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Productronica fair

simFactory at Productronica 2017

simFactory by Proekspert is back in Munich at Productronica fair on November 14 – 17, 2017 at Messe München, Germany.

Visit us at Hall B2 Booth 261 – Proekspert AS, where we are ready to provide you insights about how simFactory advanced analytics service is improving electronics manufacturing.  

If you represent an electronics factory and are searching for a solution that helps to gather insights and improve awareness of your manufacturing process the simFactory is the solution for you.

Our analytics service enables electronics manufacturers to get most out of their data. Together with our experienced process mining experts using efficient data analysis, modelling and process discovery methods we help the EMSs, OEMs and OBMs in electronics manufacturing businesses to solve different optimisation and quality improvement challenges.

If you are a MES or traceability solution developer and are searching for a partner with capability to improve your product with advanced analytics models, let’s have a discussion how we can cooperate.

Productronica 2017 logo

You are welcome to schedule a demo if you want to meet us separately and subscribe to the newsletter.

Tähve and Terry at Electronica 2016

The Challenges of Electronics Manufacturing Services

Last week I attended the IPEC 2017 and gave a speech about our vision of the future of electronics manufacturing and the challenges we need to first overcome to start moving towards it. Here are part of my thoughts to share in written form.

The Future of Electronics Manufacturing

Like everything in this world, electronics manufacturing is in constant change. In all likelihood, the methods in electronics manufacturing management in the future will be drastically different compared to today.

We already see a movement towards fully automated “lights out” factories, where a major share of manual workplaces are automated and human workers replaced by robots. Complex manufacturing environments themselves are turning into enormous autonomous machines. And operating this kind of a shop floor will be as simple as operating a dedicated machine where we just have to focus on inputs and outputs – not how the insides are operating.

Therefore when looking at a global network of manufacturing, shop floors may be viewed as a network of huge production points, some, like machines on a shop floor, as logically linked as a daisy chain—and all virtually connected to each other.

We see the future of electronics production management as virtual factories—located in economically reasonable locations, their production can be managed from virtually anywhere via the Internet. As a company or private user you can host or rent a virtual manufacturing service and manage it despite the distance between you and the physical entity.

What about EMS?

Lights out manufacturing expects that the environment rarely needs any major re-configuration or setup change. This is the exact opposite of how EMS (electronics manufacturing service) works.

EMS companies must get by with a very high mix of products that are mostly produced in minimal amounts. For example, bigger tier 2 EMS companies may produce 50,000 different product designs and 50 million products a year (so the average lot size is around 1,000 pieces) by using 5 billion components globally.

This is a huge picture with many details to focus on, especially when production is shared between tens of globally distributed manufacturing plants, and those, in turn, consist of multiple shop floors and hundreds of machines that have to work perfectly.

Electronics manufacturing is a complex process. You must focus on big picture and the production line and even machine-level details, all at the same time. But the reality is that those two perspectives are rarely aligned at the same moment in time.

The challenges of EMS

So why is it so hard to keep an eye on the big picture and focus on details at the same time?
 What separates us from a future of full automation and virtual manufacturing? There are many reasons, but everything starts with simple yet complex challenges.

We have identified two main “pain points” that almost every electronics manufacturer faces today:

  • 
Data collected inconsistently
  • Fragmented visibility of analytic data

Interviews we conducted with electronics manufacturers have revealed two key numbers:

  • 19 out of 20 companies admit that they possess data but feel that they are rarely using it to learn
  • 18 of 20 companies feel they cannot view the big picture fast enough, and have to rely on outdated data

Causes and Amplifiers

The reasons why we face these challenges are simple – there is no standard way to collect data from machines. There are locally-generated log files, a variety of databases, and limited connectivity due to the lack of options or proprietary protocols, etc. This causes lots of manual work and micro management with Excel sheets to prepare the collected data for analysis. The analytics exist but how you see it is scattered – like comparing 10 different Excel sheets from different departments, because each one has their own format for reporting the status.

Most machines in a production line are already digitized; they produce tons of numbers every second. Huge amounts of data are generated by a production line every day. But as the data are not unified it’s very difficult to get real time value out of it—all because we must use time wasting, semi-automatic methods to see details in the bigger picture.

Also, the methods we use for data visualization are relatively static. When we look at our production management dashboards, we see dry KPIs that are more oriented toward showing what happened yesterday, rather than attempting to project what will happen today. For example, OEE: it is good to know it and understand what’s behind it, but learning from this KPI takes just too much time, especially in environments where mistakes on the shop floor may cost thousands of euros per second.

There are also amplifiers for the challenges. When there are only one or two lines with less than 100 workers in a manufacturing plant, it is easier to handle both the big picture and those pesky technical details, because the production manager can ask for updates from shop-floor operators and engineers whenever needed. But when production grows by a number of different products, the management process becomes exponentially more complex.

The trend is that the mix gets higher and volumes much lower. The more technologies advance the more they support mass customization. This, in turn, demands much higher scaling capability, plus greater flexibility, as there is a larger variety of products to manufacture at the same time. Issues that may be solvable by simple communication between people are no more—because it just takes too much time and is not accurate enough for the company’s growing needs.

A shop floor is like the kitchen in a restaurant. If you have seen the reality show “My Kitchen Rules,” you probably know that precise planning and domain experience are crucial to succeed, but in the kitchen there is time pressure. Things don’t go the way they’re expected, and if the customer is not served well he may go to another place. It’s a great example of focusing on the big picture and keeping track of the details at the same time.

You want to be aware of what’s going on and see multiple steps ahead at the same time. It’s easy when you have prepared and everything goes as planned. But conditions tend to change at the most inconvenient moments.

Data-driven approach

We want to solve these challenges and make shop-floor management much more transparent and forward-looking than it is today. As the two main challenges are basically lack of data at a given moment in time, we focus on data.

The first mission is to make use of existing data. In most cases the data exists, but managers or other responsible parties cannot view it the moment they need it. In some cases there are no real time views—only reports from the previous day or week. We want to change it by taking the data and visualizing it for you.

As the machines in production lines produce a huge amount of data, we only have to collect it and use it as wisely as possible. Our point is not to put too much effort into improving KPIs, but rather focus on what actually happens on the shop floor.

By combining the activities of different parts of the shop floor, we create a virtual shop floor out of connected machines and production points. This is a purely data-driven approach and will likely change how we see shop floor management in the near future—as it has changed how we see information technology today, compared to 10 years ago.

When joining electronics manufacturing and information technology, we see electronics factories as our development partners and advisors.

In essence, electronics manufacturing service is a global business. Connected factories are located in a variety of countries around the world so that the meaning of a single manufacturing plant has diminished slightly. Therefore, the approach to problem solving must also be global. As different regions have their own perspectives on production, to solve challenges is possible only with a cross-border knowledge exchange.

Our solution is a cloud service that connects factories around the world within one virtual environment. It functions as one central service, but at the same time each factory can be individually managed.

It is important to understand that the digital transformation of a production environment is an iterative process – there is no silver bullet. Solutions come only with deep cooperation between IT and manufacturing disciplines.

Connect with us!

We’re open to cooperation with electronics manufacturers who face similar challenges. Contact us by signing up for the demo on our website to receive more information about simFactory.

Link to original slides.

The removal of boundaries – Why?

Similarly to the digital transformation of the banking sector, we are heading towards the removal of boundaries in traditional manufacturing. The Fourth Industrial Revolution with the fusion of technologies will change manufacturing as we know it, and, let´s be honest, it will be a real challenge to convert the factories of the last century with all the legacy from mindset to technology. We are inspired by that challenge. The simFactory team, with its extensive experience of supply chains, is driven by the opportunity to be part of the next big paradigm change.

Our purpose is to help clients provide a better value proposition for their own clients by using our hybrid SaaS solution for industry. The core idea is simple, to aggregate manufacturing data from multiple sources, to process and unify the data and enable complex advanced analytics. The aim is to create meaningful real-time visualizations or predictions to facilitate decision-making at management level as well as on the shop floor. Altogether, the focus is on increasing production efficiency, raising product quality and reducing manufacturing costs.

We see that data collected and processed in real time are what drive change in the business(es) in question, and this can be seen in manufacturing as well. We are excited by being able to contribute and simplify manufacturing, which has been managed according to same principles for the last quarter of a century.

We know that near to real-time reports of operator and machinery performance are crucial for making shop-floor management decisions, but we believe our customers would like to be many steps ahead and be informed much sooner if future performance needs actions. We want to help them be proactive, not reactive.

Measuring of key performance indicators is a very important statistic method to give a fast, standardized overview of factory performance/efficiency. But we would like to make it more meaningful and remove artificial elements in formulas, for example manually measured cycle time. We believe our customers would like to see what is actually happening on the shop floor and see the values of KPI calculations which are taken directly from the source.

Real-time monitoring of the production is a must-have solution in today’s IoT era. Sensors can detect any stops and record downtime quickly and alerts can be sent out on time. We believe our customers would like to be alerted beforehand when downtime, a decrease in quality, or a shortage of inventory, etc., occurs. Otherwise, it is a bit too late – the damage has already been done. We want to move monitoring to the next level and improve visibility by adding a little prediction.

Let’s meet on Hannover Messe in April or request for more here.

simFactory speaks at IPEC 2017

This year IPEC2017 (Integrated Plant Engineering Conference) in Nuremberg (29th March) focuses on engineering standards for Industry 4.0. The objective is to exchange experience between different roles of supply chain including manufacturing plants and building international partnership.

simFactory team has created a new and innovative way to improve how Production Managers, CEOs and Process Managers of Electronics Manufacturing can supervise the production processes over multiple factories and execute important management decisions based on clearly visible data directly from shop-floor.

Terry London, the Product Manager of simFactory.io, has been invited to give a speech about the key idea behind simFactory and to share the experience of international cooperation with different electronics manufacturing companies.

You are welcome to join!

Shortening the value chain − the goal of every company

Striving towards the improvement of services and products is a key factor in every company’s culture. Rising to the top in your industry increases your customer base, meaning more products can be brought to market and inevitably sustainable growth for the business. All in all, the high competitiveness of the company in its industry is guaranteed and shareholders are therefore happier.

In order to become the best, the value chain of products or services has to be constantly improved. Throughout history, the improvement value proposition has been accelerated by industrial revolutions. The latest industrial revolution, numbered 4.0, known as the era of digitalization and IoT, is picking up momentum.

Along with digitalization, some paradigm changes can be seen − experience-based manufacturing is becoming knowledge-based. In factories, more data is available for advanced analytics and dashboards, thus enabling on-time and precise decision-making in order to improve production efficiency and the quality of the products or service in question and reduce manufacturing costs.

In general, IT in electronics factories is 10 years behind compared to what is possible in IT overall. In factories, offline and monolithic solutions are used and in reality, production is not traceable in a real-time. With simFactory we are helping factories to modernize their IT and provide a new level of visibility on shop-floor.

simFactory is a data-driven electronics manufacturing SaaS that enables real-time visibility into production and provides high-quality preprocessed data for advanced analytics and decision automation.

The 4 Industrial Revolutions (by Christoph Roser at AllAboutLean.com)

What is Industry 4.0 and how did we get here?

When talking about simFactory, it is impossible to ignore the concept of Industry 4.0, the new industrial revolution. Although most people are familiar with the latter term, many assume it only refers to the changes that took place after the introduction of steam and water-powered production methods in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. However, they don’t know that we are in fact already at the cusp of the 4th industrial revolution.

Indeed, the first industrial revolution started when the first mechanical loom was invented in 1784. Hand production methods were replaced by machinery and small workshops evolved into the factory system that allowed for production on a more massive scale. It wasn’t until 100 years later that the second industrial revolution began, between the late 19th and the early 20th century. With the spread of electricity, the second revolution introduced major industrial developments, such as the assembly line and mass production. The period between the second and the third revolution lasted for only a few decades. Starting from the 1970s, the rapid adoption of electronics and IT enabled further automation of production in factories. The 4th and current revolution began in the 2000s, taking automation even further, and revolves around cyber-physical production systems.

The 4 Industrial Revolutions (by Christoph Roser at AllAboutLean.com)

In cyber-physical systems, physical components, such as 3D printers, drones and robots, and digital software components, such as data analytics and sensor technology, are aggregated into a network of interacting elements. While the initial inputs and final outputs are customarily physical, information often transitions between physical and digital states during the manufacturing process. For example, it is possible to scan a physical component and model a digital representation of this item based on the scan. These digital data can then be turned into physical information again by 3D printing this component.

Another aspect of information digitization is the concept of digital twins, or device shadows. A digital twin is a computerized companion of a physical asset that enables real time monitoring, diagnostics and prognostics of the asset. With the ability to collect massive amounts of data from different systems, and combine and analyze these data, we can use the emerging patterns to predict future activities. For example, we can model different scenarios that might happen with the asset and how these events affect the related elements in the cyber-physical system.

Based on this information, we can start to proactively or pre-emptively address the issues that are most probable or have the greatest impact. Seeing the whole data, not just the view of one single element in the system, helps us detect root causes and fix them, instead of just fixing the symptoms. This adds complexity to maintenance planning and takes some of the human element out of decision-making. However, there is still a need for high-skilled individuals to plan, execute and maintain these systems.

Finding the right people and training them, as well as gathering the financial capital to invest in this human capital, is but one of the many challenges organizations face. They will also need to learn to work with each other in the context of entirely new business and cooperation models. This, in turn, will be followed by changes in data ownership and security. Manufacturers won’t only be concerned with data privacy across the supply chain, but also cyber security. It is crucial to ensure that they cannot be infiltrated and that their factories cannot be hijacked or shut down.

In the face of these challenges, it is important to start preparing for the upcoming changes. As the duration of the periods between technological revolutions decreases, the ability to adapt fast will determine an organization’s survival. Although time is of the essence, companies still have to move judiciously. It is not necessarily smart to adopt every technology in existence, but rather it is necessary to critically assess where one currently is and where one wants to be. From there, an organization can determine what is of the highest priority and thus focus on that first.

The new technological, business and social concepts introduced with Industry 4.0 will unquestionably affect most aspects of today’s manufacturing. While the benefits they offer are tremendous, the scale of the related challenges is equal. It is advisory for organizations to already start making small steps to prepare for the future. In the next blog post we will discuss the possible challenges that the organizations will face, and how to prevent them.

simFactory interview at Electronica 2016

Tähve and Terry attended Electronica 2016 fair at Munich together with other representatives of the Estonian Electronics Industry. At the fair Philip Stoten, the founder of Scoop, interviewed Tähve Lõpp (simFactory), Andre Krianev (Kaskod MTRONIX), and Teemu Pokela (InCap Electronics Estonia) to discuss the opportunities of Industry 4.0 in Estonia.

During the interview we found a new slogan – It’s easy in Estonia!

Read more at LinkedIn.

Tähve and Terry at Electronica 2016

Tähve and Terry at Electronica 2016

Partner with us as a system integrator

The simFactory solution has been built to integrate with a variety of IoT platforms, industrial devices and business software. Customers across Europe are looking for ways to modernize their enterprises and factory software to bring their companies into the new digital era. We have worked with different system integrators like Proekspert, Tieto, Nortal and Fujitsu to deliver a solution that matters to electronics manufacturers. Read more

Come meet us at Electronica 2016

We are presenting simFactory hybrid data solution for electronics industry at Electronica 2016 in Munich, Germany. Visit us at Hall B4 Booth 344 to gain insights from our pilot factories in Scandinavia.

Electronics industry is shifting into Industry 4.0 era and the companies are seeking ways to tap into the value of data to digitalize their businesses. We have taken mature, state of the art technologies and delivered our vision for data-driven electronics manufacturing. The solution comprises of data preprocessing from industrial devices and business software with intuitive user experience for managing the data flows and the system. We have built professional dashboards for monitoring equipment efficiency that can be shown in the meeting rooms and on the shop floor. Applications for operators enable benchmarking of activities and increase operator engagement by 100%.

Schedule a demo if you want to meet us separately and subscribe to the newsletter.

Enroll as a Pilot Factory

simFactory takes an open approach to delivering the solution for electronics industry. We work together with our customers to build the highest priority features first to benefit from data visibility and build the road to digital products and services. Meet us to plan pilot deployments in your production lines and supply chain.

simFactory has partnered with global manufacturers like Enics, Oshino, Estonian Electronics Association and Estonian Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications to provide the solution the industry needs today, not in 5 years. We have developed our solution in collaboration with the leading system integrators like Proekspert, Tieto, Nortal and Fujitsu. The solution is developed by a team with combined experience of 60 years in delivering software products and services for mission critical processes. Our team has developed industrial 3D printer services, solar panel communication software, geospatial IoT platforms, cybersecurity solutions, supply chain management services.

Move ahead of competition by starting a simFactory pilot to deliver productivity improvements and operator effectiveness while you work towards higher value added data analytics business cases. We will work with you to select the business case that matters to you most, from a range of proven use cases.