Is e-Manufacturing the Next Curve in Manufacturing Industry?

Development and innovations are the two pillars of the Manufacturing Industry. There is a lot relying on how quick, how cost-efficient and how convenient our manufacturing methods are. With improvements in various technologies, engineers aim to convert and guide those technological improvements into major manufacturing advancements such as Cloud Manufacturing, to name one.

In this article we are going to talk about one such advancement that we call e-Manufacturing. We have seen how internet and its rapidly developing applications have transformed a humongous number of aspects of life. So there’s no way it would not affect manufacturing. Let’s go into more details on what changes does e-Manufacturing bring to the game.

Source: SupplyChainBeyond

Introduction

e-Manufacturing basically involves the features offered by Information Technology into the process of manufacturing. I’d like to quote Lanny Metcalf, Schneider’s Transparent Factory product manager, who says

“The need for an e-manufacturing response begins as soon as a company decides to accept an order from the Internet”

e-Manufacturing ensures proper and complete integration of business processes and business systems with Information Technology. Going into further detail, it basically controls the integration of three major categories –

  1. Hardware: The electronic and mechanical components that we can see and touch. These components perform the actual work.
  2. Software: This refers to the set of instructions that actually govern and direct the hardware and the functions of hardware.
  3. Networking: Networking is another important part of the system as it enables the different devices to share resources with each other resulting into a powerful platform.

The process of e-Manufacturing involves:-

  • e-Procurement: It basically refers to purchase or sale of services and supplies through the internet as well as other information systems. We can take the examples of e-Tendering, e-Auctioning, etc.
  • Supply Chain Management: SCM refers to the management of goods and services involved.
  • Customer Relations Management: CRM is used to develop an integrated approach in order to identify, acquire as well as retain the customers.
  • Enterprise Resource Planning: ERP basically integrates all the information that might be used by organization’s many different functions and compiles them into a single unified system.

Head to Head Comparison of Traditional Manufacturing Methods and e-Manufacturing

Whenever a manufacturing job has to be accomplished, there are certain checkpoints and objectives that must be ticked during the process.

  • Products should be made with minimum or no inventory required to be kept. It’s always a headache for a new company if they have to store extra inventory of materials since the customer response is not completely known at that point. So, a preferable manufacturing method must allow storing of minimum or no inventory.
  • Minimum or zero downtime for the manufacturing process must be maintained.
  • An equilibrium between customer demand and manufacturing of products should be maintained.

While the traditional manufacturing methods have automated the processes to a certain extent, it still has plenty of limitations that become a nagging problem in today’s age. Let’s go through them one by one.

Before Implementation of e-Manufacturing

After the implementation of e-Manufacturing

1. Traditional Manufacturing methods lack in properly bridging the gap between product development and supply chain. Supply chain, the goods and services, must be taken in consideration during product development but because of lack of information and lack of proper life-cycle information in the traditional procedure, problems arise at the worst of times. The designs developed are deemed infeasible in reality. This results in the undesired elongation of lead times.

e-Manufacturing brings with itself real time information about the equipment including its reliability and status. Both of these factors help in building up the product’s quality information. Using these information coupled with the synchronization abilities provided by e-Manufacturing, inventory requirement is reduced and profitability of the company is improved.

2. Traditional Manufacturing brings with itself certain theories like Lean Manufacturing, Theory of Constraints (TOC), Six Sigma and Material Requirements Planning (MRP). These theories were developed with the aim of improving lead times, reducing wastes and reducing inventory. While these theories have been codified with time, they have not been able to adapt to meet the modern demands.

e-Manufacturing acknowledges the fact that with time, supply chains have elongated while customer tolerance times have reduced drastically. e-Manufacturing ensures application of SCM, CRM and ERP to make sure that demands of customers are met properly and within the bounds of time.

3. Traditional Manufacturing methods lack a proper and efficient central power for a project being handled. This shortcoming or limitation is deeply felt when a conflict occurs between two groups with different focuses in efforts to get more power than the other. To solve such problems, high-level executives have to themselves step in and do the controlling. This makes the decision making a very time-consuming affair.

e-Manufacturing, with its ability to monitor the changes, predicting variation in product quality and performance loss of any equipment and at the same time, synchronize the related business services helps in achieving a proper and efficient central power and decision making system. e-Manufacturing processes support real time decision making among different functional groups. Certain tools come to aid of the process by allowing access to life cycle of a product or an equipment. This ensures continuous design improvement.

It is important to note that decision making in product design or other changes may take weeks or months in the traditional system. e-Manufacturing has reduced this process to a mere hours with the help of machine capabilities and characteristics of actual process.

4. Traditional Manufacturing has often been pointed out or marked for the lack of coordination or synchronization. It might not seem a big problem when seen in an overview manner but on the root level, it is very important to assure that the subcontractors are not involved in the project individually and rather as one single team. Since no attempts are made at creating a mutual commitment between them, it results in lack of coordination.

e-Manufacturing takes help of certain tools and agent technologies to enable perfect synchronization of autonomous business automation among the suppliers, the factory level and the business systems. Embedded machine agents are used to help in linking between the devices and business systems. This in turn also helps the products, systems and the entire machine network to:

  • Learn about their status and environment properly.
  • Ensure correct predictions of performance degradation.
  • Ability of reconfiguring itself if needed in order to sustain the functional performance.
  • Affect the business decisions directly from the device

e-Manufacturing: What Makes it so Special?

While we have already covered the introductory and comparative part of e-Manufacturing, we are now going to take in account its speciality as an individual factor. We are seeing e-Manufacturing being implemented in present but with everything that it brings to the table, it can certainly be considered as the future as well.

The most important aspect of e-Manufacturing is how it deals with each facet of manufacturing – ranging from sales, procurement, marketing to product development, supplier relationships as well as logistics manufacturing development.

The main objectives adopting e-Manufacturing are listed below:-

  • A single and detailed enterprise-wide view which contains information from all – customer, process and product.
  • Single database architecture coupled with pre-integrated applications ensure better decision making as well as business intelligence.
  • It simplifies the maintenance of the IT staff because of its one-vendor approach.
  • Makes use of latest and robust predictive intelligence methods to ensure delivery of customer services.
  • All in all, it makes sure that a transparent, automated and seamless information exchange process is established.

Industry 4.0 and Industry 5.0: The Emerging Trends

Source: @Michael.Rada/Medium

I began this piece by mentioning how development and innovation are two pillars of manufacturing. With all the advancements e-Manufacturing brings with itself, there is no way that there’s looking no further than e-Manufacturing. While e-Manufacturing is going at a rapid speed and will soon be completely implemented at a much larger scale, we can take a peek into further emerging trends with Industry 4.0 and Industry 5.0.

Industry 4.0 and Industry 5.0 are names given to certain trends in the manufacturing industry. Both of these are in line with e-Manufacturing ideas but bring additional features with them. Let’s take a quick look one by one.

Industry 4.0: It deals with the trend that involves automation and data exchange in the manufacturing technologies. It takes back-end support from technologies like Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud Computing and Cognitive Computing.

There are four design principles around which Industry 4.0 is centred:

  1. Interconnection: Devices, machines and sensors must have ability to connect with each other and communicate via IoT.
  2. Information Transparency: Enough transparency is allowed in the system to ensure vast amount of useful information is provided to the operators.
  3. Technical Assistance: Human support is ensured by providing technical assistance that not only helps us with making informed decisions but additionally works for conducting tasks that are unsafe or unmanageable by humans.
  4. Decentralized Decisions: The cyber physical systems used in the process must make their own decisions and perform their own tasks to the maximum extent of possibility.

Industry 5.0: While Industry 4.0 focuses on mass production and ensuring the best quantity, Industry 5.0 goes a step ahead by focusing on creativity, lifestyle and high quality customized products.

Industry 5.0 aims to ensure closer cooperation between the workforce and the machines. It also focuses on using systematic methods to prevent waste including Industrial Upcycling, a new creative method for recycling.

Industry 5.0 follows 6R Methodology for its design principles which are in the order:

  1. Recognize
  2. Reconsider
  3. Realize
  4. Reduce
  5. Reuse
  6. Recycle

Conclusion

We started this article to talk about one of the milestones in the development of manufacturing industry, e-Manufacturing. We covered a basic introduction, went on to cover how it shines in comparison to traditional methods and went in further details on why it is required by industry. Automation and synchronization are being developed in each and every field of life possible, and the manufacturing industry must be the one to be at the top of this pyramid. As we move on further with time, we will definitely see even more developments owing to Industry 4.0 and Industry 5.0. Companies are seeing the valid potential in these trends and are willing to invest. That certainly establishes the answer to our article heading, e-Manufacturing is the next major curve in the manufacturing industry.

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