Integration with manufacturing robots might be the next PLM challenge

Integration with manufacturing robots might be the next PLM challenge


Integration is one of the most painful aspects of PLM deployment and implementations. Especially when you need to integrate engineering, manufacturing planning and shopfloor systems. Usually it comes down to large number of data synchronization between each and every system in the loop. Integration failures can slow production process and lead to mistakes. In one of my earlier post I discussed why manufacturing future will depend on solving of old PLM / ERP integration process. The earlier visibility of product information in manufacturing process can reduce cost and optimize production schedule.

As complexity of product lifecycle is growing, the role of integration becomes even more important. The following Forbes article caught my attention earlier today – In the Factories of the Future: A Conversation With Jabil’s John Dulchinos. It speaks about changes in manufacturing driven by factors such as – mass customization, shrinking product lifecycle and offloading manufacturing cost to regions with low cost labor. These trends are quite usual these days. But here is where it starts very interesting – robots. Jim Lawton of Rethink Robotics speaks about smart collaborative robots. The following passage is my favorite:

Think about it – every robot we deploy is a computer. That means, going back to what I said earlier about the role of data in production environments, is that these robots will become critical in that model. Robots will be information management systems that can collect and analyze data on the floor, in real-time and make it available for interpretation.

That represents a real break-through in manufacturing allowing us to not only see what is happening now, but able to apply predictive technologies to the information. Everything from when a machine needs to be serviced to when a process needs to be adjusted will become available to us.

With that ability, we’ll no longer be simply looking at the past, but able to see ahead – a significantly more powerful tool for increasing efficiency and productivity. More compelling though, may in fact be the contribution that it makes toward accelerating innovation and creativity.

The future of collaborative robots is really exciting. At the same time, it made me think about complexity of product data integration between systems to support that. To support predictive analytics model and many other aspect of robotics operation. the information about variety of product characteristics should be available for robot information management systems. It would be interesting to learn more about potential information and process flow- I’m sure it will impose many challenges as soon as we will demand robot to take decisions about building specific configuration demanded by customers in a real time. It might represent the next level of complexity comparing to traditional configuration to order models.

What is my conclusion? Product complexity, shorten of lifecycle and cost pressure are forcing manufacturing companies to innovate in everything that related to optimization of product planing, manufacturing and shopfloor operation. I can see a new type of manufacturing product line equipped with collaborative robots capable to produce a specific configuration of product on demand driven by customer order. It will create the next challenge for PLM systems integration. Do you think traditional PLM architectures and platforms are ready to meet future integration with robots? This is a good question to ask PLM architects. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image credit Rethink Robotics


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