Rather than thinking of the journey towards the smart factory as one big transformation project, many manufacturers will benefit from a step-by-step approach. This will involve making small-scale changes to current metrology systems for incremental productivity gains. So what does this look like in practice?
First you want to establish how the daily operations on the factory floor are serving (or hindering) business objectives. Go out on the shop floor and investigate the pain points. Where are the bottlenecks? What are machine operators struggling with in their daily work? What technology improvements are going to deliver the most value?
A single technology upgrade can help make your manufacturing smarter. By making the connection between a metrology system and business objectives, it’s easier to make the investment that will deliver the best ROI. Of course, what this ROI looks like in terms of output is dependent on your business needs. It could mean faster throughput, increase in right-first-time, the ability to quickly leverage extra machine capacity and more.
For example, Soldar Ltd has secured new business to produce components for a high value OEM. Over time, it becomes clear that turn around is too slow. Soldar even sees a dip in on-time delivery and the customer indicates they will reduce orders if Soldar doesn’t start meeting the agreed schedule. Soldar investigates and identifies a significant bottleneck in the quality lab. Operators highlight the complexity of this new customer’s parts and the difficulty of alignment, which is proving time-consuming and prone to error.
Automating this process would help to make alignment faster, eliminate error, and drive quicker product output. Hexagon’s EYE-D uses a camera to automatically identify and align the part and launch the correct measurement routine. What’s more, the ability to integrate this data into other software systems could contribute to deeper analysis and subsequent improvements across quality control processes, enabling manufacturers to drive smart manufacturing in areas they might not have anticipated with this initial investment.
A relatively simple technology upgrade like this can have a massive impact on KPIs, and the opportunities are there throughout quality process. Sometimes they might be hard to miss because the pain point might appear relatively minor if the problem isn’t visible outside the lab. For example, say a CMM operator is constantly having to move between the desktop and the CMM when they need to switch between controlling the CMM and using software applications. To some, it might sound like a mild inconvenience or a ‘usability’ issue. But besides making your operator’s life easier, addressing this issue could deliver significant cut costs via reduced cycle times. Across an organisation’s CMM operators, that time spent moving between the desktop and the CMM accumulates day by day, week by week, year by year. A simple upgrade to a wireless system interface, like Hexagon’s Digital Control Center (dCC), allows the operator to access a full-range of metrology applications from anywhere around the CMM. Over time, this translates into sizeable time savings, helping an organisation to improve its throughput.
As well as supporting business objectives and a range of KPIs, these incremental technology upgrades also prime your quality processes for greater autonomy, another important step in the smarter manufacturing journey.
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