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ADMA’s T1 – Advanced Manufacturing Technologies explained

This is the last in a series of seven articles that the ADMA initiative has produced in order to present the self-assessed current maturities of manufacturing managers in relation to the seven dimensions that European enterprises can advance on in order to improve their manufacturing performances. The seven dimensions are:

This article concerns the advanced manufacturing technologies.  

Advanced manufacturing technologies

The EASME financed ADMA initiative is helping manufacturers throughout Europe measure their manufacturing maturity in relation to seven advanced manufacturing dimensions. One of these dimensions is advanced manufacturing technologies which is described along ten performance topics (see figure below).   

To date some 221 European manufacturing SME professionals  have conducted an ADMA scan exercise. The average maturity scores for advanced manufacturing technologies in these enterprises are illustrated in the figure below.  

With ADMA, we wish to help SMEs in the manufacturing sectors improve their performance.

So what would your enterprise, if at this average maturity level, need to do to advance just one level in each of the performance areas and what would your enterprise potentially gain from that?    

In a move towards a clear strategic investment policy, moving from maturity level 2 to level 3 would mean developing a detailed multi-year technology investment plan ensuring a state of the art manufacturing technology base at the company.  

Tenneco Automotive is a global manufacturer of shock absorbers for cars and trucks. The plant in Sint-Truiden (Belgium) consists of two independent departments: ‘Assembly’ and ‘Components’. The ‘Assembly’ department assembles shock absorbers for the European market. The ‘Components’ department specialises in the manufacture of components and subsystems not only for local assembly but for all assembly activities worldwide. It produces and ships 4,000,000 different components and more than 100,000 subsystems every day. Components’ employs 140 people.

Over the years Components has evolved into a specialist in the production of small series for very specific shock absorbers and is also recognised within the Tenneco group. This has both a positive and negative impact. On the positive side, the department in Sint-Truiden is the only one within the group with sinter technology. The disadvantage is that large series are allocated to other plants, which makes it increasingly difficult for Sint-Truiden to work cost-efficiently (a lot of engineering can be written off on small series). In order to break this downward spiral, the strategic objective has been set to use the unique knowledge in sintering, supplemented with new technological breakthroughs in order to innovate the entire production process and become the most important supplier of components within the Tenneco group, both large and small series.

Tenneco has tackled this in the following way:

In a first phase the current production was analyzed and the Made Different scan was performed to identify the transformations with the highest impact. Actions in the field of organization, technology and social aspects were defined. The organizational and social actions were included internally. For the elaboration of the technological actions, support from Sirris was requested.

Consequently, the second phase focused on the technological innovations that could be implemented in order to achieve the strategic objective. Current technologies were analyzed in detail and alternative state-of-the-art production technologies were listed and scored. This was translated into a technological roadmap for more years and a concrete roadmap for the next two years.

In the third phase, Tenneco translated the roadmap into an R&D innovation project and received funding for completing the high risk innovations within the roadmap.

The results for Tenneco are:
– Introduction of state-of-the-art technologies: Press to size sinter moulds, automated application of Teflon rings, integration of sensors in cutting moulds, vision system for quality inspection, hard turning to replace grinding, introduction of laser welding, …
– Investment of 1,000,000 euros in new means of production
– Within the Tenneco group, the department in Sint-Truiden has been given the title of “World Class Manufacturer”.
– To date, some 30 new projects (including larger series) have been assigned to Sint-Truiden.

As production technology is evolving rapidly, progressing from a level 3 to a level 4 in maturity would require manufacturers to track technological advancements continuously by attending technology fairs, conferences as well as having dialogues with suppliers, researchers, academics etc.   

The advice of Gert D’Handschotter, CEO and founder of ED&A (Belgium): “Go and see what is being done in other companies, even those that are very different from yours, observe and retain the best practices to implement them at home!” Want to see the full video? Please click here

When it comes to advanced manufacturing technology capability, the needed progression would be to go from presence of some state of the art technologies to implement state of the art throughout and attempt an adaptation of these to gain competitive advantage

The credo of Carel van Sorgen, founder of 24/7 Tailorsteel (Netherlands): ” if your strategy is not driven by profit, but your full focus is on innovation, profit will follow automatically”.
Their machines are maximum up to 3.5 years old; they are always quickly resold (for good money!) in order to be able to install the next technological step on their own production floor. Leasing is a bottleneck because you quickly commit to a certain machine for 8 years or more…
In the future, robots might even be attached to the ceiling, so they – whether or not combined with other fellow robots – can be used flexibly for different machines.
24/7 Tailorsteel MUST DO’s for management and every employee include :
– “make it that easy for the customer that buying from us is getting addictive”
– “give people in the factory the opportunity to get out and represent the company themselves”

Easy integration of advanced manufacturing technologies is essential. Moving from maturity level 3 to level 4, would involve adapting technologies to meet specific future-oriented production demands in terms of quality, speed, etc. Concerning quality, progression would mean introducing advanced manufacturing technologies were limits can be explored and pushed to achieve higher end-product quality.

For employees, this progression requires that training activities are organized for employees and support is provided to individual employees so that use and exploitation of advanced manufacturing technologies can be optimized.

The approach of Carel van Sorgen, founder of 24/7 Tailorsteel (Netherlands):

Recently a 24/7 Academy has been installed, with 2 certified teachers within a nationally recognised training program.

The company is also part of the Dutch fieldab ‘Smart Bending Factory’. Here, people and companies can share knowledge, experience and resources and jointly exploit machining processes.

Overall manufacturing Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) is managed through predetermined equipment maintenance interventions, moving towards predictive maintenance. New technologies allow manufacturing companies to evolve towards a transparent production: they know what is going on in the production and why, and these insights can be used to implement specific improvements. The machines in manufacturing companies generate a multitude of data. However, in order to achieve a direct impact with this digitization, the available information must be used intelligently, so that the right production-organisational choices can be made. The diversity in connection methods of the different (old and new) machines is still a barrier for many manufacturing companies.

There are already a number of integrators who can work this out for a specific application. But the economic benefit of possible applications is still unclear for many manufacturing companies. An efficient way to quickly evaluate a number of possibilities could therefore be interesting.

MTConnect, a US-driven standard that allows process information to be retrieved unambiguously from numerically controlled machine tools and exchanged with software applications for monitoring and data analysis. MTConnect only allows for reading machine data and offers a limited, generic dataset for machines. The advantage of the standard is that the interpretation of the data is also unambiguously determined for a certain group of machines.

OPC UA (Unified Architecture) from the OPC Foundation is a machine-to-machine communication protocol for industrial automation. OPC UA provides a generic architecture for a secure connection of machines and reliable data exchange in industrial automation environments. OPC UA offers quite an extensive set of possibilities. However, due to the lack of a common data model, machine builders implement this standard each in their own way. This complicates the interoperability between different machines.

VDW, the German association of machine tool manufacturers, is therefore committed to a common data model for machine tools based on OPC UA: Umati (Universal machine tool interface). This standard is still under development. The official publication and first implementations are expected in 2020. The UMATI showcase at the EMO fair showed that Umati enables machines from different manufacturers to be connected to the customer’s IT systems in a secure, transparent and simple way. A limited set of parameters from the standard was demonstrated by participating companies to monitor the OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) on different machines.

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