As I previously discussed in a previous blog post, we live in a hyper-connected world where competitiveness is gained not only by economies of scale and removing waste but also by increasing the efficiency in communications and information flow across productions systems, internal teams, and external partners, which eventually leads to a major capability for today’s manufacturing organizations: remote management. Remote management is also a key capability from the perspective of quality management and production efficiency—which I call the “remote management of quality”. Given its significance, in a recent webinar, I discussed how remote management of quality is an enabler for organizations in responding to both today’s challenges and tomorrow’s opportunities. I also outlined how Mapvision Quality Gate systems can help your organization in establishing remote management capabilities. Here, I would like to elaborate further on the key highlights from the webinar. So, let’s start!
- Today's Challenges
- Tomorrow's Opportunities
- Remote Management for Today and Tomorrow
- Enabling Remote Management with Mapvision Quality Gate
- Case Examples
Today's Challenges: Resilience and Fast Response
When we look at the automotive manufacturing ecosystem today, we see two main challenges from the perspective of both OEMs and Tier1s: 1) The mass production ecosystem and increasing demand for variety and customization, and 2) increasing need for fast ramp-up and 100% quality inspection from the beginning. Taking into account the heavy competition and price pressures in the industry, resilience and fast response capabilities define the competitiveness of manufacturers.
Mass production ecosystem and need for customization
While today’s automotive manufacturing ecosystem is designed for mass production due to its historical evolution, the times are changing. Automotive OEMs, as in other industries, have to respond to consumer demand for customization, variety, and tailor-made products—i.e. cars.
On the manufacturing floor, the demand for customization, however, loads significant weight on production systems that are designed to manufacture one-type-only products and components. Standardization might have been the key to process efficiency during Mr. Henry Ford’s time as he famously uttered “any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black”. However, given the need for customization and variety we face today, the two keys to process efficiency are resilience and fast response.
Need for fast ramp-up and 100% inspection from the beginning
The fierce competition between OEMs is naturally a direct drive for the already formidable competition between Tier1s in terms of ramp-up and process efficiency. In an industry requesting lower and lower PPMs with reduced ramp-up times, having a complete and granular overview of the production performance is essential. However, building a complete and sufficiently granular overview for the production performance is naturally constrained by the capability of the quality inspection mechanisms available.
The quality inspection systems might have significantly evolved from the times of the early CMMs; however, one of the major limitations for traditional quality inspection systems still remains the same: they consume time—both to perform the measurements and for adjustments due to changes in, for example, measurement specifications. Therefore, the quality inspection systems that define the future need to provide short ramp-ups with a granular view from the very beginning. In other words, they have to be both resilient and responsive to changes.
Tomorrow's Opportunities: Centralization of Process Management and Control
Despite today’s challenges are the need for resilience and fast response, the answer is ahead in the future. The developments in Industry 4.0, enabling total process automation as well as granular and real-time data flows, create opportunities to centralize process management and control. The increased ability to monitor and manage multiple systems granular enough from a central hub enables organizations to become more agile and responsive. There are two major drivers in centralization of process management and control: firstly, it is the transformation of the human element on the factory floor; and secondly, it is the advanced monitoring capabilities that enable us to “monitor everything together and separately”.
The “human element” transforms from performing manufacturing tasks to overseeing manufacturing tasks
It is no big news that Industry 4.0 and the possibilities it introduces are the industry’s future. Total automation is inevitable and that is evident by the increasing inter-connectivity of systems that form entire processes. The “human element” on the factory floor that was previously assigned to perform manufacturing tasks is now being replaced by robotic systems, which are enabled by sensors and real-time data feeds across the entire process. As a result, the role of the “human element” transforms from performing tasks to monitoring the processes and intervening when necessary, which eventually necessitates advanced monitoring and process management capabilities that are only possible through centralization of process management and control.
“Monitor everything together and separately”
An integral part of advanced monitoring and process management is the ability to “monitor everything at once and separately”; in other words, maintaining control over the entire system while having granular control over particular functions. Enabled by the rise of connected, software-driven technologies, such ability requires effective aggregation of information across systems and therefore bears the need for centralization of process management and control.
How Does Remote Management Fit in All This?
Given the need for resilience and fast response, and the move towards centralized process management and control; remote management sits right at the intersection of both today and tomorrow with two major benefits: First of all, fast response and reduced downtime; and second of all, better and easier access to expertise.
Fast response and reduced downtime
Imagine the case of a system failure. First and foremost, you need to understand where exactly the problem occurred, why it might have occurred, and what is needed to fix it. Without remote management capabilities and a process designed for remote management, these steps require an initial visit to the site to observe the process physically, define the needs and action steps, acquiring what is needed to fix the problem, and several adjustment cycles before the system returns to its standard operating process. All these steps, without remote management, usually mean several visits to the site and/or several adjustment cycles—that is to say, extended downtime. Remote management, however, gives the possibility to answer these questions beforehand, and only arriving at the site (if even needed unless it is a hardware issue) to fix the problem. With remote management, first-time fix rates (FTFRs) increase significantly while response times are drastically reduced. Moreover, with the development of software-based systems, most often the problems can be resolved without an on-site visit.
However, system failures are not the only source of downtime. Similarly, process optimization attempts or ECRs also cause downtimes. A quality inspection system that is designed for remote management capabilities in its core significantly cut times for trial/error in process adjustments and therefore significantly reduce downtime and the associated costs.
Better and easier access to expertise
It is clear that downtimes might turn into serious cost items, but expertise is costly too. Training and maintaining personnel on each site to handle potential problems and prospective system changes is not resource-efficient. Today’s organizations need to reach economies of scale not only in production but also in their human capital. Economies of scale in human capital enable companies to have access to the best expertise at lower costs. To achieve this goal, remote management capabilities are again a key must-have. Through remote management, manufacturing companies can reach to experts 24/7 no matter where the plant location is—thus, decreasing the need to maintain on-site personnel.
How Does Mapvision Quality Gate Enable You to Manage Quality Remotely?
Most of the time, the challenge for enabling remote management is that systems are not designed for remote management at their core. As a result, remote management becomes a capability to be added later on top of the existing solution. This often causes integration problems and significantly limits the scope of the remote management capabilities. However, Mapvision Quality Gate systems are built from the very beginning with remote management in mind and therefore provide a full scope of functionalities in quality inspection and process monitoring as well as support and maintenance.
From measurement analysis to feature modifications
In a nutshell; you can for example view and analyze measurement results, re-run or adjust measurements, add new features or change measurement specifications, and access service and support from Mapvision experts—all remotely. Moreover, you can even run measurements on already shipped components!
Two major enablers
In reaching such an extended scope in quality inspections from a remote management perspective, there are two major enablers for Mapvision Quality Gate systems: firstly, the fix-camera based technology; and secondly, software-driven measurement process based on the images captured by the fix-camera setup.
To put it simply, the actual measurements are conducted on the images taken by the fix-cameras. In other words, once you have the images taken by the cameras, you can almost do anything digitally. Thanks to a combination of innovations in machine vision, photogrammetry and 3D CAD; Mapvison Quality Gate systems can deliver a level of accuracy and precision that is equivalent to CMMs—but without all the hassle and for each and every component you manufacture.
To illustrate how remote management capabilities can help you significantly cut service time, I would like to provide two examples:
Case #1: Implementing measurement program modifications
In this first case, a Mapvision client needs to modify their measurement program since the OEM made changes in their specs. The new measurement program requires changing the tolerances for two features and removing two points from the pass/fail screen. Here is how the process simply goes and the modifications are implemented in 5 to 15 minutes:
- The client calls Mapvision to request the changes.
- The client grants access rights to Mapvision and the Mapvision Service Engineer connects into the customer’s measurement unit remotely.
- The Service Engineer deploys the needed modifications in the measurement program for the new specs remotely.
- The Service Engineer takes the needed backups and uploads them into the server.
- The Engineer informs the client that the updates are successfully completed, and the system is ready for the new specs.
So, it is as simple as this. Your measurement program is updated in only 5 to 15 minutes.
Case #2: Troubleshooting for the Mapvision Quality Gate system
The second case illustrates a troubleshooting case in which the system does not start the measurement cycle. The total process takes only 10 to 30 minutes. So, here how it goes:
- The client calls Mapvision regarding the problem
- Mapvision Service Engineer connects into the customer unit once access rights are granted.
- The Service Engineer checks the measurement log files and identifies that the line PLC hasn’t sent the serial number to Mapvision.
- Mapvision Service Engineer recommends rebooting the PLC.
- The PLC is rebooted, and the line starts running again smoothly.
Once again, the software-driven system demonstrates its benefits in terms of easy and remote troubleshooting possibilities it presents.
Given the challenges of the automotive industry in terms of demand for agility, fast response, shorter ramp-ups, and higher process performance; remote management of quality has become a must-have capability for today’s automotive manufacturers. By enabling better and easier access to expertise, and significantly contributing to reducing downtimes and improving response times; it is an integral component of competitiveness especially for automotive Tier1s.
In terms of quality inspection and process performance management, Mapvision Quality Gates can provide you a whole scope of functionality remotely—from measurement analysis to feature modifications and production analysis. From Tier1s perspective, by integrating Mapvision Quality Gate remote management capabilities into your quality inspection and process performance management processes, you can help your organization become more agile in responding to OEM requests through increased resilience and fast response. From the OEMs perspective, you can achieve better control over the quality performance of your suppliers as well as your internal manufacturing operations. In either case, remote management enables your company to overcome the challenges we face today and prepares it for the future.
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