I interviewed Conrad Leiva who discussed Smart Manufacturing.
Conrad leads the Smart Manufacturing working group and is a board member of MESA, and he has also won MESA's outstanding contributor award. Conrad, can you first provide a brief background of yourself?
My name is Conrad Leiva, and I am VP of Product Strategy and Alliances at iBASEt. I am also aInternational Board member at MESA International and chair of the Smart Manufacturing Working Group. I have had a career in aerospace and defense, so I've been mostly workingon the shop floors with airplanes and big complex devices. Lately I've been focused on manufacturing ntelligenceand the integration of engineering and business systems with their plant floor.
What is Smart Manufacturing?
Well, that has really been the mission of the Smart Manufacturing Working Group. The initial goal was to define Smart Manufacturing—to explain what's going on in the industry with smart manufacturing. So, the timing for your question is great.
We came up with a one sentence definition for Smart Manufacturing. We define it as the intelligent, real time orchestration and optimization of business, physical, and digital processes — not just within our factories, but also across the entire manufacturing value chain.
There are some key ingredients in that definition. One is “intelligent” because we're moving beyond those passive systems that just collected the data and reported on the data. We want proactive systems that are managing and triggering behavior and automating processes on the shop floor. We want “orchestration” because we're not just talking about synchronizing machines. We're really talking about business processes. We're talking about the digital information that goes along with the physical product, and also the business processes that run the factory — all the way from engineering and design to the supply chain to get the parts you need and also run the shop floor. Even into the service lifecycle of some products that have a long service lifecycle.
How is Smart Manufacturing used?
Well, Smart Manufacturing is not a technology it is really a journey and endeavor. I equate it in some ways with LEAN manufacturing. It's a set of goals that we have set for industry with ways to connect and elevate connectivity and orchestration in the supply chain. So, you are going to see many different flavors of smart manufacturing for different kinds of industries and products. But at the end of the day, it's really about enabling new manufacturing business models. Not only manufacturing as a core competency, which a lot of companies have realized that is needed, and they're bringing back manufacturing and insourcing. They realize that it is a critical core competency for many companies.
But also, enabling new models, going beyond just selling a product and forgetting about it.We're really moving into an era of product-as-a-service, where people are more interested in leasing than owning, and manufacturers are more willing to sell the usage of their product and a long service lifecycle of that product as opposed to just putting it on the shelf.
And a lot more custom-made products, that's sometimes referred to as mass-customization, that we're building to order, building to the need of the customer and not just building a generic product that is going to go on the shelf.
Where have you seen success in implementing Smart Manufacturing?
There are several building blocks. The success so far is in putting the building blocks in place. We're going to see this as a 10 or 20-year journey to achieve the goals we have set. The MESA organization (www.mesa.org) has a lot of resources in this area for people that want to drill down further into it.
But in general, the building blocks are the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and smarter machines with more digital output. Going beyond the old automation, that was very proprietary, and using more interfaces that are standards based so that multiple vendor solutions can be connected and some of the machine information can be standardized. Two-way interfaces, not just the machine putting out information, but we can send information for the machine back to the machine to adjust itself. We've seen some success in there with the use of OPC standards.
We've seen some success in the Digital Thread. There's still a lot of work ahead, but the digital thread between engineering, the supply chain, and manufacturing. Taking that engineering product definition and tying that to how the manufacturing processes definition. Leveraging the 3D models into illustrations, leveraging the product definition and PMI and the CAD models into inspection requirements so that we can put change management practices in place that automate and facilitate a lot of the changed management processes.
We've seen success in the application of Advanced Analytics that are starting to analyze things like warranty information, things that are not structured data, but unstructured data like customer feedback, issues, reports, and looking for patterns of where products could be improved based on this accumulated feedback from multiple sources.
We've also seen a lot of progress and integration of engineering, manufacturing in the ERP systems. Those are just some of the dimensions that we've seen progress. So, it's becoming more commonplace that the leaders are putting into place a lot of these integrations and the integrations are more standards based. And we're really excited about this progress.
What can companies be doing to get closer to realizing Smart Manufacturing?
We recommend that companies start taking steps — that they don't just sit passively on the sidelines, that they get involved, that they start reviewing their business structure and their future market strategies and see if they want to adopt some of these new business models, like product as a service, mass customization. How are those going to impact their future business?
Then establish evolution milestones in that journey.What kind of system changes, connectivity changes, are going to be needed to connect their whole value chain that provides that new service to the customer?
Start building those relationships with their partners, with their suppliers, and start nurturing a new culture of collaboration. You know it's a different way to view these relations—not just as suppliers, but view your suppliers as partners. Start looking at the skills needed for that flexible workforce of the future. Start building up the skills in your workforce for the people that are going to be able to install, configure, maintain this more sophisticated equipment and all the connectivity needed between the systems and equipment. And evolve that information technology infrastructure that is needed for connectivity. Promote connectivity via standards, and work with your vendors that are supporting those standards. Those are some of the things that we recommend.
About Conrad Leiva
VP Product Strategy and Alliances at iBASEt