The organiser of EuroBLECH, Mack Brooks Exhibitions, has launched a new online event for the international sheet metal working community—the EuroBLECH Digital Innovation Summit, in order to help the industry pave and shape the way back to recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. Hosted online from 27 – 30 October 2020, it will provide a dedicated virtual marketplace for innovative manufacturing solutions, knowledge transfer and worldwide business contacts in a new online format. At the same time, it conveniently bridges the big wait for the physical EuroBLECH event which has been postponed to March 2021. Visitors can participate for free and register online from the beginning of October.
DISCOVER, CONNECT and LEARN: Virtual summit offers three-in-one experience
The EuroBLECH Digital Innovation Summit is a four-day online trading, networking and webinar event for professionals from the entire sheet metal working technology chain. Visitors can virtually meet relevant technology suppliers, watch informative product presentations, follow talks and webinars on current industry issues, and ultimately source the best technical solutions for their manufacturing processes.
DISCOVER: Virtual Presentations in the Innovation Theatre, Product Showcases and Exhibitor Directory
The Virtual Presentation Theatre, also known as the Innovation Theatre features 15-minute exhibitor presentations on their latest product innovations and technologies, followed by a live Q&A session. Virtual Product Showcases create a virtual stand experience and allow visitors to explore new products and services in more detail. The Exhibitor Directory offers an easy starting point to browse the full EuroBLECH exhibitor list by name. A simple click leads to further exhibitor information, including product showcases, product videos, contact information, and more.
CONNECT: Networking and Virtual Meetings with Suppliers
A new matchmaking system powered by the latest AI technology helps suppliers and buyers make smart networking decisions by suggesting relevant people to meet. Participants can tailor their networking activities by requesting and pre-scheduling their meetings before the event. Arranging for a meeting is very easy and intuitive, with no third-party software required.
LEARN: Daily Webinars on the latest industry and technology trends
A daily programme of webinars by industry experts provides an opportunity to gain useful insights into the latest market developments as well as technical expertise concerning new industry applications and solutions. A special series with focus on the sheet metal working industry in key geographical areas offers an in-depth analysis on the current challenges and strategies to adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic. All webinars feature short presentations, followed by a live Q&A session. Further details on topics and speakers will be published soon.
How the Covid-19 crisis sparks innovation in sheet metal working
The EuroBLECH Digital Innovation Summit comes at a crucial time when sheet metal production has to deal with the massive impact of the global pandemic and its disruption to industrial production in general. The “new normal” requires companies to adapt to new regulations and restrictions, such as social distancing rules, and to master an increasingly volatile market with sudden drops and surges in demand. All this poses a huge challenge for an industry that traditionally operates with rather long lead times and complex supply chains.
“The key for post-crisis growth is agility, and this includes the knowledge and ability to find the right balance between just-in-time, lean inventory, and resilience”, explains Evelyn Warwick. “The industry will recover, but companies who want to survive and ultimately thrive really need to use the coming months to adapt and strengthen for the future. In fact, this crisis is a big moment for innovation, as barriers that once took years to overcome will become irrelevant within a matter of weeks, opening up new opportunities for those willing to adapt and meet shifting customer needs.”
Industry experts agree that the rise of formerly disruptive forces, in particular digitalisation, robotics and automation, has been significantly accelerated by the current crisis. The survival and long-term success of manufacturers will ultimately depend on how quickly they can deploy this new technology to boost their productivity and ensure full scalability of their operations.
The future of manufacturing is brimming with opportunity—it is full of new technologies designed to reduce waste and maximise process efficiency and flexibility through software and hardware capabilities. Article by Rahav Madvil, Simulation Product Manager for Siemens Digital Industries Software, and Noam Ribon, Senior Business Consultant at Siemens Digital Industries Software.
Industrial manufacturing as a sector has been an early adopter of robotics and other forms of technological improvements for decades. Robotics have been one of the best options to increase production efficiency for large and often highly repetitive manufacturing processes. But the era of producing large quantities of just a few products with low mix is coming to an end, giving way to increased product personalisation requiring a more flexible production process with less waste than ever before.
Fortunately, the future of manufacturing is brimming with opportunity. It is full of new technologies designed to reduce waste and maximise process efficiency and flexibility through software and hardware capabilities. Almost all of this promise is built upon a foundation of digital transformation – and the digital twin. Everything from raw material tracking to process optimisations to hardware selection stem from insights gained from the digital twin and a closed-loop optimisation of entire facilities.
The most difficult aspect of any change to operation are the inevitable changes to process—they are expensive twice over, because nothing is being produced and resources are still being consumed. An autonomous transport initiative squarely addresses this, relying on a few, key technologies to make it happen.
The Power of Virtual Commissioning
Creating a comprehensive digital twin of your production process can greatly reduce downtime for new machines, new processes and new products. Let’s say you need to install a new CNC station. What if the processes for this new machine could be validated before it ever arrived on the production floor by using the digital twin of the production line? Less time could be spent integrating the new component into the overall production lines through line integration as a part of virtual commissioning. Available today, virtual commissioning is the critical underpinning to an efficient production environment enabling a closed-loop iterative optimisation of the entire facility.
Virtual commissioning is vital, not only for testing software controls, but for adding insight to the efficiency of the controls strategy. It is also essential for embarking on the advanced robotics journey, laying the groundwork for implementing greater process automation and flexibility needed to efficiently implement tomorrow’s manufacturing technologies today.
Simulate Everything Upfront
One of the best options to minimise risk when updating an existing process or making a new one is to simulate the new operations. It nearly eliminates upfront investment in machinery before knowing whether the new process will operate as expected on the shop floor. For new digitalisation efforts, this is where a digital twin should be established for the process. Without a comprehensive study of the actions within a plant new equipment could be under-utilised leading to lost investment.
Just as important is the implementation of IoT devices, that serve to close the loop between the digital twin and the physical processes once the new processes have been initiated. Although these devices are often embedded in new production equipment, but it is important to consider how to best maximise the voluminous data they generate to gain crucial insight into the production process.
Next Generation Programming
Another route to maximising production time even when supporting a high product mix is to expedite the reprogramming of the robotics in use on the factory floor. Without integrated robotic control, updating a robotic arm for a new task can be incredibly time-consuming. It needs to be taken offline, reprogrammed, validated and restarted, for each robot that will handle the new processes.
Siemens Digital Industries Software bring flexibility to robotic arms by enabling automation for flexible products.
All that changes by integrating the programmable logic controllers for these robots into the comprehensive digital twin. Much of this process can be streamlined. Does a bolt spacing on a phone need to be shifted slightly to accommodate the latest 5G wireless antenna? If the entire fleet of robots working on that production line could understand the change, that would save many hours across multiple engineering and production teams. Engineers simply need to let the robots know of the change and any differences in manufacturing tolerances can be accounted for with closed loop sensing through visual or force feedback. With force feedback within the robotic arm, any force exerted over a defined threshold can initiate a pause to the robotic arm’s actions and readjust positioning to address the perceived problem. Instead of shutting them down for reprogramming, all the robots working on the project can adjust independently to subtle changes.
Although this might sound like some futuristic scenario, task-based programming has already been tested in the real world. In a partnership between AtriMinds and B/S/H/, Siemens Digital Industries Software helped bring flexibility to robotic arms by enabling automation for flexible products. Previously, one of the largest hurdles to automating assembly was how to work with flexible components. Traditional robotics rigidly follow predefined movements, so if something were to inadvertently shift, the whole assembly could be destroyed. But by implementing force sensing on the robotic arms, there is an almost intuitive understanding of the parts and how the robot is interacting with the workpiece at its station. If a hole is slightly out of place on a panel, the input from force sensors can help the robot redirect its movement and thread a screw through without complex, preprogrammed instructions for misalignment scenarios.
Optimising Production with Autonomous Robotics
Simulation, virtual commissioning and advanced robotics programming lay the foundation for a fully flexible production floor, but automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) weave it all together and bring it to life. Historically, conveyor belts acted as the material flow paths on a shop floor. They efficiently move product from point A to point B but require semi-static positioning. Even mobile conveyor systems, common in logistics work, take time to move and to ensure a safe path for product.
Heatmap from simulating AGV and AMR activity on a manufacturing floor.
In contrast, AGVs and AMRs can change their path during transit. This saves time that would have been spent readjusting existing features, this is critical for a flexible production environment. Imagine a production floor, making two distinct version of a product. For version one, the bolts need to be added before the secondary assembly is added, while in version two bolts cannot be added until after the sub-assembly has been mounted. In a static conveyor facility, this could be completed given enough conveyor length and a sorting mechanism. Beyond a couple variations to the production sequence the factory would fill up with conveyor loops that only transport a few products at a time, defeating one of the main goals of the technology But with a fleet of AGVs or AMRs moving materials and work pieces throughout the facility, products can be rerouted and the sequence reordered to another machine. Or, in the case of highly customised consumer products, components could be routed to the best machine for the task. It can account for how much time is required to switch over to the new process, how many units can it produce compared to other machines, and even the impact of a re-route on other processes on the shop floor.
Reaping the Benefits of Tomorrow’s Robotics Today
Achieving all this requires a highly integrated production process. To guarantee a product is still made correctly during an automated process change, it needs to be simulated beforehand using a digital twin. To certify the product can be made in the new location, the production machine needs to be validated for the task using virtual commissioning. And to ensure the slightly different parts don’t produce errors in the process, the machines themselves need to be flexible to adapt to in real time to changing conditions with AGVs and AMRs.
Properly managing all these variables can have an incredibly positive effect on process performance, in fact it can produce up to a 40 percent improvement in labour productivity, according to a 2020 McKinsey study. Understanding the shop floor is an invaluable proposition and will continue to net savings and improvements through the life of the facility, even making it last longer by reducing maintenance overhead and costs with the improved condition monitoring of extensive IoT and the comprehensive digital twin.
The new “Hoffmann Group Connected Tools (HCT)” product family Hoffmann Group is driving digitalisation forwards in the field of tooling. The range includes Bluetooth-capable tools which at the push of a button send measured values directly to a PC application such as Excel, a tablet or the newly developed HCT smartphone app. The GARANT IP67 HCT digital caliper with Bluetooth connection has now been launched on the market as the first HCT product. This tool is also available as a depth gauge. The free HCT app is now available for download from the App Store and Google Play.
GARANT Digitaler Messschieber IP67 HCT
The new Hoffmann Group Connected Tools link the analogue and digital tooling worlds without any additional software or dongle. The tools send measurement data via Bluetooth over a range of up to 15 metres and thus make documentation particularly convenient. At the same time they improve quality management because they eliminate errors arising from manual data transmission.
The Hoffmann Group has also developed the HCT smartphone app for users who place a special value on mobile working. The app provides an overview of up to eight HCT tools. It reliably saves newly recorded measurement results and permits the export of the measured data including tool name, measurement date, unit and target value in CSV format for further processing in any PC application such as Excel or Word. The app can also display values both in the metric system and in inches.
The new GARANT IP67 HCT digital caliper not only has sophisticated functions but also features an outstanding design. That was confirmed by the jury of the prestigious Red Dot Award in 2019: The GARANT IP67 digital caliper provides a large LCD display on which the measured values are displayed at an easily legible height of 11.5 millimetres. The measurement system is embedded in a clearly structured stainless steel body sheathed in an ergonomically shaped enclosure with Santoprene coating. This provides the necessary grip for working in dusty, wet or oily environments. After 10 minutes the system automatically switches into power-saving mode. Any slight movement reactivates it and the last measured value and the zero point are displayed. This saves energy. The tool satisfies protection class IP67 and is protected against dust, water, coolant and oil.
Walter is inviting customers and others interested in the company to a digital event about “Seeing opportunities in solutions” on 15th and 16th September 2020. Participants can experience Walter.live: The tool manufacturer will present innovative solutions and precision tools for particular challenges in the machining of metals.
Richard Harris, President of Walter, says: “The most important trade fairs aren’t happening this year. For our customer, our partners and for us, these are important industry meeting places – not only to present new products, but also in terms of personal contact and exchange. That is why we decided to host a virtual trade fair experience in 2020: At Walter.live, we are not just presenting our new products and services on our own platform, but also paying a visit to the Walter Technology Center via live stream and offering live sessions with our Walter experts – in a way that is solution-oriented, compact, live and digital.”
During the online event, the machining specialist will present an innovation in digitalisation, which will make it particularly easy for customers to choose the right tools for their individual machining processes. Walter offers concrete solutions enabling customers to speed up planning processes, design tool-management processes to be more efficient and save costs. Participants will also be able to see new precision tools, for example for grooving and milling, live in action. In addition, the company will present solutions for analysing, monitoring and improving machining processes.
Customers and others interested can go to https://www.walterlive.com to sign up for the German Walter.live customer event on 15th September 2020 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. or register for individual topics. The event will be held in English and Italianon 16th September 2020 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Digitalisation at the enterprise level has proven to be critical to bringing production back online safely, quickly and with greater resilience in preparation for crises of the future. By Nand Kochhar, vice president of Automotive and Transportation Industry Strategy for Siemens Digital Industries Software.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put exceptional strain on manufacturing facilities in the automotive industry. While all parts of the automotive enterprise have been impacted, manufacturing facilities have proven especially vulnerable because of the crucial link that human operators form in the vehicle production chain (Figure 1). Taking action to protect the health of these employees is challenging.
Figure 1: Human operators perform critical tasks in the vehicle production chain, making automotive production facilities especially vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today’s production lines were designed and optimised for a pre-pandemic world. Operators often worked in close physical proximity and shared tools, parts bins and other resources to complete their tasks. The measures necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, of course, invalidated many aspects of these production designs and optimisations.
The Challenges of Redesigning Production Facilities
Automotive companies had to quickly modify and adapt their production facilities to ensure the safety of their employees. While these changes are necessary, they can dramatically impact efficiency and output in a production facility. For example, production stations have to be redistributed across a production line to ensure that human operators remain at least six feet apart at all times during the performance of their duties. In addition, each operator must have their own tools and parts bins to prevent the spread of the disease via mutual contact with a surface or object. While seemingly small, these changes can greatly influence how human operators perform their duties, often slowing them down. Just the increased spacing between production stations can slow production down.
The changeover of employees between shifts also presents safety challenges. Manufacturers will need to ensure that workers are healthy when they arrive to work, and allow extra time between shifts to thoroughly clean stations and tools. These extended shift changes result in more production downtime and potentially could require plants to reduce the number of shifts they run in a day, further impacting productivity.
These and other effects of the pandemic have pushed companies to turn toward advanced manufacturing technologies to mitigate the shortcomings of socially distanced production lines and stations. Novel applications of technologies such as virtual reality, advanced robotics and additive manufacturing are enabling safer and more productive manufacturing facilities. Automated guided vehicles (AGVs), for example, can replace shared parts bins, delivering materials to production stations quickly and efficiently while facilitating physical distancing among human operators (Figure 2).
Figure 2: AGVs can help maintain physical distance between human operators by automating material delivery and other logistics tasks.
While these technological innovations have provided some relief, integrating them with existing facilities can create additional challenges. The implementation of new production processes or technologies can be costly. The redesigned production lines also must be tested, verified and validated to avoid issues as production comes back online. This is especially true at the junctures where old and new processes interact. Any problems that occur can lead to schedule overruns, delays in production ramp-up and increased cost.
It is not just original equipment manufacturers (OEMS) conforming to the new constraints of operating in response to a global pandemic. As OEMs determine how to modify their production design and strategy to account for social distancing measures, their suppliers, including Tier 1 and 2, are engaged in the same exercise. As all these companies adapt, digitalisation at the enterprise level has proven to be critical to bringing production back online safely, quickly and with greater resilience in preparation for crises of the future.
Digitalisation Enables a Smarter Way Forward
Digitalisation has helped companies to adapt their production facilities quickly to ensure social distancing and protect employee health. Modern software solutions enable production engineers to virtually plan and design production stations, lines and even entire facilities before physically implementing any changes (Figure 3). The virtual copy of a station, line or facility, known as a digital twin, can then be simulated to verify, validate, troubleshoot and optimise production designs for safety and efficiency before any machinery is commissioned or facilities reorganised. Virtual production planning and design solutions can even simulate human operators, enabling the production design to account for ergonomics and physical distancing requirements.
Figure 3: Digital manufacturing engineering solutions enable production facilities to be re-designed virtually. Recently, Siemens announced a new solution that helps manufacturers to simulate and manage employee exposure risks while enabling productivity throughout their facilities.
As facilities come back online and production ramps up, digital manufacturing operations management solutions have helped companies monitor and optimise the operation of their facilities. These solutions can gather production data from multiple sources and aggregate it into useful, contextualised reports. This data can then drive production scheduling optimisations, quality enhancements and more.
A robust digitalisation strategy, however, should extend beyond production design and management. Integrated solutions from product and production design through product lifecycle management (PLM), manufacturing operations management (MOM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) create a complete digital thread from product design into the supply chain. Such a comprehensive digital thread can help companies turn complexity, whether from operating during a pandemic or from the requirements of next generation products, into competitive advantage by streamlining operations and improving collaboration throughout their supply chains.
In particular, enabling more frequent and effective collaboration throughout the supply chain will be critical as OEMs and suppliers continue to recover production output and prepare for unforeseen future disruptions. Better communication among partners also will help enable OEMs and their suppliers to coordinate the ramp-up of production capabilities with market demand to avoid both excesses and shortages of product. Collaboration also facilitates the sharing of experiences and key lessons learned while adapting to the pandemic. These experiences can help inform disaster recovery plans, allowing companies to incorporate a realistic estimation of how they will react to emergency situations.
Building in Resilience Through Digitalisation
The COVID-19 pandemic has automotive manufacturing facilities and employees under particular strain. As the pandemic has progressed, automotive OEMs and suppliers have been challenged to reorganise and redesign their manufacturing facilities to keep their employees safe and healthy. Redesigning a production facility, however, is extremely difficult, and this is especially true under the pressure of responding to a major crisis.
Throughout the ongoing process of redesigning and restarting automotive manufacturing facilities, digitalisation has proven key to achieving safe and efficient production environments. Digitalised production design and simulation solutions enable engineers to quickly design and verify new configurations for production lines and stations, while MOM, PLM and ERP solutions enable greater insight into facility performance and supply chain logistics. Digitalisation has also helped automotive companies come together in a time of crisis to improve collaboration and learn from others’ experiences. As the industry continues to overcome the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lessons learned from these new partnerships will help the entire automotive industry become more resilient as they prepare for the challenges of tomorrow.
Digitalisation and measurement made it possible to modify mould inserts and allow them to be exchanged, thus avoiding downtime for this manufacturer. Article by GOM.
Triple Scan Principle. (Image source: Lometec)
In the past, measurement service provider Lometec had ‘merely’ conducted some workpiece first-sampling for one of its customers, a well-known medium-sized plastics processor. But when an urgently needed, brand-new tool suddenly failed, the metrologists moved out on a special mission: Delivering overnight service, they digitalised the mould tools using GOM scanning systems so that precise, rapid reworking was possible. The impending default on delivery was averted.
Lometec’s customer produces, among other things, thermoplastic weather-proof housings designed for use in extreme climates. When the quantities in demand began exceeding the existing tool’s capacities, the company commissioned construction of a second, identical tool—and that’s where the trouble began.
Tool Failure After Passing First Sampling
At first, everything was looking hunky-dory: The new tool was delivered and worked just fine, as verified by Lometec as part of first sampling of the housing. The 3D measurement service sampled 125 parts and recorded the results in the initial sample test report (ISTR). Process capability was validated and the plastics processor was able to produce with two tools at once, doubling output as desired.
But shortly after starting mass production with the second tool, it proved prone to faults: Sliders and inserts began seizing. The tool manufacturer responded promptly to the complaints and supplied spare parts—but these did not match precisely, making it impossible to simply exchange them, never mind swapping over the sliders and inserts between the two tools.
The Solution: Scan and Rework—ASAP
This gave the plastics processor the idea to have Lometec digitalise and measure the 14 affected mould inserts and sliders. The measuring data would then be used to rework the imprecise spare parts.
Lometec Managing Director Jörg Werkmeister remembers, “Our job was to compare the old inserts with the new ones and return all of the inserts to the company again as quickly as possible, so they’d be able to keep on producing with one tool at least. Having both tools measured was naturally stopping production completely.”
No sooner said than done: being specialists for rapid optical 3D measurement, Lometec was confident they had what it took. The measurement service maintains two fully climatised measuring rooms and uses measuring equipment by renowned German manufacturers, including three GOM systems for full-field digitalisation of technical mould halves.
“We set up the 3D scanning lab completely from scratch in 2016, it’s absolutely state-of-the-art,” Werkmeister says. “Our trio of ATOS Triple Scan, ATOS Core and ATOS ScanPort means we’re excellently equipped for a diverse range of digitalisation jobs.”
Investing in GOM technology had been very good decision, Werkmeister goes on to say. “The measuring data the systems supply are outstanding.”
To meet the demand for promptness, two metrologists tackled the plastics processor’s job in tandem: one working with ATOS Triple Scan, the other with ATOS Core.
Before conducting the measurements, the metrologists cleaned the sliders and inserts, removing residues such as grease and the like. Next, they applied high-precision reference point markers. These ensure that the software joins the separate scanned images correctly.
“For digitalisation, we chose really small increments,” says Werkmeister. This achieved high detail resolution.
High precision robots working in a digitally driven factories are creating new avenues of growth for the sector. Article by Jorge Isla, ABB.
The standardised design of the FlexArc gives manufacturers the flexibility to shift the welding robot systems between cells without having to make major modifications.
As one of the most versatile and yet demanding parts of manufacturing, metal working has been preordained to undergo every technological advancement that transpires in the industrial world. The needs of the metalworking sector are as diverse as the end customers they serve. Be it a small job shop, a large automotive supplier or a foundry, metal working is a process that requires flawless execution even in harsh working conditions.
Today, trends such as the growing demand for tailor-made goods, continued globalisation that has led to a crowded market, and the everlasting pursuit for quality and efficiency, pose significant challenges to the current structure of the metalworking industry. Organisations that want to stay ahead of the curve have to pull all stops to ensure that their equipment and practices are capable enough to handle the many challenges that they encounter in this diverse industry. Automation in the form of robots and machining tools, when enhanced by digitalisation, offer the best way to improve productivity while maintaining a high level of flexibility to meet the needs of end customers.
A significant factor that contests the efficacy of a factory that we are seeing today is ability to manufacture a wide variety of parts while maintaining the capacity to constantly introduce new variants to the process without having to disrupt the normal workflow in the factory. Achieving this requires a two-pronged approach to enhance both the hardware and the overall production process.
Forging flexibility with robots
Collaborative robots are adept at adding flexibility to assembly processes that need to make small lots of highly individualized products, in short cycles.
A sure shot way to increase the flexibility of the metal working process is through robotic automation. The range of robots for metal working have not been as comprehensive as they are today. From simple material handling tasks such as shifting parts to and from the conveyor system to sophisticated robotic welding cells that perform multiple complex tasks, robots have proven to significantly improve uptime, productivity and consistency.
In the era of mass customisation, hard automation processes that execute only specific tasks offer very little in the way of agility to perform quick changeovers. On the other hand, flexible automation, typically in the form of a robot with “arms” that are capable of six axis movements with interchangeable grippers can perform a variety of tasks and are exceptional at handling large product mixes.
The IRB 14000 single and dual- arm robots from ABB are highly collaborative machines and one of the latest technologies in flexible automation. Popularly called YuMi, these robots come with the added benefits of being able to safely and seamlessly work closely with human operators and enable greater space savings as they do not require large fences or cabins. The small size, but highly dexterous robot is well-suited for picking and placing tasks as it does for a leading French automotive interior parts supplier. The dual-armed YuMi robot is installed in the small space between two simultaneously running conveyor systems where its job is to fit plates on pump handles that are used to adjust the height of vehicle seats. The plug-and-produce concept of the YuMi allows it to work well in unstructured environments.
Automation can also enhance the ability for manufacturers to perform tasks for various end customers using the same assets. Take for instance a Polish company that makes exhaust systems for the automotive industry. A significant variable in the company’s operations is that it does not have guaranteed quantity demands from end customers. To mitigate some of this uncertainty, the company installed a range of ABB’s FlexArcs at its factory in Poland. The FlexArc is a complete welding solution that features welding robots enabled with superior motion control software, positioners and other welding equipment, all built on a common platform.
What makes the FlexArc ideal for the company is that one welding cell can be easily adapted for other products. Depending on the forecast by the end customer, the company can set up the welding process and use as many or as few FlexArcs that they would need. The flexibility of the FlexArc allows the company to use the same jig to make products for different customers with minimum changes to the design, which otherwise is an expensive and often lengthy process. Ultimately, along with increased productivity and superior weld quality that the welding cell offers, it also enables the company to quickly respond to the changing demands of its customers.
Over the past decade, new product sales for industrial manufacturers have been declining. This trend is expected to continue as some customers defer or cancel new equipment deliveries in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created unprecedented economic challenges for manufacturing businesses.
However, according to a new report by Deloitte, aftermarket services are emerging as a strategic imperative for industrial manufacturers to offset declines in new equipment sales, address acute and evolving customer needs, and prepare for the future.
Higher margins and stable revenues
Aftermarket services are a stable revenue source, with 2.5 times greater operating margins than new equipment sales. The broad category, which includes the sale and delivery of maintenance, spare parts, and other value-added services, will likely continue to deliver over 50 percent of a manufacturer’s profit with an upward trend in light of COVID-19.
“Focusing on aftermarket services has proven to bring manufacturers consistent revenue and stabilized profits through past economic downturns. Today, adopting aftermarket services capabilities has become an imperative, not only to offset impacts from the pandemic and current downturn, but to capitalize on long-term changes in customer needs,” said Paul Wellener, vice chairman and U.S. industrial products and construction leader, Deloitte LLP. “Manufacturers that can leverage digital solutions to help ensure uptime for customers, while working closely with them to achieve targeted outcomes, should outperform peers in the long run.”
Digitalisation is the bedrock for success
Digital technologies will be the key differentiator for immediate and sustainable success in aftermarket services as many customers increasingly focus on uptime. For example, remote assistance capabilities have become especially crucial for manufacturers in the wake of COVID-19, where it is difficult to dispatch field service technicians to address customers’ critical equipment needs. Sophisticated digital capabilities also play a role in enhancing other offerings, such as predictive maintenance.
Timing is everything
According to the report, now is a compelling time for manufacturers to accelerate their pivot to aftermarket services or scale them more rapidly. As factories reopen, demand for digitally-enabled service offerings, such as remote assistance and predictive maintenance, could increase.
Longer term, manufacturing customers will likely demand more usage-based services, such as subscription-based pricing or pay-per-use contracts, as they remain wary of making large equipment purchases.
However, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach for companies looking to transform their business. What will help differentiate best-practice leaders will be those who are able to manage their aftermarket business efficiently and engage customers continuously.
Sandvik Coromant has embarked on a unique venture with Microsoft to drive forward the development and digitalisation of the manufacturing industry. Combining Sandvik Coromant’s expertise in machining with technical solutions from Microsoft, the collaboration will seek to link up parts of the production chain to create solutions for the next generation of manufacturing. The contract also includes an acceleration of the internal digitalisation network for Sandvik Coromant.
Sandvik Coromant’s CoroPlus offering, developed in part with Microsoft, is based on Azure IoT Suite, Cortana Intelligence Suite and Dynamics 365 for Field Service. Among other things, the offering connects people, machines, tools and data on a single platform to offer Sandvik Coromant’s customers a better basis for decision making, and provides an overview of the various developments in the manufacturing process. This can enable savings, for example, by reducing machine downtimes.
“We see this collaboration with Microsoft as key to the success of our digital strategy. We have a historic relationship with them and look forward to continuing our journey, creating value by working together to develop and implement solutions for the manufacturing industry to guarantee efficiency, sustainability and growth. This unique partnership represents a new way for our companies to work together more closely to develop our competence,” explained Nadine Crauwels, President of Sandvik Coromant.
One unique aspect of Sandvik Coromant’s CoroPlus offering is that data is not only gathered at machine level to adjust equipment, notify technicians about maintenance requirements and warn managers about potential problems. Data is also gathered at tool level, which means that the customer’s industrial tool becomes “smart” and can be adapted and adjusted at any time for efficient use and to prevent production stoppages.
The partnership with Microsoft adopts an integrated approach to digitising the data, expertise and experience used on a daily basis by Sandvik Coromant to guide their customers, and will serve as an additional tool to facilitate streamlining of production.
The new joint venture between Sandvik Coromant and Microsoft gets under way in the first quarter of 2020 and will involve operations both in Sweden and abroad.
Hyundai Motor Company will establish a Hyundai Mobility Global Innovation Center in Singapore (HMGICs) to accelerate its innovation efforts and transformation into a smart mobility solution provider. With support from the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), the new 28,000 sqm innovative lab will be located in Singapore’s Jurong Innovation District and is set to be completed in the second half of 2022.
The lab will explore business ideas and technologies to revolutionise a value chain encompassing R&D, business and production for future mobility solutions and eventual expansion into global markets. Combining Hyundai’s open innovations efforts with Singapore’s fertile atmosphere, HMGICs will validate concepts including multi-modal mobility service.
The lab will also spearhead efforts to reach new markets and customers with cutting-edge technologies that will transform automotive R&D, production and sales. Combining AI, Internet of Things (IoT) and other advanced technologies, the lab will create a human-centred smart manufacturing platform that will be validated through a small pilot EV production facility.
In conjunction with the platform, an innovative product development process and on-demand production system will be tested and proven. Hyundai also aims to study new methods of vehicle development conducive to smart manufacturing while further increasing use of virtual reality (VR) technology in the vehicle development process.
Furthermore, HMGICs will facilitate collaboration opportunities with competitive local partners and educational institutions such as the Nanyang Technological University by conducting joint projects to pursue open innovation.
“The Hyundai Mobility Global Innovation Centre is an exciting addition to Singapore’s growing Mobility ecosystem. Its focus on innovative business concepts and the development of a smart manufacturing platform, leverages the research and innovation capabilities, and the value that Singapore provides to companies that want to develop, testbed and create new solutions for the world,” said Mr Tan Kong Hwee, Assistant Managing Director, EDB.
As part of its Smart Nation initiative to drive the adoption of digital innovation across industries, Singapore is actively fostering the use of digital technologies such as AI, digitalisation, and smart urban mobility. With a strong track record for open innovation, Singapore is an ideal location for Hyundai to test its innovative ideas such as HMGICs.