahead of time, CBM tends to be less costly than preventive maintenance. Parameters such as Vibrations on the asset, temperature, noise etc. can be monitored to predict failures that may occur due to abnormal conditions.

At Sigma, we have installed smart sensors on all compressors to monitor the vibrations, temperature and noise pattern. All Special Purpose Machines with critical motors and spindles are equipped with smart sensors under Online Condition Based Monitoring. This has benefited us in reduction of spares cost by 10%, enhancing the life of critical spares per manufacturers’ specifications.

Automatic Gauging System (AGS)

Automatic Gauging Systems are PLC / CNC controlled automatic measurement programs which cater to the emerging needs of Industry 4.0. In AGS, measurement systems are offered with customized design suitable for measurement of multiple parameters in a single operation. Any parameter which is out of specification is identified and auto correction of the parameter is suggested by the PLC on the monitoring screen. These are offered with non-contact type air gauging, laser sensors or contact type precision inductive probes, or combination of air gauging and laser sensors. At Sigma, we have installed Automatic Gauging System on several critical production lines which has improved our quality levels by over 20%.

TPM (Total Productive Maintenance): Supporting Tool to Advanced Manufacturing

TPM emphasizes proactive and preventative maintenance to maximize the operational efficiency of equipment. It blurs the distinction between the roles of production and maintenance by placing a strong emphasis on empowering operators to help maintain their equipment. The implementation of a TPM program creates a shared responsibility for equipment that encourages greater involvement by plant floor workers. In the right environment, this can be very effective in improving productivity (increasing up time, reducing cycle times, and eliminating defects). Sigma has been practicing TPM for the past few years with the aim to cover over 1000 machine tools and have witnessed significant improvement in eliminating losses and breakdown reduction. It has resulted in significant productivity enhancement and quality improvement. AI combined with say CNC machines has been used for self-diagnosis, so that AI will analyse and resolve the fault

Conclusion

We are at the stage of manufacturing revolution where collaborative robots or ‘cobots’ will work alongside human beings. Already robots are producing other robots in automated plants. These advanced technologies are showing impressive results in plants across the globe. These systems are capital intensive but generally the payback makes them attractive. We need to adopt the mind-set of a global manufacturing warrior, adapting to new skills and methods. The future is here and we must be willing to embrace it.

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