One of the great challenges for manufacturers with plants distributed across a country or between countries is trying to track the inventory of items they are making over multiple locations.
There is a need to deliver functional components that can support a distributed industrial base and this requires a digital platform that connects and integrates numerous manufacturing systems across disparate facilities.
Innovative smart digital systems are needed to ensure full traceability, monitoring, machine optimization and selection, automation and swift quotation, as well as fast, efficient delivery.
This will be deemed successful when sites across countries like the UK are digitally connected to enable the efficient delivery of finished additive manufacturing (AM) components to customers and partners.
An example of the challenges faced by manufacturers is one particular metal working company that manages enquiry processing, quotations and initial selective laser melting (SLM) at one site. It then sends the components to another site for heat treatment and mechanical testing, then to another site for non-destructive evaluation. Finally the components go back to the previous site for metal final machining, geometrical inspection and dispatching to the customer.
Addressing this challenge with a digitally connected SLM AM manufacturing process would greatly improve internal operational systems and result in efficient delivery of parts/projects. Underpinning this with the latest industry standards would enable:
- Electronic traceability (currently paper-based);
- Online (remote) tracking: Potential efficiency improvements for monitoring of parts and projects (internal view, external view via website login);
- Costing: Increase competitiveness by providing member quotations faster and with greater accuracy;
- Closed-loop process optimization: Visible data across internal processes increasing the internal learning and providing the ability to better optimize internal processes (i.e. mechanical testing outputs feeding back to SLM build);
- Reduction of variability due to human error and miscommunication.
The Welding Institute (TWI), a membership-based organization, is behind a proof of concept project and is testing it out across TWI sites, hoping to bring substantial benefits for its membership base. It has teamed with BT and Telecom Italia as champions, naming the project Logical Factory: Virtualizing Manufacturing for Agility Catalyst. They are being supported by participants Infosim, EnterpriseWeb and Infosys.
A major objective is to achieve improved transparency via API plug-in capabilities to an online portal on the TWI website. This will allow TWI members to digitally track real-time progress and location of their projects or parts within TWI supply chain.
The project will leverage TM Forum’s platform-based thinking, architectures and methodologies as well as TM Forum Open APIs for interoperability across different systems, proving quantifiable value in a real world context.
By building upon industry agreed standards and enabling a scalable platform the Logical Factory: Virtualizing Manufacturing for Agility Catalyst will bring dramatic improvements in interoperability, efficiency and transparency. It will be demonstrated at TM Forum Live! In Nice, May 15 -18.
Watch this video interview with BT’s George Glass and Infosim’s David Hock for more information: