Discrete manufacturing in flux

With change the only constant in manufacturing industry, how will factors such as globalization and increased automation affect the future of the sector?

As the Global Product Line Manager for Welding and Cutting at ABB Robotics I get a lot of feedback from customers and integrators as to the challanges they face in remaining competitive in global markets. In this blog I expand on my personal Top 4 key issues for creating sustainable success.

Global and integrated.

Many companies see low cost country utilization as a key differentiator in remaining competitive; however, it is sometimes hard to find complete support in less developed regions. In addition, many customers with global production facilities need product quality, equipment uptime and labor competence to be consistent across the planet. This means that the technical solutions need to be supplied and supported globally. With offices and service in more than 50 countries and 24 hour part delivery to any region, ABB Robotics understands this issue well.

Reliability and high utilization.

Very high utilization of automation equipment is required to get maximum output on a minimum investment. High utilization only results from well engineered and tested solutions with high availability. Often the complexity of the kind of production equipment required to handle mixed production is higher, which puts increased demands on the reliability of each individual building block in a production system. Using standardized, flexible solutions that are created with time-tested equipment assures the kind of high utilization, ease-of-use and simple maintenance required everywhere in the world.

Flexible production.

In addition to the increased need for standardized and modular solutions, the industry is shifting the way it manufactures and delivers products to the end-user. Mixed production and shorter product lifetimes result in a need for shorter production runs that can be changed on the fly to accommodate a wide variety of demands from a mixed customer base. Increased equipment flexibility is the only way these demands can be met. The required time to market is becoming much shorter and investors are demanding shorter returns on their investments. When combined with the fact that the market window for a product introduction is small, this drives the need for a short cycle from idea to ready product. Standardized and flexible automated systems are really the only way to accomplish this.

On-demand is the goal.

In order to match output with new customer demands, parallel production is often required. Parallel production allows for phasing new or updated products into an existing production line or cell without disrupting production. The ability to rebalance production output to suit market demands (i.e., increasing the output of best-selling products and decreasing the output of less popular products on demand) is vital to profitability. This type of demand for flexibility is now seen in automotive OEM production, Tier 1 and Tier 2 automotive suppliers and much of the general metal fabrication industry, and we only expect it to increase in the future.

I would love to hear from you as to what you think the top challanges faced by manufacturing are. And if you are visiting the SCHWEISSEN & SCHNEIDEN fair in Essen in September please do not hesitate to look me up on the ABB booth (Hall 3, Stand A106) to continue this conversation.

Best Regards, Nigel

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About the author

Nigel Platt

I am the Global Application Manager – Welding and Cutting, and also Sales and Marketing Manager - UK and Ireland. I Joined ABB robotics in 1990 and have held various sales and management positions within ABB Robotics UK over the past 22 years. I am as passionate about manufacturing efficiency and competitiveness today as when I started with ABB.
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