Going through the motions can be beneficial

Imagine, at the click of a button, being able to simulate an entire production process and analyse the most efficient use of resources. This is now a reality, with the launch of Product Lifecycle Management Australasia's (PLMA) Tecnomatix Plant Simulation software. Paula Wallace reports.

Imagine, at the click of a button, being able to simulate an entire production process and analyse the most efficient use of resources. This is now a reality, with the launch of Product Lifecycle Management Australasia’s (PLMA) Tecnomatix Plant Simulation software. Paula Wallace reports.

YOU’VE probably heard of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and even Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence (EMI), but now a software developer has come up with something that it claims can do what the other systems can’t. Launched in Australia last month, PLMA’s Tecnomatix software suite, enables companies to accurately pre-plan factory capacities, throughputs and requirements in terms of machinery, conveyers, storage bays and locations, numbers of forklifts, widths of isles, etc.

“It allows manufacturers, to do ‘what if’s’ and analyse different scenarios,” said PLMA’s director Dennis Colusso. “All this means more accurate and reliable data about manufacturing throughput and the manufacturing process, which can then be interfaced to ERP systems and the like.”

The product has been launched successfully overseas and has seen several customers benefit “tremendously” through its deployment says Colusso. The product has yet to be used in Australia but the company sees potential for a broad application.

“The Tecnomatix products allow manufacturers to simulate the manufacturing process irrespective of the type of manufacturing…mechanical and electrical or discrete and process based manufacturing,” he said.

This includes all aspects from factory planning, optimisation and layout, through to actual simulation and optimisation of manufacturing processes like assembly, fabrication and robotics. It can also plan, simulate and optimise, material, parts and labour movement/flow through the factory.

In facilities like assembly plants, warehouses, distribution centres and component manufacturing centres, material flow is a significant contributor in many ways. Consider the cost of the material itself – the cost to bring material in, to store material and to deliver it to the point of use. Apart from the cost of inventory, the next thing that comes up is the amount of area needed to store this incoming material.

Following closely behind this question is the requirement of material handling devices. Also, there is the question of how many docks need to be available and where they should be located. There are further questions that need to be answered, such as the amount of material movement in the facility, and the optimum location of delivery locations and storage areas for material.

For manufacturers, better, operationally efficient factory layouts are a direct result of reduction in material handling costs and an improved, structured material flow in the factory. It can be seen in the experience of manufacturers overseas, that their investment in Tecnomatix has been recovered within months by virtue of savings in material transportation costs.

Tecnomatix studies also typically yield savings in the area of floor space required, manufacturing cycle time, WIP, and throughput.

“The benefits are that manufacturers avoid problems, delays and shutdown of their manufacturing plants, cells or processes due to unforeseen situations,” said Colusso.

“This is particularly relevant to manufacturers build new plants or re-equipping an existing factory, cell or process line for the introduction of a new product line or increases or decreases in throughput.”

He said that in many cases Tecnomatix products are used to determine whether an existing plant can be re-tooled to meet changing requirements, for example, an increase in capacity requirements. The ease of use and the incredibly low amount of training required has also been appealing to manufacturers overseas.

“Training is dependent on the specific Tecnomatix modules required,” said Colusso. “For example, users of the Factory Layout and Factory Flow products can be training in one week. Users of the advanced Digital Factory Simulation and Optimisations would need about two weeks’ training.”

Tecnomatix’s user interface follows Microsoft Windows standards, making it easy to get familiar and productive quickly. Simulation models can be created quickly by using components from application object libraries dedicated to specific business processes, such as assembly or car body manufacturing processes. Users can choose from predefined resources, order lists, operation plans and control rules.

By extending the library with their own objects users can capture best-practice engineering experiences for further simulation studies.

Complex and detailed simulations can be handled, understood and maintained much better than in conventional simulation tools by using Tecnomatix’s architectural advantages like capsulation, inheritance and hierarchy.

Product Lifecycle Management (Australasia), www.plma.com.au.

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