The future is already here!

“Mejoras en el montaje de vehículos y equipos ferroviarios complejos”

LA VENTAJA COMPETITIVA NO SE BASARÁ EN LA PRODUCTIVIDAD Y EN LA REDUCCIÓN DE COSTES, SINO EN LA CAPACIDAD DE INNOVAR DE FORMA DIFERENCIAL.

Assuming that the market is a boundary condition which we must abide by and to which all the sectorial are exposed under equal conditions, meaning it is necessary to concentrate our efforts on activating those levers on which we can act. Whether we like it or not, it is still necessary to achieve competitive costs, even more flexible industrial models that allow for extreme individualisation and overcome technological challenges such as the incorporation of new materials, the implementation of much more efficient alternative processes or the adaptation to new models of customer relations.

Each sector must tackle these challenges in a different way, but all of them, regardless of the base technology, thereby having a shared starting point from which to work from in order to succeed in this framework of increasing sophistication, agility and precision: to migrate towards a “knowledge-based industry”.

Nowadays, hardly anybody doubts that we are facing changes that we are almost unable to imagine and that will also profoundly transform organisations. New agents will appear, possibly located far away, and others will disappear or reinvent themselves; the technology will establish new relationship frameworks in supply chains; organisational structures will evolve to adapt to all these changes and be emphatically more agile both in the flow of information and in decision-making; processes will have a less intensive industrial content and therefore the competitive advantage will not be based on productivity and cost reduction, but on the ability to innovate differentially, taking the customizations to the extreme, seeking through them the differentiation of our product and taking advantage of all the options that technology bestows upon us.

Our initial reflection is if, as managers, we are really prepared to dream and visualise the company disruptively, or on the contrary we feel comfortable maintaining “Business as Usual”.

The truth is that, in the context of our industry, a strategy geared towards advanced manufacturing has to comply with a series of essential features. On the one hand, it must ensure channels that activate creativity throughout the organisation, generating value around the intangible assets of the company, and at the same time, ensure a dual management that harmonises the short-term plans with the long-term strategy.

Some essential elements to take into account when designing the transformation plan of our companies are the following:

Smart elements will have to be spread out evenly. Here the measurable aim is clearly to guarantee a flow of real and effective value with innovations of scope in product and process. A flow starred by many people from all layers of the organisation and not merely through the use of “gurus”.

The conception of functionally more integrated product-process-quality and maintenance engineering areas and their operational operating model are critical.

Supply chains will have to be much more agile. And especially more efficiently synchronised, with this meaning preparing our organisation first so that it is ready to synchronise later with others upstream and downstream. In this section, cybersecurity increasingly takes on more weighting.

We must be unyielding against the current restrictions of our processes. To enable mass customisation, in forthcoming years, it will be key both the re-adaptability and re-configurability of the processes, as well as the work in unitary series. Today, many installations still necessarily work in batches, for this reason it will be necessary to make a work of layout of the same, working very closely with manufacturers and integrators, and relying on the agility of development of start-ups.

The implementation of continuous flow in the plant is no longer an option, but moreover a necessity. Regardless of the size of the product to be assembled, it is necessary to develop synchronised processes, where everything flows around a main line that drags the remainder of processes. Everyone knows this as manufacturing, statics conceal everything untoward. Only in this way will we obtain reliability of the final term, significant improvements in the process of industrialisation of the design, motivation of the people, both in terms of the main line of assembly and auxiliary tasks, and also their teamwork.

A structured plan for the incorporation of emerging technologies is necessary, exploring the opportunities of application of some of those that nowadays are coming to the fore:

  • Nano-manufacture, which will soon be applied safely by way of “doping” in situ, or in the supplier of raw materials.
  • Additive manufacturing, whose application is more viable in the short term, and in many cases can transcend from the prototype to the ultra-short or unitary series of certain components.
  • Anthropomorphic robotics, which can facilitate smart team work with people, mainly on assembly lines.

When new technologies or even technological enablers are discussed, the key message is that we cannot wait to incorporate them when they are already mature. In order to obtain the maximum benefit from its application, it is necessary to start “playing” with them, initially in a laboratory environment, to guarantee that whenever it is necessary to have the required knowledge. In addition, the simple fact of experimenting will help us to create and innovate.

Plus, digitalisation must not be overlooked. Smart and proactive real-time modelling and simulation technologies of using the Promind model® at Sisteplant. The cross-influence of design variables and process parameters, of events, of quality problems, of NDTs results and of combined tolerance stacks, give them all the sense as critical tools to facilitate a distributed technological intelligence to the operators. We must forget that digitisation is a means, and not an end.

In short, it is a question of drafting a plan of integral transformation that contemplates all dimensions. The Tecnoiplant transformation methodology, developed by Sisteplant, allows for the development of a strategic Road Map, with a horizon of between 3-5 years, taking into account both the physical and the logical and / or digital plane.

To finish with, I would like to make a brief reflection on some common mistakes in these transformation processes:

  • Simplistic approaches that confuse the strategy towards advanced manufacturing with “smartization” or digitalisation without further ado.
  • Development plans based exclusively on the purchase of technology, which can be accessed by all and sundry.
  • Overlooking the importance of people, few boast a plan that ensures the development of the capabilities that will be required within this new framework.
  • Resistance to collaborative strategies or those that provide greater transparency between customers and suppliers.
  • Lack of harmonisation between short-term improvement plans (the urgent) and the future factory strategy (of the utmost importance).

The “popular” vision must change: achieving agile, flexible, versatile, intelligent, ecological and profitable factories is not just a matter of investment in technologies. We will never have state-of-theart factories with average facilities in line with the demands of today and our aptitudes and attitudes. The time has come to dream bravely.

Agility of manufacturing processes: Flexibility and versatility for the media for an agile response to the market and new developments

 

Product / Process Life Cycle: Conception of processes, industrialisation and sturdiness of the same for manufacture with minimum variability.

 

Supply Chain: Integration of suppliers and clients into the company, both on an operational level as well as with a view to contributing value / innovation.

 

Logical Sphere

 

Digital Factory: Depth of knowledge of the manufacturing and maintenance processes for maximum optimisation and innovation from the process outwards.

 

Smart Factory: Skills acquisition and development of persons, along with their interstation with technology to stand out within the new scenario.

 

Human Factory: Utilisation of ICT as the chance to apply new working methods and achieving potential hitherto considered unfeasible with traditional means.