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Bockman’s Bites on Lean Six Sigma in Additive Manufacturing Part 3

August 12, 2021

Bite III : Solutions

Welcome back to Bockman’s Bites … now, on to the last one…

The bedrock principle of Lean Six Sigma is to reduce waste by evaluating DOWNTIME or Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Non-Utilized Talent, Transportation, Inventory, Motion, and Extra Processing. If you’re familiar with additive manufacturing then you know that these same principles can be applied more often than we care to admit. However, there are solutions that will lead to process improvements. 

It’s important to remember the DMAIC model in Six Sigma and that’s where I start when approaching a customer who already has components of a workflow.  Understanding the outcomes expected, but first baselining and process mapping the entire workflow looking for those gaps is first and foremost.

The next generation of industrialization is committed to an agile manufacturing approach. Defined by the ability to quickly respond to customer production needs, agile manufacturing embraces AM and integrates sophisticated software tools to enhance productivity. If we combine that with the Lean Six Sigma concept, then we can begin addressing immediate concerns with AM and solve problems like supply chain resiliency. 

Production Planning | Having access to a centralized Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software solution capable of organizing AM technologies and material capabilities across multiple facilities enables production specialists to quickly print parts and immediately service customer needs. Oftentimes referred to as on demand manufacturing, this process eliminates the need for warehousing and will completely transform  the traditional supply chain that constantly faces logistical nightmares (tariffs, long lead times, emissions). This creates a significant opportunity for repair and spare part providers to locally produce parts for aviation, transportation and defense products that cannot afford equipment downtime. 

Maximize Throughput | Data is key to improving workflows. Management Execution Systems (MES) are designed to connect, track and monitor complex systems to ensure operational efficiency and improve production output. Having an integrated software that seamlessly connects conventional manufacturing with AM enables engineering teams to quickly assess technology benefits and assign production requests using time, quality and cost metrics. With the right software, engineers can identify AM ready parts, develop cost assessments and provide complete production transparency to management. It’s a strategic communication tool that relies on data and connectivity. 

Conclusion

Maximizing the benefits of Lean Six Sigma takes an entire organization into consideration, encompassing hardware, software, processes and people. Is one more important than another when it comes to overall productivity? Not necessarily, but I argue that a sophisticated software solution cannot be underestimated and can likely become the backbone to process improvement. Reducing waste, eliminating downtime and enhancing throughput all relies on accurate data and production transparency. Ask yourself, how are you reducing waste in your process? What type of data do you use to justify decisions?  

At 3D Control Systems, we are tackling this head on and invite you to learn more about our software solutions that are addressing the problems of today and proactively preparing for ones of tomorrow.  

Bockman’s Bites on Lean Six Sigma in Additive Manufacturing Part 2

August 4, 2021

Bite II : Challenges

 

Welcome back to Bockman’s Bites … now, on to the second one…

I’ve decided now is not the time to discuss the benefits of additive manufacturing, but rather the challenges. While additive manufacturing has evolved for the past three decades, it’s still a relatively young industry, and we are beginning to see new hardware, software and material providers pop up everyday. It’s certainly an exciting time for AM enthusiasts, but it’s cumbersome for many commercial and industrial manufacturers who wish to maximize the advantages of AM.  It introduces a lot of waste (muda) into the workflow that traditional manufacturing has conquered.  In my estimation, these are the biggest challenges that L6S-AM can tackle.  I witnessed it many times when I was visiting customers in automotive.

 

Bite II : A 

 

Combining with Conventional Manufacturing | How can AM be complementary to existing processes? For starters, designing with AM is unique compared to subtractive manufacturing and requires a different engineering mindset. In addition, most production facilities are unwilling to completely change their processes without understanding the time, quality or cost benefits associated with AM. This lack of knowledge and confidence leads to adoption hesitancy. How is the industry addressing it today?

Contract Manufacturing or Service Bureaus | Embracing new technologies and innovation comes with careful consideration for many machine shops and production facilities. The challenge is to find a complementary approach to manufacturing that seamlessly determines which technology is the most cost effective (or time sensitive) solution depending on the part or application. This is not easy considering  the subtle design differences required to maximize each technology or material. For many machine shops and contract manufacturers, this connection may not exist which leads to poor utilization or worse, lack of technical understanding of the capabilities. How are manufacturers making it easier on themselves? 

US Machine shops are oftentimes family owned businesses that have organically grown and adopted technologies as the business expands. They may have CNC, injection molding, tooling, sand casting, and additive manufacturing capabilities under one roof. A recent report suggests that 26% of major OEMs are already outsourcing parts to a contract manufacturer/service bureau and expect that number to increase year-over-year due to a variety of reasons. Machine shops are looking for a way to reduce the additive manufacturing process which tends to be super manual and labor intensive. Not to mention, contract manufacturers are without a software solution that can connect all the technologies which leads to cumbersome production, missed timelines or duplicated efforts. The anticipated growth forces many machine shops to identify a software platform that allows them to digitally view the production floor, assign projects, and proactively identify problems (failed builds, predictive maintenance, equipment downtime). Having an integrated software that aggregates data from these production processes will enable engineers to determine a cost/time analysis and get parts out the door faster and cheaper. The competition isn’t waiting, why should you?

Check back in next week to see how the L6S-AM is affecting the automotive and aviation industries. 

 

Bite II : B 

 

Leveraging Equipment & Technical Expertise | Companies with multiple prototyping or production facilities are oftentimes handcuffed when it comes to optimizing technology capabilities. This is common for major OEM’s in aerospace, automotive and defense sectors that do not have access to partner facilities located in the US or elsewhere. We are beginning to see more OEM’s create AM Centers of Excellence, but it remains challenging for the entire organization to leverage resources and plan accordingly. L6S-AM is an important consideration because the bottlenecks associated with poor planning will result in wasteful spending or worse. Additive manufacturing machinery, like any major capital equipment expenditure—has a shelf life, and downtime is unacceptable. 

Automotive & Aviation | Automotive and aviation manufacturers are notorious for having multiple production and final assembly plants strategically located throughout the globe. The technology at each site varies depending on a variety of reasons (expertise, access, proximity, etc.) but the glaring challenge is to leverage the right technology, for the right application, that provides maximum value to the organization. Too often, the different facilities do not communicate well enough and are completely blind to what is available for resources. There is no singular language or software platform that can seamlessly connect the departments and accurately monitor equipment or material inventory in real-time. Simply put, it’s a lack of resource utilization. 

AM was originally destined to be a prototyping tool so OEMs never implemented lean practices that would enable the technology to be a true manufacturing alternative. While AM is revolutionary, many manufacturers are losing precision cycle time just waiting between queues. 

Lufthansa Technik, a major supplier of maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) services partnered with Oerlikon AM in 2018 to establish an AM Center dedicated to advancing the technology. The ability to produce one-off spare parts will cut costs significantly and improve lead times. Other manufacturers are adopting a similar strategy and beginning to centralize AM expertise while continuing to decentralize hardware capabilities, enabling on demand and localized production. With countless SKU’s, design standards, and testing data, it becomes challenging to aggregate this information for actionable purposes. Having an integrated software that combines data with production transparency will ultimately lead to better planning and less downtime. 

Check back in next week to see how L6S-AM is affecting the medical market. 

 

Bite II : C

 

Data Transparency | AM introduces so many new technologies, materials, post processing requirements, pricing models and design considerations that it becomes dizzying. Not to mention, the industrial infancy of AM is a key contributor to the lack of standards available within the marketplace. How can engineers, scientists, doctors, and researchers maximize additive manufacturing without a proper execution system in place that can track, aggregate and monitor so many valuable data inputs? Without data or worse, inaccurate data, management is completely blind and unable to make process improvements. The medical market, well-known for its strict standards, embraces additive manufacturing but is still learning how to optimize it. Can a L6S approach help streamline additive manufacturing processes and improve efficiency?

AM has been tremendously beneficial to the development of personalized patient healthcare options. Custom treatments, prosthetics, surgery solutions, implants and more are now possible with additive manufacturing. However, implementing AM into a hospital setting compounds the challenge that already exists, too much data. Combining large, digital patient data with AM is a nightmare for most doctors and physicians. It’s cumbersome, complicated and inefficient.

Bockman’s Bites on Lean Six Sigma in Additive Manufacturing

July 28, 2021

Trim the fat. Cut your losses. Eliminate Muda. 

I am writing a short series of bites about the importance of implementing Lean Six Sigma methodology in Additive Manufacturing.  It not only drives efficiencies and increase output, but it can improve quality levels as well.  

I will open up the first bite with the background of what L6S is in traditional manufacturing and some of my experience. 

Bite I : What is Lean Six Sigma and AM Combined?

Continuous improvements for any department of an organization are paramount to the successful growth and adaptation of a business. In our hyper competitive commercial and industrial marketplace there is no excuse for downtime, so what steps are you taking today to maximize organizational or production efficiency? 

Lean Six Sigma is a managerial concept born from the combination of lean manufacturing and Six Sigma aimed to identify operational weaknesses, expose variation and make adjustments for continuous improvements. While each concept was used separately during the 1980’s and 90’s primarily for automotive and electronics manufacturing, it became a joint idea during the early 2000’s and has since transformed manufacturing. With the ultimate intention to identify weaknesses and improve operational efficiency, Lean Six Sigma has become a significant tool across many different industries and professions. In my own experience at General Electric, L6S was a part of our culture, our DNA.  I had the privilege to work with a Lean Sensei, who helped us learn and apply methodologies in our manufacturing plants.  We made real improvements by identifying ways to remove unnecessary steps in our workflow and eliminate muda (waste). With my knowledge of Lean Six Sigma and a decade of implementation experience, I’m turning my sights towards additive manufacturing. What needs to be done in order to fully optimize AM and the future of manufacturing?  Can L6S work in additive manufacturing?

The additive manufacturing (AM) industry is relatively young. However, there are countless hardware, software, technology and material companies popping up everyday and making significant impacts. For reference, the AM market is expected to exceed $20 billion by 2023. Alternatively, the CNC market was valued at approximately $7.87 billion in 2020, further indicating that AM is certainly here to stay.  But we haven’t figured out all the kinks yet. 

L6S is about efficiency. AM has already proven itself as a viable prototyping and production unit but what steps can be taken to truly maximize utilization? While 3D printing is a revolutionary piece of hardware technology, the brains and machine connectivity within a machine shop or manufacturing space is average at best. Smart manufacturing relies on actionable information collected through key data points and must be driven by intelligent systems. For example, contract manufacturing service providers in the US have grown significantly and are desperate for a software platform that allows them to digitally view the production floor, assign projects, and proactively identify problems (failed builds, predictive maintenance, equipment downtime). Simply put, how can we make additive manufacturing smarter? Check back in next week for our next installment of L6S-AM when we address the challenge of combining conventional manufacturing methods and what that means for certain industries. 

Feel free to share comments, your experience and where you think it’s headed.

The best workflow software for Fab-Labs and Makerspaces

July 21, 2021

Duke University is home to one of the largest 3D printing networks in US academia. Over 120 3D printers are accessible by an entire student body enabling the prototyping and production of countless ideas and inventions. Applications vary with interest but it ranges from anywhere between entrepreneurial engineering to architectural modeling and beyond. Duke’s Fab-Lab has found a way to democratize 3D printing by adopting cutting edge hardware technologies and combining it with sophisticated workflow software solutions that make 3D printing simple and approachable for all academic disciplines in their campus.  We sat down with Chip Bobbert, CoLab Architect and Senior Technologist, to learn more on how they are managing their 3D printing network maker spaces.

 

Bobbert, former Command Center Specialist for the US Marine Corps, began working at Duke University in 2013 after spending two decades as a media technology engineer. His experience in conventional machining, media technology, 3D printing and education drives his ability to manage and improve the Duke CoLab.

What is so special about the Duke 3D printing network?  “Duke is a geographically large campus, approximately 3,500 developed acres. We have three maker spaces, consisting of approximately 80 printers, while our sister labs are assigned to specific programs located in multiple locations. With over 120 total printers on campus, we have found a way to simplify 3D printing and enable access to over 2,500 students year-over-year. Our maker spaces are predominantly filled with a range of Ultimaker 3D printers and our collective network is powered by 3D Control Systems’, 3DPrinterOS software solution. These complementary technologies enable Duke students from any discipline to access the printer network and build parts.”

What are the challenges with having such a vast printer network?  “First, we needed to determine how the program itself would work — would students pay for parts? What does scheduling look like? How would we manage it?  Having printers located throughout campus is great but we quickly realized that a middleware management software system would allow us to delegate rights to users and manage the flow of files from a centralized platform. We were shocked to find that not many software options like this existed, considering that there are countless 3D printers on the market, we thought this was rare. 

Of course, the platform needs to function properly but we require an identity management capability that allows us to authenticate users from anywhere and be monitored from one location.” 

How did Duke solve this challenge and what does access look like today?  “After searching for a software platform and even creating our own, we decided to try 3DPrinterOS. The printer management functionality is good but the real benefit is user management. There are thousands of unique users every year so we need software that would integrate into our system and accommodate that type of turnover. Let’s face it, designing for 3D printing can be complex but the printers themselves are typically low IQ systems that require a boost for ultimate connectivity and user optimization. 3DPrinterOS helps us accomplish that and now, we are expanding access to 3D printing way beyond the engineering department. Inventioning is possible for designers, architects, sculptures, artists and more.”

What is the future of 3D printing at Duke? “Convenience is key. How can we make 3D printing as simple and easy as 2D printing? The software platform is a powerful tool that democratizes access to the 3D printer network but we need to get closer to printing something with a single click of a button. Nobody cares about the printer, they care about their designs and parts. As a 3D printer evangelist, I understand this and believe that if we continue to simplify the process then it will become much more convenient and accessible. 3D printing has the ability to unlock so many new opportunities for bespoke manufacturing, medical applications, and beyond. I want non-engineers, scientists, doctors, and anyone else to have the ability to get parts in hand.” 

Learn more about Duke University, Ultimaker, and 3D Control Systems’ 3DPrinterOS platform for managing makerspaces. 

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