Control is no freak

Posted on 2 May 2008 by The Manufacturer

To know exactly what’s going on throughout the production process – and where the capacity for an urgent order exists – is a holy grail of manufacturing operations. But it’s not unreachable, says David Trowell of Seiki Systems

What is the most important thing in manufacturing today? Controlling costs will be the response from financial departments. Operations want orders in sequence and materials where they’re needed, when they’re needed – no later. Maintenance seeks to avoid breakdowns and may well get agreement from production for the benefit of planned resource maintenance. All very important but one will get a different, and very simple, answer to the same question from one’s customers. They want their deliveries on time and in full. Enabling even small businesses to achieve effective control, scheduling, information at point of demand, monitoring and analysis reports – leading to improved productivity – is what Seiki Systems does.

“Most companies in manufacturing – especially large aerospace OEMs – have machine shops, and all of them have CNC equipment,” said David Trowell, general manager of Seiki Systems, based in Brighton. “Most companies operate some form of system to plan and monitor their manufacturing, but how many can actually determine with accuracy the status of current work-in progress, available capacity, which jobs are on time or late and the consequences of any delayed operations? It is in these areas that Seiki Systems specialise.” Seiki’s solution is a neat portfolio of modular products that integrates the manufacturing enterprise and provides an immediate, visual and dynamic picture of the entire manufacturing process (including earlier upstream disciplines processes such as design), resulting in the level of flexibility required by manufacturers to meet the ever changing demands of the industry and their customers. In the current business climate there has never been a more critical time for companies to invest and secure manufacturing control and process advantage.

Trowell says that to achieve this level of visibility and control, real-time systems relating to machine and operation status provide a far more accurate picture of the current state of production on the shopfloor on which to base key planning decisions. The Scheduler provides management control of planned work and capacity availability: “The Scheduler interrogates the ERP/MRP data to establish the production time and number of parts required for each works order, creating a routing based synchronised work-to list for each individual resource – including part numbers, individual operations, due dates and forecast finish dates – which can then be distributed around the shopfloor.”

While traditional paper-based methods can collate data and produce graphical representations, they are often based upon historical data and are likely to be inaccurate. Another advantage of a paperless manufacturing environment is that essential manufacturing data is made available at point of use to operators on the shopfloor, such as NC programmes, together with the relevant documentation required for each CNC or manual operation, including drawings, tool lists, NC simulation videos, etc. Supportive functions, like toolsetting, can see what’s needed, where and when, and ensure everything is ready for start time. The system can also be configured to meet the requirements specified in quality standards; providing access control, batch details, and recording changes to NC programs, with audit and traceability records being automatically generated.

Flexibility is essential for any company looking to maintain advantage over their competitors and it is here that the real-time knowledge is the key enabler. Should a new order with an immediate requirement arrive you may not have any real idea of where to fit it in to the production schedule and any subsequent impact to the scheduled delivery dates of existing works orders, effectively causing a potential ripple throughout the organisation.

Reliance upon physical observation of shopfloor activity and word of mouth to determine production capacity for the allocation of work is inherently flawed. Seiki’s production management solution provides a graphical representation of the workload across the facility. This means that it is possible to immediately identify any bottlenecks or spare capacity. Changes in one area will immediately show the knock-on effect to all live works orders – and if you understand the implications, you can take a proactive as opposed to reactive approach to planning and ensure you meet the allimportant on-time delivery dates for all your orders, not just those for the person shouting the loudest. Seiki’s production management solution links all the production resources and associated processes together into one point of view – a single version of the truth It also collects data on the equipment’s utilisation and performance, which helps with measurements of efficiency.

Maintaining manufacturing control/visibility ensures the investments made in production resources are maximised. The Seiki solution provides a natural extension to existing systems and its modularity provides a flexible solution and natural upgrade path, bringing together ERP and CAD/CAM at point of manufacture. The SFDC and feedback functionality allows access to real-time reporting, performance analysis and OEE, on which to base production efficiency and continuous improvement strategies.