Digital Manufacturing: Not Only Safety...

This approach supports process planning and collaboration.

Human and production equipment safety are not the only benefits of a product lifecycle management (PLM) digital manufacturing strategy. By giving manufacturers the ability to digitally represent entire operations from the desktop, PLM vendors such as UGS and DELMIA are offering significant enterprise benefits, according to CIMdata Inc., a manufacturing consulting firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich.

In addition to human and ergonomic analysis, the digital manufacturing approach supports process planning, collaboration and support for several functional areas including:

  • Translation of design data to manufacturing
  • Process planning
  • Production operations planning and machining process planning
  • Assembly definition and sequencing
  • Detailed line, cell, station and task design
  • Quality measurement and reporting
  • Manufacturing documentation, shop floor instruction and collaboration.

Ed Miller, CIMdata's president, says digital manufacturing technologies are typically implemented to mitigate employee and process risks, provide virtual plant tours, improve floor space utilization, establish proof of concept, program and deploy machinery sooner and validate processes before their release to manufacturing. He also cites the ability of the simulation tools to eliminate production floor hazards (the potential for bottlenecks and collisions), eliminate prototypes and reduce rework and scrap.

In a DELMIA-sponsored research survey, CIMdata found that digital manufacturing technology was helping organizations complete tasks that could not otherwise be accomplished. And in some cases, the cost or time associated with a specified task is being reduced by orders of magnitude.

The CIMdata research revealed that it is possible for organizations adopting digital manufacturing technology to experience a high rate of return -- annual returns five to 10 times their annual investment.

Among CIMdata's conclusions: On average, organizations using digital manufacturing technologies can reduce lead time to market by 30%, the number of design changes by 65% and time spent in the manufacturing planning process by 40%. Production throughput can be increased by 15% and overall production costs can be cut by 13%.

CIMdata says the greatest gains in digital manufacturing are typically achieved in large-scale complex and/or difficult environments with an integrated PLM solution.

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