Cobots can be a game changer for companies, especially for those preparing for the next phase of growth when the economy recovers. Here are four key questions when considering where cobots can be put to work in your facility. Article by Darrell Adams, Universal Robots.
According to ASEAN Key Figures 2019 by the ASEAN Secretariat, manufacturing by foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow was 35.6 percent and contributed 36.6 percent to the region’s GDP. While manufacturing remain a key contributor to many of ASEAN’s member nations, there is an impetus to move up the manufacturing food chain for higher value manufacturing. High value manufacturing demand more investments, not only in automation and digitalisation, but also in skilled labour. All these investments are draining on small, medium and even larger sized manufacturers in this region due to cashflow. The manufacturing hub of ASEAN is also eroded by LATAM (Latin America) and the rising South Asia and Africa. Small and mid-sized manufacturers can be especially hard hit by sudden changes such as economic volatility, intense competitive pressure, seasonal demands or even an unexpected global crisis, like the current COVID-19 pandemic. When labour requirements increase or decrease drastically, having the ability to ramp up production when demand is high and remain sustainable during downtime is crucial.
For these companies, having a workforce supported by collaborative robots or cobots, would be a dream come true.
Cobots are the best assistants in the Industry 4.0 wave
Cobots are part of the Industry 4.0 revolution we are deeply entrenched now. With the notion of Industry 4.0, we are now experiencing the emergence of what some practitioners and researchers term “operator 4.0”. This means that with an advanced technological revolution in manufacturing, human operators must also rise up to meet the exacting demands of such an advanced manufacturing paradigm. With industrial robots and cobots, human operators need to be able to program such machines, and work with them.
Made to be affordable and easy to program even for small batch production runs, cobots today are smart and agile tools for small medium and large companies to quickly adapt to fast changing economic situations and labour demands.
Unlike traditional robot automation which requires difficult programming, long set-up time, and takes up valuable space, cobots can be easily programmed by workers in the production line for simple tasks without expertise in robotics or programming. For more complex applications, certified system integrators and authorised training centres will guide the team through the initial installation, and workers handle the day-to-day operation afterwards. Cobots are also safe to be placed next to humans without the need for much space or a cage. A risk assessment by experts will be made prior to deploying without fencing, to ensure the placement complies with safety standards.
Cobots can be a game changer for companies, especially for those preparing for the next phase of growth when the economy recovers. And cobots are symbiotic with human operators and do NOT replace them. This means that cobots will not replace humans, but supplement and assist them. Cobots have even made themselves into integrative and assistive technologies for surgeons in operating rooms.
However, most small and mid-sized manufacturers, do not have an army of automation engineers to manage this process, hence what I hear most often is “How can I get started?” Each company is, of course, different, but there are some key questions that manufacturers can ask themselves when considering where cobots can be put to work.
Which employees are not smiling due to menial and repetitive tasks?
If a person’s expression or body language reflects boredom, frustration or apathy, it is a good bet that you are not taking advantage of the full potential they have to add real value to your process.
PT JVC Electronics Indonesia (JEIN) is part of the JVCKENWOOD Group, a global leader in electronic and entertainment products. JEIN manufactures over 400,000 products each month to serve global customers. Turnaround time (time taken for a product to be produced) needs to be fast, with minimal defects, to consistently meet this production target.
When JEIN added seven units of Universal Robots’ UR3 cobots to increase productivity and achieve consistent output quality, it proved to be a game changing move.
The adoption of cobots lessened the burden on workers to perform menial and repetitive tasks, including separating cut pieces of a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) and attaching a glass display on the car stereo units. The cobots also stabilised takt time, the cycle time of a specific process, while reducing the time per task by half.
“Through the adoption of cobots, we were able to improve production efficiency and our output quality is now more stable. With the move towards automation, our manpower can be redeployed to other processes. We have been able to reduce operational costs by more than USD 80,000 yearly,” said Agustinus Simanullang, General Manager, Engineering Division at JEIN.
What tasks are clearly too simple for people to be wasted on?
Think things like putting parts into a box, transferring parts from one line to another, inserting screws, or loading and unloading of a rotary indexing table. If a cobot can do it, why wouldn’t you give the person something more valuable to do? In Taiwan, with the help of Universal Robots cobots, BTC Mold, an injection moulding company saved over 35 percent of labour cost, solved a serious manpower shortage, and significantly reduced the risk of occupational hazard in the factory. Instead of repeatedly bending down to pack the finished products, causing employees to develop pain in their joints and waists over time, the cobots help do away with these repetitive tasks, and reduced the employees’ risks of occupational hazard caused by extensive period of hard labour.
The integration of 5G in Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) systems will accelerate the realization of Industry 4.0 with high-speed, low-latency, and large-volume data transfer. This, according to latest research from market analyst Frost & Sullivan. In its report, Frost said while the application of 5G-enabled IIoT is currently limited to quality inspections, supply chain management, and generic machine control, key system manufacturers are actively exploring other areas in industrial operations where the benefits of 5G connectivity can be leveraged for process optimization and increased automation.
“Incorporating 5G in IIoT devices will enable low latency, increase data throughput, and reduce operation time, thus leading to improved overall process productivity,” said Mogana Tashiani, Frost & Sullivan Technical Insights Research Analyst. “Apart from enhancing the automation of industrial operations and control, 5G-enabled IIoT devices can also minimize the complexity of supply chain networks and warehouse management, helping businesses to efficiently operate in dynamic business environments.
“5G will play a key role in ensuring the sustainability of businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The low latency will aid in managing the high traffic to e-commerce by improving network accessibility at a faster pace, accelerating online purchases and order placements. Furthermore, 5G-integrated IIoT devices have the potential to disrupt traditional on-site job functions through remote working and virtual meetings. COVID-19 has led to a massive shift to remote working to maintain business operations on par with on-site job operations.”
The automotive manufacturing industry is one of the key sectors that can leverage the growth opportunities from 5G’s integration into IIoT. 5G facilitates data transfer among AI algorithms, sensors, and mechanical parts to navigate self-driving or autonomous vehicles.
In addition, 5G-enabled vehicles establish a connected system in which real-time data transferring and receiving can be achieved conveniently and effectively. Apart from vehicle-to-vehicle communication, interaction with traffic system is possible with 5G technology, which enables data transmission beforehand to achieve practical navigation for certain road conditions.
CNC specialist NUM has launched a new HMI (human-machine interface) software package that features a fully integrated CAM/postprocessor module to further simplify and accelerate the creation of part programs for CNC cutting machines. The software also includes two new real-time analytical functions for water jet cutting applications, designed to improve cutting accuracy and quality.
Many of the world’s leading manufacturers of water jet, laser and plasma beam cutting machines nowadays choose to base their products on NUM’s CNC systems, in no small part due to the inherent functionality and control flexibility of the company’s Flexium+ platform. Launched in 2012, Flexium+ has acquired an enviable reputation amongst machine manufacturers and end users for its control flexibility and ease of use – and NUM continuously enhances the platform to address users’ changing needs and new cutting machine technology.
The latest version of NUM’s software for CNC cutting machines is the result of significant development work. It embodies Industry 4.0 connectivity principles and features an entirely new HMI, known as NUMcut, which incorporates functionality that previously required separate CAD/CAM postprocessor computing resources.
Users generally prepare part programs for CNC cutting applications upstream of the machine in the production area, on some form of CAD/CAM system. A key element of this work involves post-processing the resultant ISO file to incorporate machine-specific cutting data. This is a highly iterative procedure, which can lead to interpretation errors and time-consuming resolution of machining issues.
To shorten the path, NUMcut includes a powerful, machine-resident CAM/postprocessor module. The only data that needs to be transferred to the machine prior to commencing cutting operations concerns the geometry of the part and the desired quality of each cut. This data can be derived from virtually any type of CAD/CAM software, running, for example, on a standard PC.
All other necessary data, such as cutting speeds, abrasive quantity as a function of the material to be cut, etc., are calculated by the control system itself. The CAM/postprocessor module utilises a technology database containing all the relevant information needed by the control system in order to automatically generate an executable part program. The values in the database are preloaded by the machine manufacturer, and can be modified or added to by users if necessary – for example, to accommodate new materials.
The database itself – which effectively contains the expertise of the production company – can either be located on individual cutting machines, or stored on a network drive so that it can be accessed by several machines.
The NUMcut HMI displays all files that are available to the machine operator in a clear, unambiguous style. Using the CNC system’s touch-sensitive screen, the operator can determine each successive machine action simply by clicking and dragging icons from the pool of files into a ‘job list’. Both the job that is currently being processed by the machine, and the current position of the cutting tool within the job, are marked graphically. If required, the operator can change the job list while it is being processed to accommodate different production needs, such as express deliveries.
NUMcut also offers two real-time analytical functions for water jet cutting applications. During water jet cutting, the processing speed needs to be decreased before corners in order to reduce the wake of the cutting jet and thus maintain the cutting quality. Using data from the technology database, NUMcut’s adaptive feed control (AFC) function analyses the path geometry and automatically optimises the cutting speed to best suit the curve radius or corner angle.
Another inherent characteristic of water jet cutting is that the shape of the kerf changes with the cutting conditions, which means that a significant change of gap width can develop, depending on the speed. If this inaccuracy needs to be compensated for, NUMcut offers a variable offset control (VOC) function. This allows the cutting path to be changed automatically, so that the final contour of the part remains true to size despite the changing radius of the cutting jet, thereby maintaining the dimensional accuracy of each cut part.
Joshua Tan of LVD talks about the company’s Thailand market, the challenges and opportunities they are seeing in the region, and how they are helping customers move to Industry 4.0. Article by Stephen Las Marias.
Established in 1952, LVD Group is a sheet metal machinery company, producing laser cutting, punching, and bending machines, as well as software. Founded by Jacques Lefebvre, Marc Vanneste and Robert Dewulf, the family owned company is now being managed by the second generation of the three founding families. Based in Gullegem, Belgium, the company has production facilities in Belgium, United States, France, Slovakia, and China, and is active in more than 46 countries around the world.
In Thailand, LVD has been present for around 35 years now. The company currently has about 12 employees covering sales and marketing, as well as service support for customers in the region.
At the recent METALEX 2019 trade exhibition in Bangkok, Thailand, Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News spoke with Joshua Tan, general manager of LVD (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, about the company’s Thailand market, the challenges and opportunities they are seeing in the region, their latest innovations, and how they are helping customers move to Industry 4.0.
TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR OPERATIONS IN THAILAND.
Joshua Tan (JT): We have sold around 1,100 machines now in Thailand, for which we continue to provide service and support. Right now, Thailand is a bit flat because of certain situations such as the US-China trade war, and then the government infrastructure projects have not been really benefitting the local fabricators or local companies. Our customers are not seeing a lot of projects that are needed for them to invest in more machines.
Nevertheless, Thailand remains a huge market, and a very competitive one. Apart from the European brands, we are now also competing with a lot of Chinese manufacturers who are coming in. Although some are touch-and-go, others are being represented by a lot of different agents.
So, in terms of the competitiveness of the market, I would say it is quite challenging in Thailand. But LVD has been present here for a long time, and we will are still seeing the market on a stable growth mode.
WHAT OPPORTUNITIES ARE YOU SEEING IN THE REGION?
JT: In terms of opportunities, the government is still putting investments in infrastructures: ports, airport expansions, highways, and others all over Thailand. With all these investments, we are seeing there’s a demand for machineries to support these kinds of projects. These are opportunities—but we hope this will not be only for a specific country or a specific contractor to benefit from; it should benefit the local players in Thailand.
Secondly, I would say automation. Even though automation in Thailand has already matured, especially in the automotive sector, it is still rather new when it comes to sheet metal machinery. There are still a lot of opportunities for us to get into the automation area—this is also in line with Industry 4.0, where customers actually want to upgrade themselves to this vision. But they don’t know where to start and what to do, so we need to actually go in and make some proposals, and offer them our solutions into Industry 4.0 machines and software.
The third is probably in the telecommunications area. We are now moving from 4G to 5G. When it comes to telecommunications, you need towers and communications boxes—these have to be made by sheet metal machines. With this migration to 5G, I would say there’s an opportunity for the local players to get these kinds of projects, and this will help increase the production for this type of products in the market.
WHAT ABOUT CHALLENGES?
JT: We often encounter customers looking into their budget to invest. Most of the time, they probably do not understand fully what machines can do for them—they would rather look into how much they have and how much they can afford to buy.
In reality, at that kind of budget, they probably won’t get the production capacities that they really need—so they will end up spending more money than if they bought a more-expensive machine that can actually commit to the productivity or efficiency they require. So, this is more about the education of customers, how much information we can provide them, and of course, how much they are willing to invest. And it is understandable—many customers are buying cheaper machines so that they can charge lower for their parts, because it is also a competition between customers. Therefore, when it comes to initial capital investment in machines, it is a very critical decision, and critical cost calculation for them.
Hexagon has launched its WORKPLAN 2021, which enhances automation and flexibility to further cement its integration into the sheet metal market.
“Industry 4.0, or Smart Manufacturing, isn’t just a goal for large manufacturers. We have more and more small companies turning to us, wanting a complete digital chain integrating specifications, and automating production management directly ingrated with their RADAN CAM solution, allowing them to get realtime views of their current workload, business profitability analysis, and full inventory control – all connected to their existing accounting system,” said Product Manager Christophe Mas.
A solution which was originally dedicated to mould makers, WORKPLAN, from Hexagon’s production software portfolio, has been able to mix a single database with multiple business requirements such as tools, sheet metal, prototyping, and mechanics.
“This means it shares new functions developed specifically for niche markets but which have now become real assets for all customers in many industrial sectors.”
Continuous improvement for sheet metal world
Initially used as a business calculator for sheet metal quotes, RADAN’s quoting module, Radquote, connects seamlessly with WORKPLAN, and now updates projects using referenced components present in a bill of material, optimising the price for the project.
Enhancements to the activity basket, which was launched in WORKPLAN 2020.0, make it possible to automatically create all baskets for the same project in just a few click, or from a nest with a simple drag and drop. And the activity baskets can now be controlled via the barcode system with specific manufacturing ranges, or via touch screens.
“This revolutionises the management of time tracking, and promotes automation and flexibility in the workshop. It also simplifies the management of assembly activities, heat treatment and finishing operations.”
GDPR – General Data Protection Regulation
A new set of measures has been introduced to guarantee maximum protection for storing both customer and employee data. “We have also implemented best practice guidelines related to the fundamental rights of GDPR such as consent management, right to be forgotten, right to change, and data portability.”
Steve Bell of Renishaw ASEAN talks about their activities in Thailand and provides his insights on the trend towards electric vehicles.
Renishaw is one of the leading providers of precision measurement and sensor technologies worldwide. Based in Gloucestershire, United Kingdom, the company has 4,500 employees located in the 36 countries where it has wholly owned subsidiary operations.
At the recent METALEX 2019 trade exhibition in Bangkok, Thailand, Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News (APMEN) sat down with Steve Bell, general manager for ASEAN at Renishaw, to talk about their Thailand market, and the industries they are looking at in the region.
“We’ve been in Thailand for over 25 years now,” says Bell. “During that time, there have been a lot of changes in Thailand, particularly economically and politically. But generally, through it all Thailand has maintained steady growth. The last couple of years have been something of an exception with the economy being a little flat, but we do now see signs of the market looking up again.”
At METALEX, Renishaw showcased a similar concept they did at the recent Industrial Transformation Asia Pacific (ITAP) 2019 event in Singapore, where they highlighted end-to-end manufacturing of aerospace parts – from initial additive manufacturing, through machining to final assembly – with process and quality control built into every stage. For the Thailand show, the focus is on automotive, rather than aerospace.
“We are showing automotive parts. Our aim is to show how Renishaw can provide end-to-end solutions—when it comes to Industry 4.0, smart manufacturing, we have the tools to contribute to that drive. Here at Metalex, we are showing the complete story of a component, starting from additive manufacturing, making parts lighter while retaining strength through metal 3D printing parts with a lattice work, largely hollow internal construction. Next up is a calibration station, basically illustrating that before you start the process of manufacturing, you have to ensure that the machines you plan to use are accurate, repeatable and fit for the purpose. Precision machining of critical tight tolerance features follows with on-machine probing and toolsetting being used to set up the part and set the tools to be used. The machine tool is hooked up to an Equator automated flexible gauge which inspects key features of the parts coming off the machine, analyses the trend of results and automatically updates tool offsets in the machine tool control to keep the process within tolerance levels. Lastly, we reach final inspection where we’re showing a CMM with the latest REVO five-axis system,” explains Bell.
According to Bell, the automotive manufacturing industry is currently rather flat in Thailand but it remains a key sector for Thailand. “Many of our customers are in Thailand are involved directly in the automotive industry – that’s why we’ve chosen to feature automotive parts here,” he explains. “We are also beginning to a lot of discussion on additive manufacturing in Thailand. There are a number of projects that we are pursuing in that area. Another big growth area for Renishaw in Thailand is the Equator automated gauging line. We are seeing a lot of manufacturers — particularly Japanese high volume part producers — who have embraced Equator technology and are now using it quite significantly in their manufacturing processes.”
Bell pointed out the maturity of Thailand’s manufacturing industry demonstrated the willingness to adopt and utilize Renishaw’s advanced solutions. “The market is of course driven by our end-user customers. There is a demand for high-quality products, for high-precision parts,” he explains. “And where there is that demand, manufacturers are looking for ways to achieve quality and accuracy … and to become more profitable as they do so. Therefore, products like the Equator gauge are absolutely right for the customers we deal with in Thailand.”
(Editor’s Note: This interview took place in November 2019—months before the COVID-19 outbreak caused a significant impact in the industrial manufacturing landscape.)
To continue reading about Thailand’s EV Vehicle development and the outlook for 2020, head on over to our ebook!
Alex Teo of Siemens Digital Industries Software talks about the current automotive manufacturing trends; their collaboration with VinFast; and the impact of COVID-19. Article by Stephen Las Marias.
Alex Teo is the Managing Director for Southeast Asia at Siemens Digital Industries Software. In an interview with Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News, he discussed the trends happening in the automotive manufacturing industry right now, how these trends have changed the requirements from manufacturers, the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, and their collaboration with VinFast.
WHAT TRENDS ARE HAPPENING IN THE AUTOMOTIVE MANUFACTURING SPACE RIGHT NOW?
Alex Teo (AT): Overall, the automotive manufacturing sector is expected to continue its rapid journey of transformation. Global competitive intensity will also rise, as manufacturers in China and Vietnam expand their attention beyond domestic markets. Technological advances—including interactive safety systems, vehicle connectivity, and self-driving vehicle technology, among others—will continue to drive development.
In particular, two trends are leading the way in automotive manufacturing. On the one hand, autonomous vehicles are expected to become mainstream soon, with some estimates projecting that up to 15 percent of all vehicles sold worldwide will be autonomous by 2030. For automotive manufacturers, the rise of autonomy also comes with a new premium on agile development cycles, shorter production runs of a wider array of vehicle types, and new partnerships and collaboration across the supply chain. The new autonomous vehicle ecosystem includes new chip, software, sensor, and systems-oriented technology companies, in addition to the traditional manufacturers and their upstream partners. Meanwhile, automakers must still maximise revenue from existing product lines and appropriately balance R&D spending to refresh these lines today while investing for a likely radically different future.
On the other hand, growing efforts to fight climate change in the region are also likely to drive an increase in demand for electrification in vehicles. Government regulations, such as Singapore’s recently announced plans to incentivise electric vehicle adoption, will drive significant shifts in consumer demand. To capitalise on this demand, car-makers must be able to develop and produce electric vehicles with adequate range, fast-charge capabilities, and multiple design variants in each vehicle segment. Achieving all this with the same (or lower) cost of ownership as conventional vehicles requires bringing innovations and engineering efficiency that has been unheard of in the automotive industry – without risking safety, reliability, and quality.
HOW HAVE REQUIREMENTS FROM AUTOMOTIVE MANUFACTURERS CHANGED?
AT: Across the region, trends in automotive manufacturing are largely being driven by governments, through policy and regulatory initiatives, as well as end-consumers, whose preferences continue to shape the market. Automotive manufacturers will have to tap on digital technology and software-driven solutions to balance these needs while maintaining profitability.
Regulations arising from the need to go green will likely require manufacturers to better understand both the performance of their final products, as well as the sustainability of their supply chain. Aside from emissions data of the finished vehicle, manufacturers also need to assess the environmental impact of their operations throughout the value chain. At the same time, evolving regulations relating to autonomous vehicle development will require that automotive manufacturers are able to ensure the safety of passengers, pedestrians and property.
A lot of this can be addressed with digital twin technology, which will allow automotive manufacturers to simulate and test at much greater scale, and lower cost. This will allow them to uncover in greater detail the performance of their products, as well as gain visibility into their product lifecycle.
HOW DOES INDUSTRY 4.0 IMPACT AUTOMOTIVE MANUFACTURING? WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS AND CHALLENGES?
AT: The car of the future will be connected, working seamlessly as part of a larger, intelligent mobility network. It will be able to communicate with other vehicles, devices and smart roadway infrastructure. As every vehicle becomes a source for receiving and transmitting bits of information, key concerns for consumers, governments and manufacturers alike will include factors such as cybersecurity and energy efficiency. As interconnectivity between vehicles and systems grow, automotive manufacturers will have to work with a large range of other technology partners to provide a seamless customer experience for their products.
Similarly, Industry 4.0 brings unprecedented connectivity to the product lifecycle, while allowing manufacturers to innovate at lower cost, step up efficiency across the supply chain, and reduce their impact to the environment.
However, manufacturers—especially in various parts of developing Asia—should also focus on upskilling their workforce to fully realise the benefits of a digital factory. While new technologies possess great autonomy, humans must provide direction and control—and apart from overseeing technology, they are needed to gather, compare, analyse and apply data. Implementing Industry 4.0 technologies without knowing how to interpret, manage, and act on the insights leaves businesses with just a buzzword that has no real applicable value. There is a need for organisations to develop talent strategies, as well as build up staffing and training plans to meet the changing needs in terms of skills, job description and organisational models of the companies.
Siemens Digital Industries Software addresses this issue through initiatives such as its Technical Competency Hubs, one of which was launched in Penang in 2019, the only such facility in Southeast Asia. It is part of Siemens’ efforts to support Industry 4.0 development efforts with countries in the region. The hub will also serve as a platform for Siemens to help companies, especially SMEs, begin their digitalisation journey in order to meet the needs of the new economy.
HOW WILL THE TREND TOWARDS ELECTRIC VEHICLES IMPACT THE AUTOMOTIVE MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY IN ASEAN?
AT: Undoubtedly, automotive manufacturers in the region will need to adapt their production capabilities to accommodate these changes and trends. As the ASEAN region grows in importance as an automotive manufacturing hub for the world, businesses here will have to cater to these changing trends.
More importantly, however, businesses need to recognise that the shift towards electric vehicles is just one trend in a long line of many. Consumer demand is always shifting—and at an ever-increasing pace. Instead of concentrating on one trend, automotive manufacturers in ASEAN should focus on becoming more nimble and agile, which will allow them to capitalise on the pace of change in consumer preferences, especially amidst growing uncertainty in global markets.
For carmakers, the ability to analyse real-time road data should improve the efficacy of sales and marketing, while digital design and manufacturing can raise productivity in a dramatic way: big data simulations and virtual modelling can lower development costs and speed up time to market. That should resonate with customers conditioned to the innovation clock speed of consumer electronics, such as smartphones or laptops.
COVID-19 PANDEMIC: WHAT HAS BEEN THE IMPACT IN THE AUTOMOTIVE MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY, AND WHAT LESSONS CAN BE LEARNED FROM THIS?
AT: It is difficult to assess definitively the impact of COVID-19 on the automotive manufacturing, or any other, industry in Asia at the moment, given that the situation is still developing, and is expected to persist for quite a while more.
What we do know is that there is now a pressing need for manufacturers to pivot their operations to become more innovative and agile, so that they are able to quickly capitalise on new trends, or leverage technology to become more efficient. For example, capabilities such as additive manufacturing may allow manufacturers to minimise the impact of supply chain disruption, as it allows for a much larger range of complex parts to be built onsite, while also reducing the need for tooling. Manufacturers need to take this period of downtime to upgrade their capabilities, so that they can fully realise the positive effects from when the economy recovers.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR COLLABORATION WITH VINFAST. WHAT WERE THE COMPANY’S CHALLENGES AND GOALS, AND WHERE DID SIEMENS COME IN TO HELP ADDRESS THEIR ISSUES?
AT: VinFast had big goals. Before its 335-hectare plant in Hai Phong was established, there was no Vietnamese brand for passenger cars. It wanted to be competitive both domestically in Vietnam and globally right from the beginning, and relied on Siemens’ expertise to utilise the latest technology. This resulted in a closed-loop manufacturing system which uses digital twins of the products, the production, and the performance of production and product. The fully digital factory was built in 21 months—50 percent faster than usual—and is designed to be easily scalable for future expansions.
VinFast uses the comprehensive offerings from Siemens that combines Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software such as the Tecnomatix portfolio with Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM), through the new harmonised, holistic portfolio Siemens Opcenter, to realise lean manufacturing across all phases, and with Totally Integrated Automation for all automation, including robots, conveyors, presses and milling machines.
This holistic approach has increased the speed and flexibility in development, ensured high global standards in production, optimised the manufacturing process, and made the entire plant future-proof for further expansions and new business models.
VinFast also works closely with Siemens Digital Industries Software to implement a fully functional digital twin. Developing new cars and scooters, planning the new plant, and finally producing with the help of digital tools creates a detailed virtual image, the digital twin. The digital twin creates new insights, thanks to the combination of physics-based simulations with data analytics in a fully virtual environment. This makes it possible to realise innovations faster and more reliable, while also requiring significantly fewer real prototypes. Even more data are created when the product is being produced or a plant begins operation.
These performance data of the real production and of the real product can be collected, analysed, and fed back into the development cycle. Here, they help VinFast to improve and optimise new products and processes at an early stage.
Robert Puschmann of DKSH and Mitchell Beness of HP speak about 3D printing, automation and Industry 4.0. Article by Stephen Las Marias.
Technology advancements have continuously been redefining design and manufacturing processes, production facilities, distribution systems, and global supply chains. As we move toward Industry 4.0, manufacturers recognise that current business models are no longer sustainable, and that the time has come for them to start adopting smarter manufacturing processes and solutions.
One such technology is 3D printing. 3D printing is a ground-breaking and innovative technology that has the potential to bring intermediate changes in manufacturing, society and business. As a crucial medium connecting the virtual and actual world, 3D printing enables the transformation of digital files into tangible objects. According to market analyst firm Inkwood Research, the global 3D printing market is expected to register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17 percent from 2019 to 2027 and reach a value of US$ 44.39 billion at the end of the forecast period. While North America is the dominating region, Asia Pacific is the fastest growing market for 3D printing.
Mitchell Beness, Category Product Manager Lead for 3D Print and Digital Manufacturing, APJ at HP Inc., says the overall growth in terms of revenue for the industry has been positive, double-digit growth year-on-year, globally, for additive manufacturing or 3D printing. “For us at HP, we see very exciting growth. If you look at the growth of the number of parts that we are producing, this is significant. If you look at the growth of our installed base and powder usage, it is very positive,” he notes. “I think, overall, it is an encouraging story for the industry and for us. Since entering the market, we have seen a lot of people rethinking their decision to move into traditional manufacturing and looking very carefully at what digital manufacturing can offer. I think this change in mindset has been an upward trajectory.”
HP and its partner DKSH Singapore were at the recent Industrial Transformation ASIA PACIFIC (ITAP) 2019 event in Singapore to showcase the latest HP Jet Fusion 580 System, a 3D printer developed specifically for lower volumes as an entry point. The Jet Fusion 580 System is the first of its kind in using a functional material—an engineering grade Nylon polymer—which can incorporate colour within the printer. It is a good example of an all-in-one machine, where it is printing, collecting powder, recycling powder, and redistributing powder, all in one very small unit.
Inkwood Research notes that 3D printing has achieved significant progress from the initial stages of production of simple plastic models to producing useful components, in the fields of surgical implants and prosthetics, batteries, robots, and among many others.
“I think the key area is prototyping, which goes throughout the different industries. We also need to differentiate between replacing and complementing the existing manufacturing process,” explains Robert Puschmann, Managing Director for DKSH Technology Business in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. “If you look at different industries, research is at the forefront. Researchers are looking into how 3D printing can be adopted, which is a very crucial progress because that will help create a new generation of mechanical engineers who are able to design in a totally different way than before. This will be used in more industries over time.”
3D printing or additive manufacturing offers a change in the traditional manufacturing processes, according to Beness. But convincing manufacturers to adopt the technology requires changing their mindset.
“It is an area that Southeast Asia is uniquely positioned to take advantage of considering its relatively young engineers. There are a lot of younger people in these countries, who are able to get access to quality education better than ever before,” he says. “Singapore is an excellent hub for education, and we see partnerships with dynamic clusters, such as Nanyang Technological University (NTU). Many of these types of educational institutions are fundamentally starting that design journey in the engineering space, with additive manufacturing in mind. I think the biggest challenge as well as the biggest opportunity is for people to change the way they design and engineer.”
Apart from the change in mindset, the business case also needs to be there so that people will understand more the benefits of integrating additive manufacturing in their processes.
“Overall, the return on investment (ROI) needs to be understood by the customer,” Puschmann says. “That is something we continuously educate the market with. Also, having a different mindset and knowing to design parts for 3D printing compared to conventional manufacturing are other decisive factors.”
One way of educating the industry is through exhibitions such as ITAP. “The ITAP 2019 exhibition is an educational platform for a lot of people to know that 3D printing exists—I think that’s the first part,” says Puschmann. “On top of that, we conduct test printings with our demo machines to show customers that 3D printing is possible. We also run specific seminars on selected industry focus groups.”
It is also a lot of on-site work, according to Puschmann, where salespeople and applications specialists go from door to door and introduce the new technology and product directly to the customers.
One aspect of Industry 4.0 is the synergy between the physical and cyber-physical world. And 3D printing is in this unique place between the cyber-physical world—which is the data—and the physical world—the output of the 3D printer.
“3D printing takes the digital world and makes it physical,” says Beness. “It has a very important and challenging role because it must address multitudes of data that are potentially for traditional manufacturing, and then try and make that into a physical product using additive technologies. I think that is the best way to describe industrial transformation. 3D printing takes digital files and turns them into physical objects. This is a critical part of Industry 4.0.”
Apart from this, 3D printing also enables distributed manufacturing. “You don’t need to produce all the parts and all the products at one place. Instead, you can distribute based on knowledge and available resources and bring them together,” explains Puschmann. “It’s not only a transformation with regards to new technologies, but also the transformation of existing manufacturing processes and infrastructures themselves.”
Future of Automation
The outlook for Southeast Asia needs to be in the perspective of the different markets in the region, as each is in its different stage of development when it comes to automation. “You have Vietnam becoming a new manufacturing powerhouse probably over the next few years,” says Puschmann. “Singapore is positioning itself very well in terms of industrial transformation and automation. In general, for automation to be implemented in Southeast Asia, I believe there needs to be a lot of education on the customer side as well as in universities so that there is more talent available in the market to drive the transformation.”
There is no way around it, according to Puschmann, as the industrial transformation process is going to happen. “The question is more about which industries will be first. I believe the manufacturing sector is probably one of the more difficult ones for adoption. The transformation process might take place more in the logistics space and in food production first, before it moves on to manufacturing,” says Puschmann. “Manufacturing is always unique—what is manufactured on the metal side on the one hand, and on the plastics side on another, always require different machines.”
And when it comes to automation, it can be a step-by-step process, or a transformation in one go.
“You can do it step by step, by looking at what you are manufacturing today and by potentially automating certain modules of your manufacturing process. Or, if you have the capability, the knowledge, the budget and the breadth to implement it, you can do it in one go—which bears a higher risk, of course, but also results in a faster return,” explains Puschmann. “However, if you are a medium-sized company today and you are not looking into automation at all, you might risk not existing anymore in five years’ time.”
Industry 4.0 is a very big word, which might scare a lot of people, according to Puschmann. “To really achieve Industry 4.0, you must do much more than just automate. While the first step is getting into automation, how you get into it is through education, which means taking away the apprehension of the product and helping the customer with the application. There is also a need for support on having a common understanding with the customer and on taking away the general fear by underlining that automation is not about replacing, but about giving the opportunity to businesses to upskill their people and giving them more value-added opportunities and tasks. Once you have these companies interested in automation, the next step would be integrating the automation processes into their existing platforms,” he says. “What is going to be interesting and important for us is tapping into different ecosystems of knowledge platforms and manufacturers and bringing this network effect to life. This ensures that the customer can really utilize all the different products and equipment and knowledge out there to get the best solution for them. Automation and Industry 4.0 are very complex, and I think one party alone would probably not be able to handle it. Leveraging that network effect is where DKSH can play an important role for our customers.”
Solutions for suppliers seeking ways to meet new productivity challenges, including increasing demand and shorter lead times. Article by Michael Palmieri, Makino.
Aerospace and defence (A&D) suppliers are feeling the heat.
Over the next five years, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are expected to increase commercial aircraft production by 21 percent. The ramp-up means suppliers face unprecedented challenges. They must find ways to satisfy demand for more components while OEMs place more pressure on them to decrease lead times and prices.
Industry 4.0 technologies, including the Internet of Things (IoT), automation and advanced machine-tool capabilities, such as 5-axis machining centres, could become more common on A&D shop floors as suppliers seek ways to keep pace with OEM demands.
These technologies can help the A&D suppliers respond to market needs faster without expanding their workforce. This white paper will explore some of these trends and the solutions that A&D suppliers need to remain competitive.
Enable Faster Throughput for Complex Designs
Modern aircraft designs are forcing suppliers to rethink their current production capabilities. Older machine tools may not be equipped to manage lighter-weight, heat-resistant materials, such as titanium. Modern machining centres that are purpose-built for aerospace applications can reduce set-up times, increase accuracy and improve throughput on less-conventional designs.
Titanium vs. Aluminium Considerations
Aluminium makes up about half of the aerospace materials market by volume. But titanium use is increasing as manufacturers seek ways to reduce weight for components in next-generation planes. Titanium is lighter than structural steels historically used and almost as strong. Aluminium and titanium present different challenges that manufacturers must take into consideration when selecting machine-tooling solutions. Aluminium requires more horsepower and high rpm while titanium requires high torque at low rpm.
Suppliers need access to a variety of machine tools that can perform fast removal rates on a wide range of materials, including aluminium, stainless steel and titanium. Several key advancements in machine tooling are helping A&D suppliers address different material requirements. Some of the key technologies developed to increase productivity for titanium machining include:
Autonomic spindles that protect the spindle from excessive forces damaging the bearings. This can reduce unplanned downtime related to machine damage—which, in turn, optimizes productivity.
High-pressure, high-flow coolant systems deliver large volumes of coolant directly to the cutting zone for faster chip evacuation, increased production, and tool life.
Vibration damping systems that adjust frictional forces based on low-frequency vibration sensing, avoiding chatter and cutter damage from structure resonance in real time. Vibration damping enhances depth of cuts, which results in higher removal rates.
Developments in aluminium machining are also helping A&D suppliers increase productivity. This includes greater spindle power to improve processing speeds, improvements to acceleration and cutting feed rates, and large-capacity automatic tool changers that are capable of holding more than 100 tools and automatic pallet changer—which can reduce changeover and set-up times significantly.
In both aluminium and titanium, 5-axis capability is a key advantage by providing an efficient way to produce typical, complex, A&D part geometries. In addition, large-capacity tool changers and pallet changing automation can allow for unattended machining, which means less operator labour cost per part. These system features reduce machine downtime between parts and part handling between set-ups, which also lowers labour costs. The ability to reduce handling time, including moving parts from machine to machine or resetting them on new fixtures, also helps increase throughput and shrink production lead times to enable faster deliveries.
Maximise Productivity to Avoid Costly Delays
Many A&D suppliers are struggling to meet demand. For instance, in November 2018 Boeing reported decreases in 737 deliveries due to supplier delays. The lead time in A&D manufacturing is already longer compared to other industries, which means suppliers can’t afford machine failures or any other issues that could result in downtime. Suppliers may need to place a greater emphasis on predictive maintenance and automation to maximise productivity.
Why Reliability Matters
On-time delivery issues are urgent enough that Boeing and Airbus are working with suppliers to ensure they’re equipped to meet expectations. In addition, unplanned downtime costs manufacturers about $50 billion annually, and equipment failure is the cause of downtime 42 percent of the time.
Manufacturers are implementing automation and Industry 4.0 technologies to gain visibility into machine performance issues before they lead to major repairs or failures. In the A&D sector, Industry 4.0 is bringing predictive insights to operators and technicians in several ways, including:
The ability to access charts that display alarm events, so operators and technicians can observe trends and implement corrective measures.
Access to spindle and axis monitoring technologies that record and display axis forces, loads and speeds. This data can then be used to fine-tune processes for faster cutting speeds and greater depths of cut. In addition, manufacturers can monitor critical tool data for multiple machines from one centralised location. Operators can use this data to make adjustments for enhanced tool performance and lifespan.
Camera monitoring capabilities that capture an internal view of a machine’s work zone, making it easier to solve processing errors before they impact part quality. Technicians also can receive email and text notifications of alarms, including images of the work zone. This helps service staff immediately address maintenance issues before they become costly problems.
According to Deloitte, manufacturers that implement predictive maintenance technologies typically experience operations and MRO material cost savings of 5 percent to 10 percent, reduced inventory carrying costs, equipment uptime and availability increases of 10 percent to 20 percent, reduced maintenance planning time of 20 percent to 50 percent and overall maintenance cost reductions of five percent to ten percent.
A&D suppliers also are realising enhanced performance through automated machining solutions, such as pallet-stacking systems. The Makino Machining Complex (MMC2) is an automated material handling system that links Makino horizontal machining centres, pallet loaders and operators. The system provides a constant flow of parts to the machining centres, so it can operate for extended periods unattended, including overnight and on weekends. The ability to automate manual processes reduces the need for time-consuming manual tasks and increases flexibility to meet OEM demands.
Bridging the Workforce Skills Gap
As machine tools become more technologically advanced, the A&D industry must confront another persistent challenge: the lack of skilled workers. In a recent industry workforce survey, 75 percent of respondents said they are concerned with the availability of key skills. “The need for talent will become even more critical in the next few years, as the baby boom generation moves beyond traditional retirement age – and the unavoidable loss at some point of their expertise and knowledge,” according to Aviation Week’s “2018 Workforce Report.” Machines that are equipped with IoT, artificial intelligence (AI) and other smart capabilities can enhance productivity for existing employees and minimise the learning curve for new hires.
The Case for a Connected Workforce
Voice-assistant technology common in the consumer world, such as Alexa and Siri, are now making their way into modern machine tools. In fact, more than 80 percent of A&D industry executives say they expect their workforce to be directly impacted by an AI-based decision within the next three years, according to an Accenture report. Voice-activated commands reduce manual interaction with the machine and helps operators translate and analyse big data. These digital assistants typically work through the use of headsets. Operators speak commands into the headsets, such as “turn the machine’s lights on,” “change tools,” or “show set-up instructions.” These voice-actuated capabilities simplify machine operation by reducing the time operators spend searching for information or performing manual tasks.
AI also serves as a coach for operators who may not be familiar with various operating procedures, such as how to perform different maintenance tasks. For example, a worker can ask the voice assistant how to change a filter. In many cases, these intelligent machines are not replacing operators but helping the existing workforce perform their tasks more efficiently.
They’re also allowing workers to move easily from one type of machine to another without a significant learning curve because they’re not reliant on an unfamiliar machine interface. These intelligent machines may help A&D manufacturers identify and onboard skilled workers with greater ease because they require less training and experience than more traditional technology.
Looking Ahead: What’s Next for A&D Machining
High-tech machining solutions are advancing at a rapid pace. The availability of new technologies comes at a critical point for the A&D industry. Suppliers must continue to improve productivity and reduce costs amid a constantly changing environment. In addition to OEM demands, the industry faces new competitive challenges, including potential price increases for materials. For instance, A&D manufacturers are still uncertain how U.S. tariffs on aluminium and steel imports could impact prices. The potential for higher material prices puts additional pressure on suppliers as they try to meet increasing demands for lower costs per part and delivery.
Suppliers need equipment that can reduce downtime, increase productivity and minimise labour costs. Manufacturers should consider machine-tool providers with a broad portfolio of equipment built specifically for the aerospace industry. The latest machining centres can perform high-precision tasks faster than ever. Vendors with experience in the aerospace industry can help A&D suppliers evaluate their needs and select a solution that is appropriate for specific applications. Makino is continuously updating its machines with the latest technologies, including automation and IoT capabilities, to help the industry produce accurate structural and turbo machinery parts faster with less variability and at the lowest cost.
How ATEP Slashes Titanium Machining Costs
Arconic Titanium & Engineered Products (ATEP) in Laval, Quebec, Canada, needed titanium-machining solutions to meet customer demands to lower costs and shrink delivery times. ATEP specializes in assembly and precision machining of various titanium aircraft components, including wing attachments, seat tracks and doorframes. Standard machine platforms couldn’t provide the rigidity, flexibility or control the company needed to meet its customer requirements. The company decided to install several Makino T-Series 5-axis horizontal titanium machining centres. Research engineers from ATEP determined the machines could help the company perform certain production processes three times faster than previous methods. It eventually led to a 60 percent reduction in cycle times and 30 percent reduction of tool costs.
The company also has realized benefits related to quality improvements. ATEP is a fully integrated supplier of titanium and other specialty metals products. ATEP is receiving additional business from customers who are asking the company to correct quality issues from other suppliers, according to a company executive.
Experts in manufacturing and communication technologies discuss how 5G networks help drive digital transformation within the manufacturing sector.
Join Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division and Ericsson on 16 April 2020 for a webinaron how 5G will support Industry 4.0 deployments.
Sachin Mathur, Head of Partnership Programs, Smart Factory, Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division, Erik Josefsson, Vice President, Head of Advanced Industries, Ericsson and Sasidhar Yalavarthi, Project Manager, Smart Factory, Ericsson, will discuss how 5G wireless networks facilitate greater automation and data-driven decision-making in the manufacturing sector. The event will be moderated by Brett Brune, Editor in Chief of Smart Manufacturing magazine.
Ignacio Blanco, Product Marketing Manager, Smart Factory Solutions Hexagon, says: “Hexagon and Ericsson are partnering to make manufacturing smarter by simplifying the capture, transfer and use of data with reliable, low-latency, high-bandwidth wireless networks. As a result, manufacturers will be able to connect multiple machines, sensors and systems across even the largest sites in a way that suits their individual productivity needs.”
The webinar will be sponsored by Digital Engineering, a leading German-language construction and engineering trade magazine; Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News (APMEN), one of the most authoritative metalworking magazines in the region; Smart Manufacturing, a principal industry voice in the United States and The Manufacturer, a major UK publication that provides news and promotes best practice in the manufacturing industry.
5G and Industry 4.0 in a nutshell
Smart Wireless Manufacturing
Strategic business-driven decisions
IoT and Industry connectivity
Register to join the webinar on 16 April 2020 at a choice of different times.