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Getting on Board with Smart Manufacturing

By Patrick Waurzyniak
Senior Editor

The convergence of technologies and terms revolving around the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Smart Manufacturing, Big Data, digital manufacturing and Industry 4.0, can be confusing at best to many industry veterans, as well as to newcomers. At MESA 2016, held last week by the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association (MESA; Chandler, AZ) in the Chicago area, industry leaders sought to untangle or “demystify” the web of interconnected technologies comprising Smart Manufacturing and the IIoT.

Jacob Goodwin of the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII) noted that part of the “secret sauce” for smart manufacturing is leveraging the $70 million in federal funding for DMMESA 2016, co-located with the IndustryWeek Manufacturing & Technology Conference at the Donald Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL, focused on the imperative for the industry to fully embrace advanced manufacturing technologies and techniques as a matter of survival. An opening-day panel, “Preparing for the Future Today—Public Partnerships You Should Know About,” covered many of the key ways and member organizations that are available to help manufacturers step into the realm of smart manufacturing.

“The goal is this confluence of how you bring traditional plant-wide operations optimization and factory enterprise systems together,” said Mark Besser, vice president, services, Savigent Software Inc. (Bloomington, MN), and a board member of the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC). Manufacturers need to reach deeper into the supply chain, in an agile environment that coordinated all that supply chain activity, in order to make that data visible to the organization early in the process, Besser said. SMLC currently has 12-14 testbeds defined and underway working on supply chain visibility, he added.

Another panelist, Jacob Goodwin, director, membership engagement, Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII; Chicago), noted that part of the “secret sauce” for Smart Manufacturing is leveraging the $70 million in federal funding for DMDII members. “There’s a culture of innovation bred by diversity,” he added. DMDII offers a tiered membership structure to companies interested in gaining access to the technology being developed at the DMDII.

Software stands as the common element or glue that binds “smart” technology into manufacturing. With its successful and ever-widening “Brilliant Factory” initiative, manufacturing giant General Electric (GE; Fairfield, CT), has led the way with developing and using software leverages the embedded sensors in manufacturing plants. “Software really disrupts,” said Jamie Miller, GE senior vice president and president/CEO of GE TransportationJamie Miller, GE senior vice president and president and CEO of GE Transportation, during her keynote address, “Manufacturing’s Data-Driven and Digital Evolution,” at MESA 2016.

“The Industrial Internet isn’t just a probability, it’s really here today,” Miller said, noting the IIoT by 2020 will be a $225 billion market. “There’s a new era of manufacturing, and GE is investing in our Predix software to drive it.”

In addition, additive manufacturing is being widely deployed as a key component of digital manufacturing, Miller said, noting GE’s expanding use of additive 3D printing technologies in production of its LEAP aircraft engine components. To date, 75 of GE’s 450 factories worldwide are among its Brilliant Factory smart manufacturing installations, Miller said.Of GE’s 450 plants worldwide, 75 plants are Brilliant Factories, she said, that combine lean manufacturing, and other elements including virtual manufacturing, sensor-based technologies, and supply-chain optimization.

Other manufacturers showcased their IIoT successes including Orbital ATK’s Aerospace Structures Division (Dulles, VA). Paul Hardy, IT manager, Orbital ATK, presented a case study showing how the manufacturer has employed the visual factory software from Synchrono Inc. (St. Paul, MN) to dramatically increase its production rates and lower downtimes for Orbital ATK. The Synchrono SyncView visual factory software gives users real-time views into actionable factory-floor metrics that can greatly impact factory performance.

One of the key issues for manufacturers is determining what to measure on the factory floor. “You have all this data, and the question is, ‘What do you do with it?’” said John Maher, Synchrono vice president, product strategy. “What’s most important for manufacturers is that things are in alignment. The metrics can’t conflict with each other.” With the right metrics, manufacturers can improve flow, manage constraints, and direct continuous improvement, Maher said.

At the “What is Smart Manufacturing Anyway?” panel, a trio of executives, Doug Lawson, CEO of ThinkIQ; Ralf Sonnefeld, chairman of MESA International and director of sales and service for Siemens Industry Software (Nuremberg, Germany); and Larry Megan, Praxair director of R&D, emphasized the critical importance of getting on board with Smart Manufacturing technology.

“It’s it odd that six dirt-cheap sensors harnessed by thousands of apps have changed almost every aspect of our lives in just nine years?” said ThinkIQ’sSarah Huhner, senior consultant, Synchrono Inc., demonstrates the company’s SyncView visual manufacturing software at Synchrono’s booth at MESA 2016. Doug Lawson of the smartphone explosion. In contrast, the many thousands of sensors in factories have been largely ignored, he added.

“To me that is the essence of smart manufacturing, when we learn what to do with the data from those sensor,” said Lawson. “We should be able to do the same thing with our plants. What are we going to do with the millions of sensors in the IoT?”

Lawson described working with General Mills on tracking genetically modified organisms (GMO) content in cereals. “At GMI, we’re selling trust,” he added, noting traceability of contamination is critical. “If you can’t see it, you’re in trouble.” The keys to solving that puzzle, he said, are using tools including powerful semantic modeling, Big Data analytics, engineering science, and a cloud infrastructure to secure data.

In most cases, smart manufacturing technologies aren’t that new, but instead require a rethinking of manufacturing business practices, noted Sonnefeld. “They’re called the Digital Twin or the Digital Thread,” he said. “We believe that we’re only starting to think of what smart manufacturing means. The goals don’t change.”

Lawson said the key is to think of a real problem and apply the technology. At General Mills, they picked two problems and changed all of the companies’ products to gluten-free. “You’ve got to let go of pre-conceived ideas,” Lawson said. “Leadership has to take on the challenge of breaking down those walls.”

Published Date : 5/9/2016

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