ManufacturingJune 9, 2020

Getting Something of Value from an Unexpected Crisis

Within the global Transportation and Mobility industry, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly…
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Within the global Transportation and Mobility industry, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed life for most of us both personally and professionally. The stay-at-home orders came upon us so quickly that we hardly had time to clear out our lockers in the plant or our desks in the office. For many white-collar workers, the first task was to find that perfect spot at home that could serve as the remote “office” where productive work could continue to flow. Once located and outfitted to look like your “real” office (sticky notes, pencil holder, coffee mug, etc.), productive work was to set begin! However, it became apparent very quickly that some companies really had not set up a remote communications infrastructure capable of supporting near 100% “remote” company operations. Big sigh….

That is the first valuable take away from this crisis. Corporate IT infrastructure needs upgrading to support real digital transformation. This means an infrastructure sized to support a majority of workers collaborating remotely. It also means creating a manufacturing network that connects plants to both the corporate network and the external internet with the appropriate security software and protocols that fully protect the organization from cyber hackers. This is the foundation for manufacturing transformation. In the age of Virtual Twin, cloud computing and real-time data analysis digitally isolating manufacturing operations from the outside world is no longer an industry-leader strategy.

The second take-away involves a serious look at your MOM strategy for the shop floor. The automotive industry can be proud of its response to the COVID-19 crisis. From masks to face shields to ventilators, automotive suppliers and OEM’s have quickly pulled together turning their attention to making life-saving protective gear and equipment for first responders and patients. The creativity and tireless dedication shown in organizing operations and ramping up production of critical supplies so quickly has been nothing short of extraordinary. Shouldn’t this level of flexibility and agility be ever-present in your normal production operations? What is your current maturity level? Do you have a cohesive platform-based strategy that drives agility and flexibility throughout your global manufacturing network? I would suggest that the time we have now as lines are down be used to look at by manufacturing leadership to chart a new course for the future. For the most part, the manufacturing engineering community, plant management and IT are still working. Put together a SWAT team to lay down a strategy that moves you to a globally connected Future Factory state. This would be a good use of the crisis down-time and one that will pay you back many times over in the future.

The third take-away involves looking at your virtual manufacturing capabilities, traditionally referred to as Digital Manufacturing. This is that area of general fuzziness for many that sits between product engineering and shop floor execution that encompasses MBOM management, process planning, production line design, robotics, ergonomics and simulation. While most manufacturing organizations have attempted to improve their virtual manufacturing capabilities, few companies have fully embraced the absolutely necessity of a comprehensive virtual approach to manufacturing as the key to future success. A platform approach to digital manufacturing and unlocking the power of the Virtual Twin concept should be the basis for any manufacturing strategy.

Factory/line/cell modeling, testing and simulating actual production should at the heart of your release plans for any new products or product changes. The ability to see and understand your factory floor via a Virtual Twin representation and simulate various changes to insure manufacturing integrity and product quality. This is especially true now as manufacturers look at their operations and try to implement social distancing requirements on the production line. Using a Virtual Twin representation of your shop floor and DELMIA simulation capabilities, the ability to quickly analyze the impact of social distancing on your line configurations and various production impact scenarios is understood immediately. Contrasted against multiple physical trips to the production area, creation of drawings or cardboard models, filling out excel spreadsheets and laying down masking tape to do the same thing physically, the value of Virtual Twin modeling and simulation of your operations is obvious.

None of these actions is short-term and together, they require a strategic commitment to digitalization and transformation. However, the process of moving your manufacturing operations to a more resilient future requires a first step. And taking that first step now would be the best thing of value to come out of this crisis for a T&M manufacturer.

Visit the Factory of the Future to explore how to digitally transform your operations.

This post by Fred Thomas originally appeared on The DELMIA Blog.

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