Monthly Archives: February 2019

Artificial Intelligence Technology in Manufacturing

Artificial Intelligence in Manufacturing

Category : Blogs

How can companies use artificial intelligence technology?

Artificial intelligence technology is about collecting vast amounts of data from devices around the world and making sense out of it. Data is only useful, though, if you can do something with it. Artificial intelligence is how companies can analyze and learn from massive amounts of data to make their companies operate with greater efficiency and to offer their customers a better user experience.

Machine learning in insurance and artificial intelligence in manufacturing and banking is already proving its worth as financial institutions are using this technology for fraud detection. There is no industry that can’t benefit from implementing artificial intelligence; the three industries we discuss in our video, “How Can Companies Better Use AI Technology,” include the financial, manufacturing and insurance sectors.

Artificial intelligence technology is a marvelous tool that companies can use to help them embrace the fourth industrial revolution.

Learn how AI and intelligent technology can help companies reduce fraud, make better decisions faster, assess risk and even reduce financial loss.

By Author – Steve Hartman


Siemens Manufacturing Execution System

How MES Manufacturing can advance medical device technology

Category : Blogs

How MES Manufacturing can advance medical device technology

In June 2009, Belgian soccer player Anthony Van Loo’s heart stopped in the middle of a match. He collapsed immediately.

In a matter of seconds, thanks to an implanted defibrillator, his body literally jolted back to life and his heart started beating again. He was taken to the hospital after his collapse and resuscitation, and checked out fine. He continued playing soccer for another nine years.

“The miraculous part is that it works so fast, that there is no damage to the brain or any other organs,” said Professor Pedro Brugada, cardiologist and head of the Heart Rhythm Management Centre at University Hospital in Brussels.

As cutting edge as Micro Systems Engineering Inc. (MSEI) was in medical technology, the company still used paper-based manufacturing processes that kept it from growing. To become more competitive, innovative and churn out life-saving products faster, they transitioned from paper-based processes to a comprehensive, digitalized manufacturing execution system (MES).

Defining MES Manufacturing

On its basic level, MES tracks production on the shop floor. After a part is designed and specified, production is scheduled. The MES manages the steps of the production process, informs operators, validates business rules and records all actions in an audit trail. This ensures a product is built consistently as designed.

The MES guides operators through a series of steps to perform, handles any non-conformances, accepts data collected from a number of sources to be linked to steps of the process, and verifies that the correct materials, tools, and equipment are used at each step. Operators are receiving better instructions leading to less stress as they work with automation.

Manufacturers can then better prevent errors by ensuring data is properly collected and is within acceptable values, verify equipment maintenance has been performed and validate employee training.

MES’s importance is realized in the medical device industry where new product introductions must be quick, growth is critical and innovation is key.

Consider that a new consumables part is introduced every 15 hours in the medical device industry, and the typical lifespan of a part is less than two years before it is updated or obsolete. On top of that, thousands of engineering change orders are processed annually. Batch records, which detail descriptions of processes, can commonly exceed six inches of paper per day, literally reaching miles of paperwork per product.

People like Van Loo depend on lifesaving equipment to work at the exact point it’s needed or risk organ failure, brain damage or death. Implementing an MES in the medical industry means data flows back and forth with other systems seamlessly and with greater traceability, leading to fewer defects, more rapid and accurate safety recall notices, better performance and more innovation delivered faster – all at a lower price.

Van Loo was diagnosed with a heart condition in 2008 and had been outfitted with a BIOTRONIK implantable defibrillator, a product of MSEI.

“They (defibrillators) are invisible, but they’re working 24/7, and they have to run and be reliable for years,” says Juergen Lindner, general manager of MSEI.

With each iteration and new product in development having increased complexity, MSEI found focusing more on automation, integration and digital data exchange allowed employees to complete more with greater accuracy and better implementation. Before costly, physical prototypes are created, companies like MSEI have the ability to answer “what-if” questions in the virtual environment before committing to physical iterations.

It’s easy to assume that the businesses employing MES solutions are the ones receiving the benefit of its use, but benefits reach far beyond that for people who rely on their devices every day, and all day, to keep them alive.

Employing MES for medical device technology

“The pace of change is so fast; you can’t grow by just adding people,” said Tom Rosso, vice president of global consumables operations at Illumina.

Medical device manufacturers like San Diego-based Illumina discovered they couldn’t grow without implementing a strategy that allowed for the level of rapid integration, growth and quality they required.

Illumina’s processes required endless coding and testing. As a result, product transfer times were high and they needed a massive amount of people to keep it running. They even struggled with automation finding it challenging to integrate data as they developed and manufactured their products.

Integration is a key part of digitalization, but there are plenty of challenges that come with implementation. With different systems come different developers, data structures, terminology and domains. Here are four challenges that frequently arise.

  1. Coming up with one size fits all. You should have a configurable system that provides a single supported software platform to be used in virtually infinite situations. Fulfilling unique customer requirements might involve extending the system.
  2. Implementation might take a lot of silos having to come together. Bringing in all the teams at once can feel overwhelming. Gradually bringing in teams might be a slower transition, but can often help find where bugs are in the system and issues can be managed easier. Companies can use new technology while the technology itself is under observation and refinement. It has the advantage of constantly being updated in an actual manufacturing environment.
  3. Hooking everything up is more challenging than it seems. Integration between the shop floor and the MES is key to realizing maximum value. The equipment communicates with MES, which does not permit transactions to occur until the floor equipment is ready to proceed. Tight integration between MES and other software and systems, such as manufacturing operations management, product lifecycle management and enterprise resource planning, must be set up for interoperability.
  4. Shortage of qualified labor. Without a qualified workforce, manufacturing with minimum resources might delay full implementation. Companies must consider better automation and MES to combat the current skills gap.

Regardless of the challenges of manufacturing with MES, there are plenty of benefits that minimize costs and increase efficiency. 

  • Smaller lot sizes with virtually infinite combinations possible. Increasing automation between shop floor and MES can support smaller lot sizes, improve quality and reduce labor costs.
  • Faster feedback from the shop floor to stakeholders. When production problems occur, engineering support is available faster decreasing time-to-market and allowing more frequent new product introduction.
  • Greater level of traceability. In regulated industries, it is necessary to have full traceability throughout the supply chain and manufacturing process. A full history of every operation, tool, employee, and specification used is accurately time stamped and maintained.

MES adoption will be critical for businesses in competitive industries. Along with faster time-to-market and shortened concept to production timelines, MES manufacturing brings more standardized interfaces and exchange formats across products and the supply chain. Unlike software integration today, which tends to exist as separate products, a well-integrated suite of MES software will be able to merge and function as a single product.

By Author : P Meeks


Strategic technology_closed loop quality

Strategic technology enables closed-loop approach to quality

Category : Blogs

Strategic technology enables closed-loop approach to quality

Recent reports from two prominent research firms have identified a new appreciation for quality in manufacturing. The new view heralds an approach dubbed closed-loop quality, which itself is overseen by a robust, end-to-end digital quality management system. What’s driving this new approach?

Market dynamics that have arisen from globalization and digitalization.

In the report Quality in the Future of Manufacturing, Frost and Sullivan asserts that increased digitalization within manufacturing industries, combined with increasingly competitive business, “make a compelling case for a holistic quality management approach in discrete industries.”

LNS Research focuses on quality’s impact in product innovation. Its surveys show that, of manufacturers that include lessons learned from prior product generations in new product development, 89 percent rely on data from quality management systems. It adds that, “The market is broadly emphasizing the importance of NPI [new product introduction] to revenue growth,” with some segments indicating that “NPI is anticipated to contribute more than 50 percent of new revenue in the next 12 months.”

As quality becomes more critical to manufacturing success, companies are turning their digitalization efforts toward streamlining quality practices, while at the same time integrating quality more tightly with functions across the manufacturing supply chain. They’re finding that QMS is doing for quality what advanced systems have done for new product development and management. This includes:

  • Enabling quality to be a strategic function, rather than tactical or department-level function
  • Building an integrated, closed-loop approach to quality from design and manufacturing through delivery and service, which includes quality components such as critical characteristic definitions, control/inspection plans and corrective actions
  • Elevating quality to an all-encompassing effort involving not just product and process quality in execution, but as integral to meeting the brand promise and customer expectations

Why automate quality?

The reasons for quality’s increased importance and the drive to digitalize it are similar to those that prompted the rise in the adoption of product management systems.

A big driver is the need to optimize quality at each step of the value stream while streamlining the hand-offs between them. With QMS, everyone across the lifecycle gains easy access to all data gathered from each step. This helps teams avoid problems or minimize the costs of problems by identifying and solving them at the earliest possible time in the development process.

Without a systematic view of quality, companies also struggle with downtime, rework and slow productivity growth. They’re less agile when confronted with changes to market and consumer demands, and they struggle with risks due to the complexities that exist throughout the manufacturing value chain.

Together, these issues conspire to slow getting new products to market.

The Frost and Sullivan study reports that QMS helps organizations “improve the efficiencies of their manufacturing processes, reduce costs and rework and improve manufacturing productivity.” In turn, this can have a positive impact on an organization’s financial status.

QMS in the context of the product lifecycle

To get a clearer vision of how QMS works, it helps to compare it with product management systems to reveal the synergies gained by integrating the two.

This strategy includes :

Conceptualization and ideation – The first stage of quality begins early with gathering customer requirements and understanding their business needs to create a new product concept. QMS can help facilitate this by feeding data and information from earlier product generations into these early stages.

Product design – As the product team designs the product, builds prototypes and defines the manufacturing process, the quality team develops the control and inspection plan. Though control and inspection is often considered part of the manufacturing plan, involving quality ensures the team understands how the product and processes will be tested during manufacturing, as well as the expected level of quality.

Supplier quality – Most companies buy materials and components. While the product team specifies them, quality verifies them through testing and collaboration with suppliers to confirm they meet standards and expectations. This ensures inputs aren’t found to be unacceptable later in development, when it would require a costlier fix and delay projects.

Failure mode and effect analysis (FMEA) – Using a step-by-step approach to identify the possible manner for which a design might fail, and critical to determining supply quality, is FMEA. It can be part of product development and product lifecycle systems, but is also a crucial QMS component.

Manufacturing – Quality testing and assurance continues through manufacturing as teams execute the control plan and inspect both the product and the process, including the tools used in production. With QMS, everything is monitored and tracked, and immediate corrections are made following the identification of nonconformance. Gathering and disseminating data, drawn from these tests, is automatic and trends are recorded to facilitate statistical process control.

Maintenance – Both product management systems and QMS gather data about product behavior once it’s delivered and in use. This helps product and quality professionals understand causes of problems that crop up. The systems make this data available for use in the design of new products.

With QMS and an end-to-end, closed-loop approach to quality, manufacturers ensure that all the inputs, whether coming from a machine, human or test, are being consolidated in one, always available, easily accessible system.

Elevating quality

It’s time to view quality management as having the same strategic value as product development, sales, engineering and manufacturing management. The market demands it, and the technology is available to support it.

When using QMS, manufacturers can extend quality throughout the enterprise informing each other function, which compounds to the overall success of the organization.

This concludes our series on the future of quality in manufacturing.

By AuthorRaffaello Lepratti