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Concurrent Manufacturing

New methodologies for integrated product and process design and production has significantly reduced time-to-market. However, even the most advanced collaborative design software cannot incorporate tacit knowledge, respond to changing markets or organizational structures, or accommodate multilingual or multicultural projects.

Data exchange has been hindered by:

  • Lack of data standards - Standards for product data, such as STEP [Standard for the Exchange of Product-Model Data] are gaining acceptance.
  • Lack of interoperable systems-level applications software - difficulties in characterizing and integrating processes. Large companies have encountered significant difficulties in the integration of enterprise resource planning [ERP] with design functions.
  • Lack of collaborative tools that integrate between different engineering design packages, restricting virtual collaboration to those sharing the same tools.
  • Lack of product lifecycle management capability - little has been done to integrate product lifecycle processes, cycle costs and management into overall designs. The optimization of product and process life cycles is advancing with more advanced business intelligence suites.
  • Lack of flexibility in machine tools and manufacturing cells – can only be reconfigured in very limited ways and only with significant human intervention. The time taken to input data and coordinate non-integrated systems extends beyond the window of market opportunity. Newer, more flexible tools and cells have reduced set-up times from hours to minutes.
  • Difficulty in technology implementation - new manufacturing technologies must be implemented by people and can be difficult to implement and maintain, slowing the rate of innovation.
  • Lack of suitable manufacturing technologies - not intended to support just-in-time user learning, knowledge creation, and flexible use. User interfaces for manufacturing technologies have been fixed [non-customisable] to support TQM goals of reducing user errors.
  • Current production process simulations are lagging behind industry needs and their complexity requires operators to have specialized knowledge of process models and software tools to use them. In addition, models of manufacturing operations are usually oversimplified in that they do not account for human factors like variable skills, discretion, or motivationm meaning the are of limited use.

In spite of these challenges, rapid prototyping technologies have shortened product development times and improved the integration of product and process design.

The technologies, processes, and systems used are driving further toward concurrency that can enable geographically distributed work units to adapt and change rapidly.

Technological advances in four key areas:

  1. Systems Modeling Capability - synthesize operational decisions to produce a feasible, optimal, solution. Manufacturing enterprise modeling and simulation is used in concurrent, planning and to support real-time operational decision making. Models must incorporate all aspects of manufacturing: equipment, processes and human interact with manufacturing systems. This includes human-machine interfaces and processes that enhance human performance and promote intelligent input.
  2. Modular and Adaptable Design Methodologies - designs must be readily adaptable to a broad range of products and processes. Libraries of reusable design modules will incorporate considerations such as waste generation, raw material and resource utilization, manufacturing costs, maintenance time, and other parameters.
  3. Adaptable Processes and Equipment - that can be rapidly adapted to manufacture new products to meet dynamic market demands. This may include the capability to produce several customized products on the same process line, meaning that manufacturing processes and systems must be able to be quickly reconfigured. Product designs will be need to be seamlessly transformed into finished products with minimal process set-up time or human intervention, using modular plug and play hardware and software components.
  4. Materials and Processes - rapid design, production and release of new products require processes that can produce totally new materials and shapes, making use of new materials with new properties and structures. For example, large production-quality components with varying material properties and high dimensional precision can be produced using free-form fabrication. Materials for one-of-a-kind products may have to be created just for one use. Customizing new materials and shapes will require that processes be controllable at the atomic level to produce synthetic materials to meet specific, perhaps novel, performance objectives. This will necessitate the development of modeling capabilities that can derive the properties of the bulk materials from representations of atomic structures.

Manufacturing enterprises will require integrated systems, automated routine functions, and analytical R&D dedicated to meeting customer needs. Speed of communcations and assimilation of new technologies will be inherent throughout the enterprise, with frequent reconfigurations a standard systems approach to production.

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