In recent years, the manufacturing industry has encountered difficulties never seen in the past. Externally, rapid changes have impacted the global consumer market as highly homogeneous products formerly produced in large quantities were gradually replaced by personalized products. The demand for diverse designs produced in small quantities is rising. Internally, countries are facing an increasingly aging population. This is especially true of the China market on which Taiwan's manufacturers highly rely. The decline in population caused by the one-child policy of the past has had an impact on the labor markets. In addition, many other countries are making efforts to improve their labor conditions and laws, and global manufacturers are facing a huge predicament.
Experiencing the digital transformation of Delta’s production lines, JP Wang, Chief Technology Officer of Delta Global Smart Manufacturing & Technology, pointed out that a crisis often means an opportunity to make changes. Manufacturers can take advantage of this situation to initiate the digital transformation toward smart manufacturing and widen the gap between themselves and competitors, while saving their energy for the next round of competition.
The new, smart production line has a 70% higher capacity compared with the old one
Being a leading global automation company, Delta has been actively working on “digital transformation” and it began its planning of smart automation in 2015. JP said, “To ensure that our products truly meet the needs of customers’ production lines, Delta’s automation products are installed on our own production lines before we launch them to the market. Only after a solid and thorough verification with sufficient time is completed and we can ensure function and stability, are the products launched to the market. The same rules apply for our smart manufacturing. Since 2015, Delta has designated two production plants in East China and South China to implement smart manufacturing. Now we are getting results, which include a 70% higher production capacity, a three-to-five times increase in productivity per direct labor, and a 35% decrease in the production area of the same capacity.”
JP pointed out, the above-mentioned benefits prove that smart manufacturing can enhance efficiency and reduce costs, which is a positive direction for enterprises. It’s also an opportunity for employees at the manufacturing sites to upgrade themselves by developing a willing mindset to take on new challenges. Delta’s introduction of smart manufacturing at its own plants not only improves production capacity, but also allows personnel to witness the migration process towards smart manufacturing and the changes in daily operation. Comparing the differences between the old and new production lines, all of the staff understands that digitalization is an inevitable trend for the future, and they are willing to learn how to adjust direction for their work.
JP Wang, Chief Technology Officer of Delta Global Smart Manufacturing & Technology
In terms of performance after implementation, Delta’s smart production lines are working quite smoothly in China. JP thinks that the key to this success lies in Delta's meticulous compliance with the six-step requirements specified for the early, middle and late stages of the smart production line construction.
Delta’s 6 steps to smart manufacturing
These six major steps include rationalization, standardization, modularization, cyber-physical integration, automation and digitalization. Before the implementation of the first step of rationalization, managers must first review whether the internal process and the line of flow are optimal. This will not only identify wastefulness caused by errors or unnecessary actions, but also further streamline the process. The next step followed by rationalization is standardization. When the process and the line of flow are rationalized, they are fixed and set as the standards to follow. A large number of automation devices are set up for the newly designed production line, and all the procedures will follow consistent standards. Under standardization, both capacity and yield rate are significantly enhanced. The third step is modularization, in which all the standard actions are duplicated on other production lines to maximize efficiency by best leveraging the resources previously invested.
The fourth step is cyber-physical integration. The core concept of smart manufacturing is the integration of OT and IT systems. When the information exchanges seamlessly between the two systems, more value is generated. JP pointed out that the data of a manufacturing site is both diverse and immense. Data is generated from exchanges between machine-to-machine, machine-to-human, machine-to-system, system-to-human and system-to-system, plus the specs of various raw materials, fixture actions, equipment parameters and others. The data is enormous and messy. If it can be properly organized and analyzed, the overall efficiency and benefits will be amazing
OT & IT integration: One of the biggest challenges of factory digitalization
However, in the past, OT and IT systems belonged to two separate fields. With different domains and different system architecture, the two systems have difficulty communicating with each other. To address this issue, Delta identifies the differences in the specifications between the two systems and connection requirements before implementation, and then sets up an internal information standardization committee to take charge of connecting the two systems. After a long period of running-in, the two smart manufacturing production lines in East China and South China have now completed the cyber-physical integration. By connecting the cyber and physical ends seamlessly, the automated smart production lines operate smoothly and successfully deliver both high capacity and efficiency.
As for the ultimate vision of smart manufacturing, JP indicates that it should meet three major criteria. The first is a flexible production line—under the small quantity yet diversified production module, the line changeover can be done instantly. The second is self-detection and adjustment. When errors occur at a certain step of the production process, the equipment immediately detects and corrects the error. It then transmits the information to the equipment at following stations of the production line, to quickly adjust, respond and ensure the target yield rate and capacity. The third is the complete modularization of the equipment. According to the order requirement, the production line and workstations can be re-arranged for line change-over in the shortest time, so as to maximize production efficiency.
Delta has been working on “digital transformation” for smart manufacturing. The successful implementation of the two smart manufacturing production lines in East China and South China ensures that our solutions truly meet the customers’ needs.
Key concept of digitalization: Rome was not built in a day, neither is digital transformation
Through the six steps, Delta has put smart manufacturing into real practice. However, JP pointed out that smart manufacturing is always dynamic, and there will be no completion date. For future operations, it is critical to review each step’s KPIs from time to time to continuously improve production line efficiency.
For the advice of conducting digital transformation to other manufacturers, JP suggests taking Delta’s experience as a reference and use it to develop their own digital migration strategy. He also pointed out that for most manufacturers, building smart manufacturing lines needs domain know-how and expertise, and seeking out external resources and consultation is also critical. With years of dedication to the automation field and using its own plants as trial sites to build solid experience, Delta has a comprehensive understanding of various pain points and the needs of different manufacturing industries. Before assisting a client in building a smart production line, Delta will first assess a customer’s needs and sketch out the most appropriate architecture to shorten the time for putting it into operation. For future development, Delta will not only continuously enhance the efficiency of its own smart production lines in factories, but will also actively assist other manufacturers in their digital transformation and getting them ready for the upcoming age of smart manufacturing.
This article is reprinted from TechOrange (https://buzzorange.com/techorange/2019/11/21/delta-smart-factory-transformation-experience/)