The manufacturing industry has undergone a digital transformation, resulting in improved efficiency, cost reduction, and enhanced quality control. By leveraging cutting-edge technology and robust software, manufacturers now have the capability to monitor and manage Material Requirement Planning (MRP), Work in Progress (WIP) , asset maintenance, and more. leading to greater transparency in their operations.
In this article, we'll explore the significance of digital manufacturing and its benefits.
What is Digital Manufacturing?
Digital manufacturing describes a process that involves the use of software and technology in order to enhance and support manufacturing across the production and assembly lines. An example of digital manufacturing could be implementing asset tracking and software in order to track WIP in real-time.
Why is Digital Manufacturing so important?
To better understand the various capabilities of Digital manufacturing, it’s important to understand that it isn’t about making manufacturers produce faster but produce more efficiently. By providing true visibility of their entire operations, manufacturers can improve their overall end-to-end production every step of the way.
Parts availability and material requirement planning
The fundamental requirement for production is the availability of raw materials and necessary parts. Digital manufacturing solutions aid in monitoring inventory levels and locating inventory in real time, ensuring seamless production.
Furthermore, digital manufacturing provides Material Requirement Planning (MRP), ensuring the factory has adequate inventory including predictions, and can swiftly respond to changes in demand, avoiding production delays.
Real-time WIP tracking
Previously, manufacturers relied on employees who would manually document and track production using pen and paper, which was a time-consuming process and prone to human errors. Today, with advanced technology, manufacturing plants can benefit from real-time tracking of Work in Progress (WIP), enabling them to gain a clear and accurate overview of their entire process.
For instance, asset tagging, combined with fixed readers installed in the form of gates along the production line, enables automatic tracking and documentation of manufactured items.
As stated earlier, having precise data doesn't necessarily speed up the production process, but it certainly reduces delays caused by undetected issues and bottlenecks. This way, manufacturers can ensure they remain on track with their plans, and if any issues arise, they can swiftly rectify them before any further damage occurs.
Manufacturing digital twin
A digital twin is a digital replica of assets or processes, like a manufacturing production line appearing in a system. It is a powerful tool that provides an accurate and comprehensive picture of the production process as going on in the real production line, enabling the identification and prediction of potential issues before they arise. This capability can significantly enhance visibility which improves efficiency.
Distribution and reusable transport item tracking
Once the production process is complete, the next crucial step is to ensure all products are dispatched to their next destination in the supply chain. Digital manufacturing solutions can also improve this process. By tagging the items, it becomes possible to track them as they come in and go out through smart gates that read the tags in real-time, providing accurate data on deliveries.
In addition, tags and gates can aid in tracking and tracing reusable transport items (RTI), such as pallets. This allows factories to monitor the number of items that leave and return to the factory. By tagging the items, it is possible to identify which specific item did not return, enabling the factory to trace its location. This capability can help prevent loss or theft of reusable transport items, potentially saving a significant amount of money and contributing to improved sustainability.
Digital manufacturing is not only useful for tracking produced items and their processes, but it can also help maintain the production machinery accurately. By tracking and documenting the exact number of produced items for each machine, it becomes easier to determine the optimal time to perform preventive maintenance inspections, servicing, and repairs.
For instance, if a machine requires oil after producing a specific number of items, a notification can be sent prior to that number of items being reached and as soon as this number is reached. This proactive approach can help extend the machine's lifetime without depending on employees to remember.
To sum up, digital manufacturing is a powerful solution that helps manufacturers improve the efficiency of their production lines. By leveraging digitization, manufacturers can accomplish various functions, such as identifying issues before they occur, addressing them promptly, tracing lost or stolen items, and maintaining asset care.