Contributed by Andy Carr, Senior Vice President of Operations at the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
Many manufacturers are taking advantage of a new set of tools and technologies to tackle their traditional challenges: reducing cost, improving quality, increasing delivery performance, and providing a safer work environment. The tools and technologies are part of what is broadly known as Manufacturing 4.0 (MFG4.0), Industry 4.0, or Smart Manufacturing.
The term Industry 4.0 was first coined at a conference in Hanover, Germany, a few years ago and refers to the ongoing automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices, using modern smart technology. Large-scale machine-to-machine communication and the internet of things (IoT) are integrated for increased automation, improved communication and self-monitoring, and production of smart machines that can analyze and diagnose issues without the need for human intervention.
Some of the tools and technologies that are included in MFG4.0 include:
- Data Analytics / Artificial Intelligence
- Augmented Reality (AR) / Virtual Reality (VR)
- Robotics and Automation
- Additive Manufacturing
- Computer Aided Design (CAD) / Computer Assisted Manufacturing (CAM)
- Digital Business-to-Business Platforms
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Platforms
The South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SCMEP) is a private, non-profit group that serves as a proven resource to South Carolina businesses, providing them with a range of innovative strategies and solutions. An affiliate of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), SCMEP operates under the US Department of Commerce to promote innovation and industrial competitiveness among small and medium-sized manufacturers (typically manufacturers with 500 or fewer employees).
Working in partnership with the South Carolina Department of Commerce, SCMEP is at the forefront of helping South Carolina’s small- and medium-sized manufacturers understand these new tools and technologies, determine their suitability, and calculate the potential return on investment offered by their adoption. SCMEP is uniquely positioned in this regard as an organization that:
- ‘gets’ small- and medium-sized manufacturers
- has the ability, working in conjunction with partners, to de-risk the adoption of MFG4.0 technologies by identifying grants, awards, and other potential sources of funding
- facilitates introductions to trusted MFG4.0 subject matter experts
SCMEP has assisted several South Carolina manufacturers with the adoption of Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality solutions.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) leverages computers and machines to mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind.
To deliver AI services, SCMEP partnered with Rick Oppedisano and his team at Delta Bravo. The organizations were introduced to each other in October 2018 by the South Carolina Research Authority and the relationship was formalized in November 2018. To date, 19 projects for 11 South Carolina manufacturers have been delivered, with remarkable results..
Deploying an AI solution resulted in an SC manufacturer of large diesel engines to reduce test bed failures by 90% — a savings of over $4MM to date.
Using AI also allowed a manufacturer of rebar to realize a 17% reduction in scrap.
An SC manufacturer of silicones implemented an AI solution to increase first pass yield, increasing throughput by 67%.
And an SC tire manufacturer used an AI solution to better predict demand and determine inventory levels, which realized a 60% reduction in the number of inventory items held — a savings of $3.5M.
Virtual Reality (VR) is the term used to describe a three-dimensional, computer generated environment which can be explored and interacted with by a person. That person becomes part of this virtual world or is immersed within this environment and, while there, can manipulate objects or perform a series of actions.
SCMEP has partnered with Rajesh Jha and his team at SimInsights based in Lake Forest, CA. An SC filament manufacturer worked with SCMEP and SimInsights to creatively solve a workforce training issue using VR.
The manufacturer had been conducting new employee training on the shop floor using production equipment — a noisy and distracting training environment not conducive to learning. The continuous flow nature of the process meant that waste was generated during training.
To address this issue, SimInsights s developed a VR solution that allowed new employees to learn in a quiet training room environment removed from the shop floor. Actual equipment was used where possible to allow muscle memory to be developed.
This solution obtained remarkable results,with a reported savings in excess of $2M. Average training time from onboarding to proficiency in the process was previously 12 weeks, but the introduction of VR reduced the process to 9 days. And, most importantly, the VR solution was greeted with enthusiasm resulting in increased employee engagement.
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Consider each playbook a “how-to guide” constructed to help you understand the technology, provide an overview of the current regional landscape, share best practices, identify opportunities for use, build the business case for, and outline steps toward implementation. Each playbook also contains links to expert resources and partners for training, education, integration, or other support to aid you on your journey.