Article from Action Line News ()
March 16, 2008
What is Digital Manufacturing and Why is it Important to Manufacturers?

According to PLM analyst CIMdata…“Digital Manufacturing is an integrated suite of tools that work with product definition data to support tool design, manufacturing process design, visualization, simulation, and other analyses necessary to optimize the manufacturing process.”  In essence, Digital Manufacturing technologies facilitate the collaboration between product design and manufacturing engineering functions by providing manufacturing engineers earlier visibility to product design data, where they can assess the impact a given design concept will have on manufacturing process operations, identify potential issues, and recommend improvements to product design engineers before the design is finalized.     
So you may ask, “What are the motivators for manufacturing companies to adopt Digital Manufacturing?” Well, there are plenty of business challenges and industry pressures they must meet to stay competitive in their respective markets.  These include:

  • Lower product costs
  • Reduce time-to-market
  • Increase mfg. asset utilization
  • Increase production throughput and manufacturing efficiencies
  • Lower poor quality and
Warranty expenses
  • Standardize processes across products & facilities (“Design anywhere, Build anywhere”)
  • Lower manufacturing costs to compete against low-cost country sources
  • Product traceability and regulatory compliance

While these challenges have existed for quite some time now, manufacturers still struggle today with how to improve their organizational effectiveness and business processes.  They still face lots of inefficiencies with planning their manufacturing processes to support new product introduction, often equating to millions of dollars in waste. A significant cause of this condition is due to disconnected manufacturing systems and the notion that manufacturing engineers manage 10-100 times more data than their product engineering counterparts.  And they do this in an environment where extensive and cumbersome manual efforts are required to synchronize all manufacturing and assembly data (plant, resources, process) with product data.  This is where the integrated Digital Manufacturing system by Siemens PLM presents a strong value proposition in which, once implemented, companies can improve their business processes and consequently, help them tackle the abovementioned business challenges and industry pressures.  
The Siemens PLM Digital Manufacturing (DM) solution suite, known as Tecnomatix, is the leading DM solution offering in the marketplace.  And a significant reason for this is the integration feature the manufacturing process management database, known as Teamcenter Manufacturing, provides - both to connectivity of upstream engineering databases (PDM), and across manufacturing point solutions where detailed, 3-D simulation and visualization analyses are performed.  The database provides connectivity to product data and stores all manufacturing process data in one single system, thereby enabling collaboration between product engineering and manufacturing engineering functions (“Concurrent Engineering”).  While the strength of the integration feature is a key competitive advantage, the solution suite offers many point solutions that can be implemented as ‘stand-alone’ solutions, which are excellent penetration points into the small-to-medium business marketplace. 
Now, let us take a closer look at some of the key solution capabilities offered within the Tecnomatix portfolio.  It is comprised of 9 key areas as depicted in the figure below.
The Assembly Planning and Validation offering aids the process of creating and reconciling a Manufacturing Bill of Material with the Engineering Bill of Material; facilitates development of assembly operations where all manufacturing data is contained in one system (product, plant, process, and resources); and provides the ability to simulate the assembly sequence for feasibility and optimization, including human ergonomic considerations.     
The Robotics/Automation Planning and Validation offering helps with defining the process sequence of operations for robotic applications, where robots are utilized in high-volume manufacturing environments (i.e. automotive industry) to perform manufacturing tasks, by simulating the movement of robots for clearance detection, task times, etc. to validate the installation and operation of robotic lines.        
The Part Manufacturing Planning and Validation offering is similar to that of Assembly Planning and Validation except it applies to part manufacturing processes.  This solution area provides the ability to create numerical control (NC) programs for cutting parts; simulate NC programs to evaluate machine tool movements for optimizing machine cycles and total operation time; and create process sequence and operations definition.  This is a logical penetration point for existing Siemens customers utilizing NX CAD solution whom fabricate parts (i.e. machining).
The Plant Design & Logistics Optimization offering aids factory planning, especially for new product introductions.  This solution area provides 3-D modeling of plant facilities for expansion planning before capital dollars are spent; discrete event modeling to determine production ‘waste’ and identify opportunities to improve production throughput (units produced) and capacity (how many can we produce); optimize the movement of materials between stations across the entire plant; and perform human ergonomic analyses for plant safety considerations.  This solution area contains several ‘stand-alone’ technologies that are ideal for penetrating small-to-medium size businesses.
The Quality Management offering aids with quality planning and inspection processes for improving overall product quality.  The solution area helps predict assembly tolerance stack-up issues from specified part dimensions; identify potential quality issues with a given design; and streamline inspection processes by creating inspection machine programs off-line.  This solution area contains several ‘stand-alone’ technologies that are ideal for penetrating small-to-medium size businesses.
The Resource Management offering aids with organizing all physical resources into one, common library for easy retrieval and access.  The solution provides the ability to locate all manufacturing resources (i.e. equipment, tooling, fixtures, gages) to reduce capital expenditures when planning for new production lines.  This capability facilitates reuse and helps with maximizing asset utilization.
The Process Documentation offering aids with the creating, publishing, and managing of work instruction documentation for shop floor purposes.  The solution leverages the process sequence defined in either Assembly Planning and Validation or Part Planning and Validation and publishes both textual and 3-D views (from JT) into work instruction templates that are easily customizable to meet customer’s format and streamlines efforts when changes occur.
The Production Management offering is a manufacturing execution system whereby data is collected during production operations.  The solution primarily executes work orders; captures real-time data to track and record manufacturing events for traceability and compliance purposes; and provides production performance reports for management review.
And the Manufacturing Process Management offering provides the backbone database for operating these solution areas and also facilitates sharing of data between engineering personnel.  In addition, the solution provides many key features such as ‘where-used’, ‘where-referenced’, and ‘workflow’ that drastically improves manufacturing engineering efficiencies.
Published by Sherri Clysdale
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