https://cdn.mtdcnc.global/cnc/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/16173246/20-22-AMRC-Cymru-has-been-transformed-from-a-state-of-the-art-RD-facility-to-a-production-area-for-thousands-of-life-saving-medical-ventilators-960x500.jpg
    Aerospace

    Pivot or perish

    • By MTDCNC
    • July 16, 2020
    • 8 minute read

    By Andy Silcox, CEng MIMechE Research Director, University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) Cymru

    For those of us from the punched tape fed CNC generation, the idea of using technology like AR headsets in day-to-day manufacturing operations may seem like a step too far toward digitalisation. What about an Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) whizzing around the shop floor delivering parts to workstations round the clock? Or using Discrete Event Simulation (DES) to determine when employees should take their breaks?

    These aren’t space-age visions of a future factory anymore. Implementing Industry 4.0 technologies like these to create an agile operation able to pivot to changing market demands is now fundamental to the immediate profitability and long-term sustainability of the UK aerospace sector.

    Twelve months ago a flexible and sustainable aerospace supply chain which could be operated with minimal human interaction was still a dot on the horizon – a dream that was edging closer but never truly promising to be within grasp. And why should it?

    Since the turn of the century, commercial airline manufacturers and their associated supply chains have enjoyed record demand for their products. Both Airbus and Boeing exceeded 800 aircraft deliveries in the last two years and, with a large backlog of orders, there was confidence within the industry that the market would continue to grow strongly.

    But, as we approached the beginning of a new decade, cracks were starting to show. Two fatal crashes meant Boeing grounded its entire fleet of 737 Max aircraft and began 2020 with orders for just 54 planes: compared with 893 the previous year. Add this to the surging swell of public opinion pushing the industry to go further and faster in reducing aviation CO2 emissions.

    …then Covid-19 struck

    Figures from ADS show 370 aircraft order cancellations were recorded between January and April this year. Deliveries of planes hit a record low of just 20 in April and it is likely to take several years before production is restored to pre-crisis levels.

    Those numbers are a wake-up call for manufacturers and have exposed vulnerabilities in the supply chain. But the drop in demand for high-rate production, the unavoidable review of working practises and the inevitable changes on the shop floor should also be viewed as an opportunity.

    Even before the Covid-19 pandemic turned the world on its head we knew digital agility was vital if the aerospace sector was to have a profitable future as it met the two great challenges of climate change and decarbonisation. Covid-19 has merely accelerated that need.

    At the AMRC, we have seen first-hand the suppleness generated by Industry 4.0 technologies as we joined a consortium of UK manufacturers in pivoting our operations to fight the pandemic. AMRC Cymru, our Welsh Government funded R&D facility in Broughton, was quickly turned into a production line making thousands of life-saving medical ventilators not six months after it was officially opened. Our ability to respond like this hinged on having flexible, digital manufacturing processes.

    Industry 4.0 technologies, such as modelling and simulation, automation and augmented reality (AR), are key tools in giving manufacturers the flexibility to react swiftly in times of crisis but will also be critical for their long-term success as well. Businesses that invest in these technologies right now, will be at a significant competitive advantage as they will be able to accommodate fluctuations in demand far quicker than their rivals.

    At AMRC Cymru, with our partners Airbus and the help of the Ventilator Challenge UK consortium, we deployed these digital tools to safely install 16 assembly lines in less than a fortnight. The task of creating a shop floor where 88 operators could work simultaneously while maintaining safe social distancing is one very similar to the challenge many manufacturers are now facing.

    Fundamental to our success was the use of DES modelling. By creating a digital model of the building, the mobilisation team were able to experiment with different layouts and run numerous scenarios to maximise the efficiency of production, logistics, the flow of people around the facility and even the welfare breaks whilst all the time ensuring safe social distancing.

    For the aerospace supply chain, investment in this type of modelling software has the two-fold advantage of minimising the productivity impact of the Covid-19 restrictions and equipping manufacturers with a tool that enables them to plan effectively for future similar scenarios.

    For many of us, an engineer with an AR headset looks more at home in a Siemens smart factory in Germany than working on a CNC machine here in the UK. But Microsoft HoloLens devices were vital in allowing the Ventilator Challenge UK team to deliver step-by-step assembly instructions to rapidly train hundreds of automotive and aerospace assembly technicians to build medical devices; not to mention the opportunity to further reduce the Covid-19 contamination risk by using them to deliver remote fault finding and technical assistance.

    In machining, AR doesn’t have to be confined to assembly and operator training, it can also be used to assist in part setup or maintenance of CNC machines. Beyond this, AR can equip workers with process data that will help them in monitoring the process. With this regard, there are two trends. The first one makes use of the machine viewing window to project process information inside the workspace with the advantage of ergonomics and wider visibility. The second is to display the information on a handheld device such as a smartphone or tablet or in a head-mounted display.

    The suitability of these systems and benefits for equipping the worker with in-process data need to be assessed now, more than ever, as does the potential for electronic route cards to replace paper-based systems to enhance the worker’s decision making with increased information available at point of use. The industry can benefit from inexpensive systems with user-friendly interfaces which can be easily learnt, even by computer-illiterate workers.

    It comes back to that idea of agility. By digitalising work instructions and delivering them on AR headsets or tablets in conjunction with digitally connected SMART tools, manufacturers can create much greater flexibility in their workforce which doesn’t compromise quality or productivity.

    At Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrain, the AMRC provided two Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) AGVs to assist in the production of ventilator devices being made at their Northamptonshire facility.

    In just a few hours, with no additional infrastructure, the AGVs were put to work delivering parts to workstations, removing the risk of cross-contamination from human operatives conducting logistic operations. The use of collaborative robots and AGVs have obvious immediate benefits for implementing social distancing, but their ability to be integrated into a safe, shared working environment with human operatives means they can be quickly deployed as a flexible resource anywhere they are needed around the factory.

    AMRC 31.10.18

    Although precision CNC machining has made considerable efforts to automate manual processes such as part loading and unloading, part fixturing, and set up; there are still some challenges to overcome. All machinery, including tools, peripherals, and programming, must be connected and integrated to work together flawlessly whether this is fully automated tool data management or in-cycle process verification to avoid the need for an end of line inspection.

    Of course, in such uncertain times and with a recession looming, the idea of making large investments in such technologies is not particularly enticing; but the experience at AMRC Cymru proves that these technologies, deployed quickly and at relatively low cost and risk, can get manufacturing operations back up-and-running safely while maintaining productivity.

    In the first instance, the implementation of such technologies can have a significant impact in helping manufacturers to operate efficiently in the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in. But it goes beyond that. By taking these steps now, manufacturers can lay the foundations on which to build a digitally connected, reconfigurable and resilient production facility.

    Traditionally, in the machining industry, there is a low take-up of readily available technologies, knowledge and management best practices. That has to change and the AMRC can help. That is why we built Factory 2050 in Sheffield, the UK’s first state-of-the-art digital factory entirely dedicated to conducting collaborative research into reconfigurable robotic, digitally assisted assembly and machining technologies. And why AMRC Cymru is its mirror image in Wales.

    Both are designed to address the rising need for high variation and mass customisation manufacturing throughout a diverse range of engineering sectors which we were able to put into action on the shop floor to manufacture life-saving ventilators.

    That knowledge and expertise isn’t the property of just the AMRC though, it is available for all manufacturers to take advantage of and our team of engineers are on hand to help manufacturers understand how these technologies can be deployed in any production environment.

    It is that word ‘opportunity’ again. Could this be the perfect time for the aerospace industry to address sustainability not just in the product but throughout the whole manufacturing life cycle?

    To grasp that opportunity, agility is vital; it allows the UK aerospace supply chain to be quickest to market for future platforms, accommodate the inevitable fluctuation in demand and, as always, to improve the end product.

    https://cdn.mtdcnc.global/cnc/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/16173246/20-22-AMRC-Cymru-has-been-transformed-from-a-state-of-the-art-RD-facility-to-a-production-area-for-thousands-of-life-saving-medical-ventilators-960x500.jpg

    Pivot or perish

    By Andy Silcox, CEng MIMechE Research Director, University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) Cymru

    For those of us from the punched tape fed CNC generation, the idea of using technology like AR headsets in day-to-day manufacturing operations may seem like a step too far toward digitalisation. What about an Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) whizzing around the shop floor delivering parts to workstations round the clock? Or using Discrete Event Simulation (DES) to determine when employees should take their breaks?

    These aren’t space-age visions of a future factory anymore. Implementing Industry 4.0 technologies like these to create an agile operation able to pivot to changing market demands is now fundamental to the immediate profitability and long-term sustainability of the UK aerospace sector.

    Twelve months ago a flexible and sustainable aerospace supply chain which could be operated with minimal human interaction was still a dot on the horizon – a dream that was edging closer but never truly promising to be within grasp. And why should it?

    Since the turn of the century, commercial airline manufacturers and their associated supply chains have enjoyed record demand for their products. Both Airbus and Boeing exceeded 800 aircraft deliveries in the last two years and, with a large backlog of orders, there was confidence within the industry that the market would continue to grow strongly.

    But, as we approached the beginning of a new decade, cracks were starting to show. Two fatal crashes meant Boeing grounded its entire fleet of 737 Max aircraft and began 2020 with orders for just 54 planes: compared with 893 the previous year. Add this to the surging swell of public opinion pushing the industry to go further and faster in reducing aviation CO2 emissions.

    …then Covid-19 struck

    Figures from ADS show 370 aircraft order cancellations were recorded between January and April this year. Deliveries of planes hit a record low of just 20 in April and it is likely to take several years before production is restored to pre-crisis levels.

    Those numbers are a wake-up call for manufacturers and have exposed vulnerabilities in the supply chain. But the drop in demand for high-rate production, the unavoidable review of working practises and the inevitable changes on the shop floor should also be viewed as an opportunity.

    Even before the Covid-19 pandemic turned the world on its head we knew digital agility was vital if the aerospace sector was to have a profitable future as it met the two great challenges of climate change and decarbonisation. Covid-19 has merely accelerated that need.

    At the AMRC, we have seen first-hand the suppleness generated by Industry 4.0 technologies as we joined a consortium of UK manufacturers in pivoting our operations to fight the pandemic. AMRC Cymru, our Welsh Government funded R&D facility in Broughton, was quickly turned into a production line making thousands of life-saving medical ventilators not six months after it was officially opened. Our ability to respond like this hinged on having flexible, digital manufacturing processes.

    Industry 4.0 technologies, such as modelling and simulation, automation and augmented reality (AR), are key tools in giving manufacturers the flexibility to react swiftly in times of crisis but will also be critical for their long-term success as well. Businesses that invest in these technologies right now, will be at a significant competitive advantage as they will be able to accommodate fluctuations in demand far quicker than their rivals.

    At AMRC Cymru, with our partners Airbus and the help of the Ventilator Challenge UK consortium, we deployed these digital tools to safely install 16 assembly lines in less than a fortnight. The task of creating a shop floor where 88 operators could work simultaneously while maintaining safe social distancing is one very similar to the challenge many manufacturers are now facing.

    Fundamental to our success was the use of DES modelling. By creating a digital model of the building, the mobilisation team were able to experiment with different layouts and run numerous scenarios to maximise the efficiency of production, logistics, the flow of people around the facility and even the welfare breaks whilst all the time ensuring safe social distancing.

    For the aerospace supply chain, investment in this type of modelling software has the two-fold advantage of minimising the productivity impact of the Covid-19 restrictions and equipping manufacturers with a tool that enables them to plan effectively for future similar scenarios.

    For many of us, an engineer with an AR headset looks more at home in a Siemens smart factory in Germany than working on a CNC machine here in the UK. But Microsoft HoloLens devices were vital in allowing the Ventilator Challenge UK team to deliver step-by-step assembly instructions to rapidly train hundreds of automotive and aerospace assembly technicians to build medical devices; not to mention the opportunity to further reduce the Covid-19 contamination risk by using them to deliver remote fault finding and technical assistance.

    In machining, AR doesn’t have to be confined to assembly and operator training, it can also be used to assist in part setup or maintenance of CNC machines. Beyond this, AR can equip workers with process data that will help them in monitoring the process. With this regard, there are two trends. The first one makes use of the machine viewing window to project process information inside the workspace with the advantage of ergonomics and wider visibility. The second is to display the information on a handheld device such as a smartphone or tablet or in a head-mounted display.

    The suitability of these systems and benefits for equipping the worker with in-process data need to be assessed now, more than ever, as does the potential for electronic route cards to replace paper-based systems to enhance the worker’s decision making with increased information available at point of use. The industry can benefit from inexpensive systems with user-friendly interfaces which can be easily learnt, even by computer-illiterate workers.

    It comes back to that idea of agility. By digitalising work instructions and delivering them on AR headsets or tablets in conjunction with digitally connected SMART tools, manufacturers can create much greater flexibility in their workforce which doesn’t compromise quality or productivity.

    At Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrain, the AMRC provided two Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) AGVs to assist in the production of ventilator devices being made at their Northamptonshire facility.

    In just a few hours, with no additional infrastructure, the AGVs were put to work delivering parts to workstations, removing the risk of cross-contamination from human operatives conducting logistic operations. The use of collaborative robots and AGVs have obvious immediate benefits for implementing social distancing, but their ability to be integrated into a safe, shared working environment with human operatives means they can be quickly deployed as a flexible resource anywhere they are needed around the factory.

    AMRC 31.10.18

    Although precision CNC machining has made considerable efforts to automate manual processes such as part loading and unloading, part fixturing, and set up; there are still some challenges to overcome. All machinery, including tools, peripherals, and programming, must be connected and integrated to work together flawlessly whether this is fully automated tool data management or in-cycle process verification to avoid the need for an end of line inspection.

    Of course, in such uncertain times and with a recession looming, the idea of making large investments in such technologies is not particularly enticing; but the experience at AMRC Cymru proves that these technologies, deployed quickly and at relatively low cost and risk, can get manufacturing operations back up-and-running safely while maintaining productivity.

    In the first instance, the implementation of such technologies can have a significant impact in helping manufacturers to operate efficiently in the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in. But it goes beyond that. By taking these steps now, manufacturers can lay the foundations on which to build a digitally connected, reconfigurable and resilient production facility.

    Traditionally, in the machining industry, there is a low take-up of readily available technologies, knowledge and management best practices. That has to change and the AMRC can help. That is why we built Factory 2050 in Sheffield, the UK’s first state-of-the-art digital factory entirely dedicated to conducting collaborative research into reconfigurable robotic, digitally assisted assembly and machining technologies. And why AMRC Cymru is its mirror image in Wales.

    Both are designed to address the rising need for high variation and mass customisation manufacturing throughout a diverse range of engineering sectors which we were able to put into action on the shop floor to manufacture life-saving ventilators.

    That knowledge and expertise isn’t the property of just the AMRC though, it is available for all manufacturers to take advantage of and our team of engineers are on hand to help manufacturers understand how these technologies can be deployed in any production environment.

    It is that word ‘opportunity’ again. Could this be the perfect time for the aerospace industry to address sustainability not just in the product but throughout the whole manufacturing life cycle?

    To grasp that opportunity, agility is vital; it allows the UK aerospace supply chain to be quickest to market for future platforms, accommodate the inevitable fluctuation in demand and, as always, to improve the end product.