In an increasing number of factories now, all equipment, materials and operator actions are scanned via bar code systems connected to the cloud MES platform, enforcing compliance at every step. This ensures the highest level of quality and predictability because processes are pre-programmed. Replication in the cloud validates all activity, ensuring compliance. If a product fails an inspection or a test, it is routed out of the main process flow and repaired. It is then reinserted back at the point before the failure occurred to ensure it passes the test it originally failed.
Several companies have now connected some or all their manufacturing equipment to a local or cloud network. This includes bar code scanners and label printers at individual workstations and operator badge scanning. With this connectivity and the right programming, these smart manufacturing systems, and the data running through them, result in a “forced quality framework” that eliminates some of the most common production errors. Resolution #3: M2M, the Cloud, and Industry 4.0 Will Simplify Use of Automated Warehouses for Improved Productivity
Large electronics manufacturers may build thousands of products, such as printed circuit board assemblies, every hour. Keeping surface mount technology (SMT) lines fed with components is critical. Running out of materials triggers immediate downtime, hurting productivity, and resulting in significant financial impact to the manufacturer.
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Traditionally, technicians would monitor SMT equipment to see when materials are running low. Now, companies are implementing closed loop systems to ensure all required components are delivered to production at the right time — leveraging cloud-based MES solutions, M2M connectivity and Machine-to-Human communication.
In some factories we work with, an SMT machine automatically sends a signal to the MES when a component needs to be replenished; the MES in turn forwards it to the automated warehouse system. The system prioritizes the order, and the operator locates the component in the warehouse and triggers the replenishment procedure in the inventory management system. The component is then placed at a collection station and an autonomous guided vehicle (AGV) collects and transports it to the SMT line where it is needed. When the AGV leaves the stockroom, the technician is alerted via text so that he or she is ready at the SMT line to load the material when it arrives at SMT line.
This sort of process, relatively simple when the right data connections are in place, minimizes line down situations, and enables “automated backflushing” of components for better materials and inventory management. These capabilities clearly benefit supply chain and inventory management, and can be programmed to fit specific shop floor scenarios.
Apply manufacturing technology the right way in 2019
For many manufacturers, change equals risk. Disruption in their supply chain or factories can cost millions, and also impact a brand or a company’s reputation. Given this, many manufacturers are understandably reluctant to embrace far-reaching changes to their traditional industrial infrastructure and processes. However, manufacturers can start down this path by resetting expectations and asking their personnel to think differently.
With the examples described above, we’ve seen the power of new, but now proven manufacturing systems. This technology has been implemented by some companies already, and presents an opportunity for others in 2019.
Everyone – including executive teams – must recognize that the path to digital manufacturing is going to be different than previous operational changes. In the factory of the future, technology, including the right information technology, is as vital as continuous improvement.