Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Smart Manufacturing – The Next Revolution

With improvement on technologies, how manufacturing is done has totally changed during recent years. With the highly competitive market, entry to manufacturing is lowered. People need to be highly efficient in their operations.

As shown on researches, the largest proportion of cost of goods sold is wages and other employee related compensation costs. However, smart manufacturing may help reduce a lot of the people cost.

For example, Tata Motors made Nano with a sticker price of $2,500 in Indian market. This cheap price is resulted from the “smart” factory in Gujarat.[1] The automation technologies – sensors, microprocessors, and motor control devices improve the manufacturing process efficiency a lot.

As technologies become more polished, information available to make management decisions will become large and instant. As a result, responsiveness of the production will be improved. Tools to visualize such huge information are also available to help fast decision making in the competitive market.

The essential part of the smart manufacturing process is to create knowledge-embedded manufacturing operations. Process are automated and controlled more intensively in terms of automatic startups, shutdowns, deviation responses, and formulation changes. Furthermore, use of modeling and simulation will allow the information management, process knowledge flow more efficiently. Using open-source technology will make successful model available for other projects or parties. Success model may optimize a set of predetermined performance metrics.[1]

Although, automation, control, modeling and simulation are not so new for manufacturers, the smart ecosystem is one of the challenges raised. Extending the technologies and concepts from plant level to the entire supply chain and multiple industries will require a lot of effort in standardizing infrastructure. With this shared infrastructure, small business will benefit a lot from using interoperable tools for efficient production. In addition, cloud technology allows different parties share data across the supply chain. With this kind of integration across industries, entrepreneur may find their opportunities more easily with a great resources pool.

For example, Re-Char designed a fully functioning, off-the-grid factory inside a shipping container.[2]

A Shop-In-a-Box consists of:
  • A CNC table, working envelope 4'x4'x6", capable of running a plasma torch or wood-cutting router.
  • Solar panels plus batteries and inverters, adequate to power the shop's computers and hand tools.
  • A generator adequate to power the shop while the welders and plasma CNC do production work.
  • Transformers, capable of scrubbing irregular grid power so it's safe for use in the shop.
  • 2 plasma torches—one for CNC use, one for hand operation. Each can sever metal up to 3/4″ and sustain cutting in any thickness metal from 1/2″ to 22-gauge.
  • Full MIG, TIG, and oxyacetylene welders, to join a wide variety of metals.
  • Electronics prototyping, focused on through-hole components and arduino microcontrollers.
  • Desktop 3D printer.
  • A desktop, aluminum-capable CNC router.
  • A wide variety of small hand and power tools—everything you'd expect in a well-outfitted garage.
  • DVR with 4 cameras, mounted to easily capture and share all details of project builds.
  • Computers and software necessary to support the shop.

With this kind of great tool, people may implement their design much more easily. And “atoms” will become the most important thing in the new manufacturing industry.

The Internet has transformed marketing from a significant expense to a negligible cost, allowing startups and small enterprises to compete with many of the giant business enterprises of the 21st century.” said by Rob Kalin, a New York University graduate who made furniture in his apartment.

As said by Fred Wentzel, vice president of industry relations and workforce development at the National Council for Advanced Manufacturing, advanced manufacturing harnesses the efficiency of mass production and marries it to the flexibility of custom manufacturing. The goal is to respond quickly to customer demand by using high-precision information technology. With the shift from labor cost to highly automated manufacturing, companies are able to cut their number of employees thus lower the cost. While outsourcing labor cost keeps increasing, more and more jobs are returned to U.S. from outsourcing vendors.

However, this highly automated manufacturing system requires skilled workforce since dummy jobs are done by machine in a more efficient way. Certain concerns are raised in U.S. for the insufficient focus on education of science, technology, engineering or math which is the driven force for the new industry revolution.

In addition, due to climate changes and other environment effects, we need to make our industry mode more sustainable with use of green (renewable) energy.

Evolutions of power allow us to use energy more efficiently. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have found a way to generate and store energy in one single unit, thus save energy in the process.

With the empowered technologies, the next industry revolution will shift to distributed small and medium size enterprise networks.[3]

The question for most of us would be how should we take this precious opportunity to succeed in the future? By designing our own product? By polishing the necessary technology? What are the future needs for the developing industry?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.