“It’s really hard to say we’re a leading-edge product engineering company if our business tools are dated and do not appeal to the talent we want to attract and retain at Cummins,” said Sherry Aaholm, CIO at 100-year old engine and generator manufacturer Cummins.
Transformative tech and attracting talent are two of the main issues manufacturers need to address in order to stay competitive and grow.
- 71 percent of manufacturing executives say they need to innovate faster to stay relevant, according to a Fujitsu report
- In the U.S., the manufacturing industry needs 3.4 million workers over the next decade just to replace retirees, according to The Manufacturing Institute.
The Talent Gap
Replacing retirees is only part of the talent shortage challenge for manufacturers. The other is finding workers with the right skills.
“We will need people who are able to manage these new operations, manage the robotics, to program them and maintain them,” said François Barbier, the president of global operations and components at Flex. “People who used to produce things with their hands, they’ll start to produce things with their brains.”
Gone are the days where a high school degree is enough to have a lucrative career in manufacturing, said Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger, speaking on a panel about manufacturing and logistics, adding: “It hasn’t been that way for a long time.”
Manufacturing jobs are still here, they just look different, says Linebarger. As new tech emerges, workers need to have the skills necessary to perform maintenance and programming, he says. Rather than hiring for traditional roles in manufacturing, companies are hiring for tech-oriented roles where workers are tasked with not just building, but improving.
To keep their innovation sharp, Cummins has also created a Digital Accelerator where ideas around manufacturing, the customer or supply-chain are tested and, if successful, then commercialized.
“The focus is on three key themes,” says CIO Aaholm. “How can we improve product quality and up-ime availability? How can we help with new services for our customers? And how can we find value within the company?”
One example from the accelerator is the Cummins X15™ engine. Cummins says it has reduced the overall cost of ownership by as much as 40 percent, compared with a Cummins 2010 ISX15 engine, and it provides between a 2 percent and 12 percent gain in fuel economy.
The focus on innovation helps attract and retain customers too. John Savage, the executive vice president of transportation services company, Savage Services, says: “Cummins has always been a technology leader, helping us to meet new emission standards whether we’re operating in California or across the nation. When it comes to reliability, Cummins is progressive. They don’t sit back on their laurels.”
DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.
Improving working conditions with blockchain
Blockchain is more often spoken about as an external tool for businesses to help secure supply chain. In a new pilot, blockchain is to be used to help improve health and safety within the workplace – at a Levi Strauss factory.
The testing out of blockchain as an internal health and safety auditing tool is being run as a collaboration between Harvard University’s public health graduate school, U.S. think-tank New America and the U.S. denim jeans company Levi Strauss & Co. The three have declared a project to design, build and operate a blockhain-based system for health and safety at work.
The new technology will be designed to augment outside auditors of factory health and safety with a system that will allow factory workers to self-report issues of concern. The factories that will test out the technology are based in Mexico, where three manufacturing sites in total employ 5,000 workers.
Mexico’s regulations for health and safety laws are exclusively federal in content. Under this legislation employers must obey standards, maintain safety programs, maintain compliance systems, ensure proper equipment and hazardous substance control. However, the level of safety is often subject to criticism (as with the International Labor Organization), such as in terms of accident rates and occupational illnesses like respiratory diseases.
The new project is designed to provide an alternate avenue for worker health and safety to be addressed, outside of periodic audit, and the mechanism enables a U.S. based company to ensure that clothes manufactured for the U.S. market are produced under conditions that are safe for workers.
The aim of the scheme is to input an annual worker survey on the blockchain. Once inputted the company’s site-based managers will be unable to alter it, and the findings will be made available to the workforce. The findings will be available for Mexican authorities to review as well as U.S.-based Levi Strauss managers. The blockchain will be provided by ConsenSys, the blockchain company founded by Joseph Lubin, once of Ethereum.
Tesla wants its factory workers to wear futuristic augmented reality glasses on the assembly line
- Tesla patent filings reveal plans for augmented reality glasses to assist with manufacturing.
- Factory employees has previously used Google Glass in its factory as recently as 2016.
To cut down on the number of fit and finish issues — like the “significant inconsistencies” found by UBS— Tesla employees on the assembly line could soon use augmented reality glasses similar to Google Glass to help with car production, according to new patent filings.
Last week, Tesla filed two augmented reality patents that outline a futuristic vision for the relationship between humans and robots when it comes to manufacturing. The “smart glasses” would double as safety glasses, and would help workers identify places for joints, spot welds, and more, the filings say.
Here’s how it works:
And here’s the specific technical jargon outlining the invention (emphasis ours):
The AR device captures a live view of an object of interest, for example, a view of one or more automotive parts. The AR device determines the location of the device as well as the location and type of the object of interest. For example, the AR device identifies that the object of interest is a right hand front shock tower of a vehicle. The AR device then overlays data corresponding to features of the object of interest, such as mechanical joints, interfaces with other parts, thickness of e-coating, etc. on top of the view of the object of interest. Examples of the joint features include spot welds, self-pierced rivets, laser welds, structural adhesive, and sealers, among others. As the user moves around the object, the view of the object from the perspective of the AR device and the overlaid data of the detected features adjust accordingly.
As Electrek points out, Tesla has previously been employing Google Glass Enterprise as early as 2016, though it’s not clear how long it was in use.
Tesla has a tricky relationship with robotics in its factory. In April, CEO Elon Musk admitted its Fremont, California factory had relied too heavily on automated processes. Those comments, to CBS This Morning, came after criticism from a Bernstein analyst who said “We believe Tesla has been too ambitious with automation on the Model 3 line.”
Still, the company seems to be hoping for a more harmonious relationship between human and machine this time around.
“Applying computer vision and augmented reality tools to the manufacturing process can significantly increase the speed and efficiency related to manufacturing and in particular to the manufacturing of automobile parts and vehicles,” the patent application reads.
This article was originally published on Business Insider. Copyright 2018.
Dow Chemical envisions the future of manufacturing
Dow Chemical, one of the world’s biggest chemical producers, is taking a leadership role in the digital transformation of its industry.
Despite its foundation in the pure science of chemistry, the chemicals manufacturing industry doesn’t exactly conjure high-tech images when people think of what goes into making chemical products.
And yet, the chemicals industry is poised to be the poster child for the very high-tech Industry 4.0 revolution, which takes existing manufacturing processes, and infuses them with digital DNA, thanks to the IIoT.
Dow Chemical, one of the world’s biggest chemical producers, is already taking a leadership role in the digital transformation of its industry. “We have significant amounts of data from our instrumentation and process sensors to use with the new analytics and deep-learning technologies,” Billy Bardin, Dow’s Global Operations Technology Center director, told Chemical Engineering.
Dow, like many other chemical companies, has been using sensor tech for decades, but the IIoT represents an entirely new model for how data from these sensors becomes part of the company’s end-to-end process. Not only does the IIoT offer optimization of the production process, it can improve efficiency, while reducing both energy consumption, and operational cost.
Safety — a key consideration given the stakes — can also be improved. Many chemical producers, including Dow, are still manufacturing at facilities that date back 50 years or more. Modernizing these plants is a constant effort, but with the advent of the IIoT, gains in situational awareness accompany the gains in efficiency and productivity.
Recently, the company enlisted the help of Schneider Electric to digitize its Carrollton, KY processing plant, giving teams better data visibility for pumps, valves and motors. The roadmap also includes the addition of Schneider’s HART devices to enable operations and maintenance teams to remotely view equipment health or thresholds for valves in order to manage them better, according to Automation World. The improvements in preventative maintenance this data enables are key to better employee safety, as well as protecting the environment.
Better efficiency, cost savings, and greater safety? Strong arguments for better chemistry through digitization.
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