Advanced manufacturing requires advanced software solutions

Published:  20 December, 2021

Manufacturers face the ongoing challenge of delivering goods in greater volumes and speeds while keeping prices competitive in an overcrowded market. Automation that features software integrated solutions are helping manufacturers meet these challenges by providing precision and versatility through intelligent systems that increase order fulfilment and improve quality control. Steffen Thierfelder, Managing Director, Northern Europe of Dematic UK and Ireland, explains more

Software-driven automation solutions are set to become staples of advanced manufacturing over the coming decade, and how manufacturers respond to the opportunities will be vital to their own success. They will need to embrace the shift and invest in their workforce to develop new technology-focused skillsets. This shift will rely on a technically skilled workforce – to support automated solutions enhanced by intelligent software.

Understanding manufacturing operations through software

Software is already deeply embedded into the fabric of the supply chain and order fulfilment processes. Manufacturers should now be focusing on taking advantage of the data, which is fast becoming a valuable tool as it delivers insights into performance and productivity.

By developing advanced manufacturing driven by software, operation data can be key to maintaining peak performance of equipment by identifying weak spots at risk of failure or areas that are likely to create bottlenecks. It is for this reason that Dematic have invested heavily in developing its own Operations Optimisation and Condition Monitoring platform, the benefits of which are twofold: First, using a software-led monitoring system operating in real-time, factory operators are able to react quickly to issues within the production process. Operation teams can use a digital platform to identify potential issues and their locations, minimising issues before they can result in an equipment malfunction.

Second, proactive maintenance is simplified. Addressing potential issues before they become disruptive to operations means fewer periods of downtime. This is particularly important to meet order fulfilments during busier periods such as seasonal holidays where the supply chain is put under additional stress.

Automating transport

The transporting of goods safely and efficiently around the factory floor is an area that has seen a massive transformation. Tugging vehicles, operated by human drivers, have historically been the primary mode of heavy goods transportation. However, this model is an inefficient use of human time and presents health and safety concerns.

Manufacturers have been keen to remove the variable of human error with a transportation solution that is driven by technology. Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) improve performance as they follow data-led delivery protocols. They rely on orders relayed by software and data analysis tools, which are far less likely to make mistakes. This also frees workers to take on tasks that cannot be completed by automated devices.

The AGVs operate on tightly managed routes at steady speeds and delivery rates. Their reliability ensures that goods are handled with care, limiting the potential for damage and the correct items reach their destination on time. AGVs are also a far safer option, reducing the need for workers to participate in potentially hazardous situations. Finally, AGVs are largely self-sufficient, saving operational time by docking or opportunity-charging when not in use.

Minimising downtime

Manufacturers know how costly a shutdown can be to their business. However, all equipment may succumb to a parts failure due to wear and tear. These occurrences, no matter how infrequent or small, can be costly.

Given the unpredictable nature of these breakdowns, a maintenance team that can respond quickly and effectively is essential. Remote and onsite maintenance teams can work in tandem to tackle breakdowns. However, a data-driven software solution will ensure that a large proportion of issues can be resolved remotely across a 24-hour schedule.

Advanced manufacturing operations are critical to companies keen to enhance their overall supply chain performance, expand their operations, and maintain their competitive edge. The initial financing of upgrading technologies can be a significant consideration, but manufacturers will see the returns far outweigh the investment as the new technologies prove their worth in delivering reliable performance and faster order fulfilment speeds.

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