In order to become more competitive and efficient, manufacturing operations are looking to technology to assist with automation and integration between software and hardware. There are five key areas of technology automation and integration for manufacturing operations where companies are focusing their time and resources in order to complete a digital transformation that puts data front and center for long-term success. With data that is easily captured, interpreted, and actionable, manufacturing managers have the ability to make better business decisions to drive faster and higher quality production at a lower cost.
Many may perceive robotics as a capital investment in machinery. However, robotics should be considered an investment in process automation. Robotics allows you to automate tasks and complete physical processes while capturing important data during process completion. That information is then automatically relayed back into your business system. The flow of information is two-way and allows your team to make adjustments within Dynamics 365 which then immediately changes the robotic processes.
Robotics is one of the easiest investments in automation to justify due to the immediate ROI and impact on productivity.
Robotics Business Scenario
A tarp manufacturing company has several different production lines that manufacture tarps of different sizes and thicknesses. In the past, the production manager needed to generate a file with work instructions and a production order and then manually input that information on each production line’s machinery.
With integrated robotics, the production manager or operator can now access information directly within Dynamics 365, make any necessary production changes within the system, and seamlessly send those instructions to each production line and any changes in production happen instantaneously. Feedback and data on production quality and utilization is constantly sent directly to Dynamics 365 so users can see utilization rates for each line, cycle time per line or product, and much more. These reports are completely interactive, so you can drill into areas for more details or easily view that data is different ways.
2. Plant Management
Monitoring devices are being used in manufacturing facilities in order to manage scheduled downtime, fixed asset integration, preventative maintenance, and predictive maintenance. Tooling or maintenance changes impact your production timeline. And with plant management strategies in place, you have the ability to schedule these events in order to minimize direct impact on production and output.
Data related to maintenance information can be associated back to a specific fixed asset. The system can then find any similar or related fixed assets and identify any others that should also be maintained or evaluated.
3. Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT capabilities are exploding in popularity in manufacturing facilities because of the vast possibilities IoT connected devices bring and how they can enhance so many different facets of the business.
These small devices can be linked throughout your operation and integrated directly back into Dynamics 365, providing instantaneous information that can be used in business processes. This data will enable businesses to change how they both sell and support their products. Many businesses are changing their service model to include a standard monthly contract with monitoring services. Now companies can remotely monitor any device and immediately identify any issues that need to be resolved.
Another service model that is becoming more popular is leasing machinery and charging based on use. This was difficult or impossible to do in the past but is now a possibility thanks to usage monitoring IoT devices.
4. 3D Printing
3D printing may not apply to every manufacturing facility, but has big implications for those companies who can find a way to utilize this technology. This technology is not designed to replace mass-scale production, but rather to help with specialty requirement parts.
For example, hearing aid manufacturers need to produce custom fit pieces. With 3D printing technology, a scan of an ear canal can be inputted into the 3D printer to create a custom hearing aid for a much lower price than previously possible.
5. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI is where most manufacturers will see the biggest change in the future. There are several different areas within AI that manufacturers could take advantage of.
- Demand planning
- With demand planning, data from your historical forecast, and your production requirements is analyzed with AI. Then a data-driven demand planning forecast is generated from the system.
- Generative design
- With generative design, your CAD system and Dynamics 365 integrate to generate new designs that will be more productive based on data outputs from the production line.
- Quality management
- If a machine in production fails, AI can determine what other machines may have the same issue so you can replace parts before they fail.
- Automation allows you to evaluate the quality of each part as it’s produced and helps to detect any issues or defects.
This article just touches the tip of the iceberg when it comes to automation and integration for manufacturing operations. Now is the time to start internal discussions and strategy sessions around how technology integration and automation can help move your business forward and become more productive. Reach out to the manufacturing technology experts at Stoneridge Software for guidance.