Operations Article

James Anderton’s picture

By: James Anderton

Injection mold making used to be a relatively simple business: machine the cavities and runners, polish, cross-drill for cooling, then shoot resin. Today, however, relentless pressure for lower part cost and higher productivity have led to bigger, faster machines with molds to match.

Multilayer stack molds, gas-assisted molding, overmolding, co-injection, advanced hot-runner systems, and other technologies have collapsed the cost of high-volume commodity resin parts. At the other extreme, a new generation of functional fillers and special-purpose engineering resins are allowing very large, special-purpose part making for industries such as automotive, aerospace, and medicine. In every application, cycle time, dimensional stability, and surface finish are paramount; hiding a sink mark under a trim plate just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Despite all the technical understanding of making injection molds, a surprising number of manufacturing engineers know very little about the complex dynamics that happen inside an injection mold.

Steven Forrest’s default image

By: Steven Forrest

The ongoing pandemic will likely change, if not completely alter, many aspects of our daily lives. One facet that will significantly change is the way we work. After months of being in lockdown, the massive shift to working from home has proven to be effective in helping employees stay productive. This led a lot of companies—including those that were initially suspicious about it—to seriously consider remote working as a viable and legitimate work arrangement.

Andrew Peterson’s picture

By: Andrew Peterson

Collaborative robots are increasingly attractive to manufacturers that require flexible solutions for their growing product mix but may not have the scale of work or capital resources needed to justify larger investments in automation systems.

These collaborative robots, commonly referred to as “cobots,” can execute tasks with minimal programming and adapt to variations in part position and size. Humans work side by side with cobots to reduce the need for custom fixturing that can make high-mix, low-volume (HMLV) work inefficient. Cobots can also go to where the work is on the shop floor.

The Purdue Manufacturing Extension Partnership has identified manufacturers that have a lot to gain from cobot adoption. Investing in collaborative robots may make the most sense for:
• Manufacturers from 50 to 500 employees with a family product mix
• Owners who are looking for a fast payback period on capital investments (e.g., six months)
• Managers who can’t fill shifts but can redeploy employees to more value-added positions
• Operators with repetitive or dangerous jobs

Benjamin Kessler’s picture

By: Benjamin Kessler

The full economic impact of the pandemic has yet to be felt. However, it seems beyond dispute that Covid-19 and globalization don’t mix well. Of course, all economic activity is suffering in this worldwide recession—but the global breadth of business may experience an especially acute shrinking effect. To cite just one grim projection, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is predicting a 12-percent contraction in global trade this year, more than double the already cataclysmic 4.9-percent negative growth prediction for the world economy as a whole.

The proximate causes for this are widely known: the unhappy coincidence of China being both the virus’s apparent country of origin and epicenter of global production for countless multinational corporations, the cessation of global travel, etc. Far less clear, at this stage, is what all this means for global business strategy. Should companies keep a low profile and hope for globalization to rebound, or prepare for hasty repatriation?

Farhana Ahmad’s picture

By: Farhana Ahmad

Despite juggling competing priorities, building resilient systems and processes within their organizations continues to be top of mind for business leaders today and is anticipated to be so for the foreseeable future. As such, the first logical step is to turn to existing methods and approaches that have been proven to be effective—of these, lean is a strong contender.

Starting from the beginning: the definition of lean

Defined as “a way of providing maximum customer value while minimizing effort, equipment, time, and waste in the production system,” lean is based on five principles:
• Value is defined according to the customer’s perception of it.
• Organizations must map the entire value stream and eliminate anything that doesn’t contribute to customer value.
• Products and services must flow smoothly to the customer with no interruptions.
• Customer requirements pull value upstream along the process.
• Perfection with no waste is the goal of the production system.

From an applicability perspective, the business process most commonly linked to lean is that of waste reduction, which is summarized into eight key types. This includes everything from motion to overproduction to underutilized talent.

Multiple Authors
By: Bill Bernstein, Teodar Vernica

Step into the factory of the future. Alicia, an operations manager, sits at her workstation viewing a digitally enhanced video feed of the facility, using cameras installed in strategic locations. Wearing safety gear, a maintenance engineer named Bob checks his tablet for the next machine to fix. Equipped with a headset and controllers, Dave, a software engineer at HQ, serves as a virtual tour guide for Carrie, the company’s lead executive. Wearing an augmented reality (AR) headset, Carrie surveys her machines as she walks through the facility. With Dave’s guidance, she sees digital information, such as a machine’s status, appearing in her view.

Each able to experience a virtual overlay onto a physical environment that provides more context relevant for their jobs, these co-workers can realize their potential as a team through industrial extended reality (XR), an umbrella term that encompasses a spectrum of technologies, from partially immersive AR to completely immersive virtual reality.

This factory might be hard to imagine, but each technology already exists. What’s missing are standard formats, protocols, and guidelines for them to work seamlessly with one another. In other words, the communication channels among these technologies remain shut.

Richard Fendler’s picture

By: Richard Fendler

Job satisfaction is important to most people, and yet this can be a fairly nebulous concept that is tricky to achieve and also tough to measure in a meaningful way.

Luckily a number of software platforms designed to manage employee recognition have emerged in recent years, as outlined in this comparison list. The upshot is that it is not just easier for businesses to keep their workers content, but also to track satisfaction and thus extrapolate the morale trajectory for the entire organization.

Here is a look at how these platforms work, why they are useful for keeping team members happy, and how analyzing employee contentment benefits the business as a whole.

The basics

Although they vary in terms of features and functions, all employee-recognition software solutions share the same purpose, which is to codify and unify the way that appreciation for people in a workplace is demonstrated by management.

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

By: Thomas R. Cutler

The old picking methods of paper, pick-to-light, and voice-picking are almost impossible when employees must practice social distancing, use PPE (personal protective equipment), and avoid contact that could potentially exacerbate the spread of Covid-19. One viable solution is pick-by-vision, which both reduces potential contamination and dramatically increases productivity.

Even during the pandemic, the issues of product-picking accuracy and productivity does not magically evaporate. A pick-by-vision system simplifies the workflow and makes it more efficient. Benefits include saving time, reducing the error rate, creating a low-fatigue operation, and strict process control to optimize the picking processes.

Multiple Authors
By: Betsy Mason, Knowable Magazine

 

This story was originally published by Knowable Magazine.

Imagine a science textbook without images. No charts, no graphs, no illustrations or diagrams with arrows and labels. The science would be a lot harder to understand.

That's because humans are visual creatures by nature. People absorb information in graphic form that would elude them in words. Images are effective for all kinds of storytelling, especially when the story is complicated, as it so often is with science. Scientific visuals can be essential for analyzing data, communicating experimental results and even for making surprising discoveries.

Visualizations can reveal patterns, trends and connections in data that are difficult or impossible to find any other way, says Bang Wong, creative director of MIT's Broad Institute. "Plotting the data allows us to see the underlying structure of the data that you wouldn't otherwise see if you're looking at a table."

And yet few scientists take the same amount of care with visuals as they do with generating data or writing about it. The graphs and diagrams that accompany most scientific publications tend to be the last things researchers do, says data visualization scientist Seán O'Donoghue. "Visualization is seen as really just kind of an icing on the cake."

Jason Chester’s picture

By: Jason Chester

For manufacturers—as for all of us—the past few months have been a blur of fast adaptations and long periods of waiting. At the start of the pandemic, many manufacturers did what they have always done in the face of disruption: adapt and find the fastest workaround for the challenge at hand.

Manufacturers already know that rapid adaptation is an accepted cost of doing business. Uncertainty, risk, and volatility are not new for these seasoned organizations. However, the universal nature of this crisis, and the fact that it’s far from over, have highlighted areas in which complex quality management systems and procedures stand in the way of agile responses and effective operational optimization.

Many manufacturers have taken advantage of the opportunity to examine their operations with a fresh perspective, seeking proactive changes that will pave the way forward in a post-Covid-19 world.

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