Guest Blog Written By Nick Scott, Manufacturing Consultant at Dassault Systèmes
It is a time when companies are under constant time-to-market pressures and when keeping up with the pace of the competition is an everyday concern. We live in a consumer driven world where the customer demands more and more product diversity and where the time given to a manufacturer from order nomination to start of production is continually being squeezed.
Can the product even be built as designed? How can we start manufacturing planning as early as possible and how can we avoid quality issues or late rework of assemblies? These are common challenges all manufacturers face.
All of these challenges are compounded by old, struggling legacy systems that need to support these decreasing manufacturing phases. If process definition, line balancing, layout design, flow simulation, tooling & machine resource programming are driven by point solution tools, connected through complex and laborious customized integration, efficient execution of business processes gets stifled in this mishmash of disparate systems.
From my own experience, by far the most common tool I see being used for Product-Process generation is Microsoft Excel, combined with some 3D screenshots for visualization purposes. These 2D spreadsheets, by their very nature, cannot convey the intuitive manufacturing intent desired by the planner and are prone to human error without the in-built manufacturing interoperability a 3D integrated planning solution can provide.
It’s important to note that these technology limitations don’t end just at the process definition phase. 2D assembly instructions can be ambiguous to shop floor personnel who try to interpret these planning methods and customized spreadsheets are notoriously hard to maintain. Work Instruction documentation, manually connected via customization to engineering, means manufacturing often lags behind on important changes in design. And how does Engineering gain important feedback from Manufacturing when there is no common, bi-directional, digital ‘Thread’ in place?
When this type of legacy point solution landscape is in place, and the approach to solve a technology gap or business problem is another differing software toolset, a siloed company culture simply gets more ingrained into each functional department. This holds back a business’s ability to innovate and collaborate on establishing best practice, the ‘Throw it over the Wall’ approach prevails.
When it comes to product range and diversity demands by consumers, this seeks to add even more pressure on manufacturing for innovative flexible tooling lines to support quick retooling on batch production runs. Companies often end up ‘re-inventing the wheel’ each time on a New Product Introduction because none of their Intellectual Property (IP), best practices, or lessons learnt from previous programs are captured and distributed throughout the company’s ecosystem. They remain stuck in a few ‘experts’ heads because the underlying culture is limited by this same siloed technology. The validation of multiple product variants in parallel for manufacturing requires coordinated thinking by engineering and manufacturing!
Manufacturers need to fully qualify the producibility of new products. To accomplish this they need to have in place an effective and efficient means of communication between engineering and manufacturing. Manufacturing must have the ability to visualize the impact of product modifications immediately and influence engineering from a manufacturability perspective. Lessons learnt and best practice can become an inherent part of this relationship when an underlying ‘Business Platform’ is present to facilitate this collaboration.
DELMIA, the organization I work for, is the Manufacturing Brand of Dassault Systèmes and is home to Dassault’s manufacturing capabilities. DELMIA has grown exponentially over the last 20 years to include a wide range of solutions for Digital Manufacturing, Manufacturing Operations Management and Supply Chain Logistics. Our DELMIA Solutions virtually define, plan, create, simulate, validate, control, monitor, execute and optimize production processes!
DELMIA’s Digital Manufacturing solutions are built on Dassault’s 3DEXPERIENCE Platform, our backbone structure that allows all of Dassault’s Brands to be built within the same technical framework. This framework supports all of our customer’s multiple business models, a common digital ‘Thread’ of our customer’s data running through ALL our industry engineered EXPERIENCE’s!
When this Business Platform is in place and digital continuity from Engineering to Manufacturing is supported and encouraged, all stakeholders on a New Product Introduction (NPI) can collaborate on the latest up-to-date 3D Data, breaking down functional Business barriers.
Delivered on the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform is our DELMIA Virtual Build offering, our technology for assembling and servicing a product virtually and offers end-to-end coverage for MBOM creation, assembly planning, plant layout and 3D work instructions. We address all of the key challenges manufacturers face by validating process plans and detecting manufacturing problems early with quick and easy 3D assembly visualization.
With the DELMIA Virtual Build solution, DFA Specialists and Assembly Planners can leverage the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to ensure the product can be assembled in 3D. Virtual Build allows designers, engineers and manufacturers to use DELMIA’s planning apps to ‘See what they build’ virtually in 3D before reaching SOP. Being able to visualize the assembly of a product in an integrated 3D planning environment, concurrently, while still in the design phase, means engineers can validate manufacturability very early on and provide important feedback to engineering.
From personally using Virtual Build, I particularly like how the integrated environment means I can visually see my process plan, which assembly operation consumes which product and which plant assembly line resource each process runs on. No other 3D engineering tool can give this holistic view of the Product, Process and Resource. MBOM generation is carried out in 3D and can be manually or semi automatically created, providing users with a 3D view of the hierarchical structure indicating which engineering parts are yet to be consumed in the MBOM. EBOM\BOM reconciliation is thus no more at the mercy of long excel lists and prone to human error, missing parts in the MBOM or over consumption of fixing components a thing of the past.
Once the MBOM is created, the planner can then begin deciding which manufacturing assemblies (MA’s) can be assembled on a logical assembly line by dragging and dropping them onto 3D ‘station’ tiles, or, by use of various 3D assignment assistant capabilities. This intuitive visualization means the planner can try multiple scenarios of assembly and once again, Business Intelligence tools indicate to the user which MA’s are assigned and which are not.
In actual fact the assembly process plan is a by-product of this MA assignment and created automatically so the assembly process plan exactly matches the planners’ intent. A Gantt ‘Microsoft Project’ style view of the process plan indicates the precedence and tact time for each assembly operation and pressing ‘Play’ on the 3DEXPERIENCE compass, the planner can watch the Virtual Build of their assembly in Real Time!
Taking this one step further, DELMIA Virtual Build then provides the capability to layout the design of the assembly line or plant and combine the process plan and assembly resources together. This resource-centric view means the planner can watch the build-up of the assembly within the context of the plant, moving from station to station, giving an unprecedented level of insight!
In terms of work instructions and from my own personnel experience, no two manufacturers are the same in how they want their work instructions delivered to the shop floor. To support our customers here we offer various formats in terms of output, HTML, EXCEL, PDF, 3DXML, 2D, 3D and the style of each we separate out via XSL style sheets, providing shop floor personnel either continuity or improvement in the look and feel. For assembly work instructions definition, we can simply leverage the already existing process plan to add the extra level of granularity needed in our work instructions application (app). Views, annotation and textual information add the richness required but it is the connectivity to planning that provides the real benefit here, that digital continuity in action!
This Virtual Build workflow identifies errors virtually at every step removing the necessity of costly physical prototypes not to mention solving unforeseen late production problems. Engineering change is supported through all DELMIA apps. This means a new version is simply updated and replaced with only the incremental changes needing to re-planned. There is no re-inventing the wheel here. Variants can be treated as a new version from a methodology standpoint, once again only the incremental changes need to be reworked, best practise starts to become instinctive from NPI to NPI. And finally if as a supplier you need to take a MULTI-CAD approach for your customers engineering data, the 3DEXPERIENCE platform also supports multiple CAD formats complete with change management control!
So if any of the common problems I’ve outlined are affecting your business and you’d like to know more about how DELMIA‘s Virtual Build offering can make a difference to your manufacturing agility, please do not hesitate to get in touch!