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Closing the Loop on Quality and Efficiency

Rahul Garg
By Rahul Garg Vice President, Industrial Machinery & SMB Program, Siemens Digital Industries Software

Manufacturers are being pressured more than ever by tighter delivery timelines and supply chain challenges to enhance the flexibility of their processes and meet customer demand for individualized products. At the same time, customers still expect to pay mass-produced production pricing, and increasing global competition demands manufacturers improve quality and efficiency to stay ahead of potential rivals.

Closed-loop manufacturing (CLM) is emerging as a viable approach to address these demands. CLM synchronizes and optimizes production across product design, planning and scheduling, manufacturing execution and automation. The result is a collaborative, connected information loop where CLM continuously improves the manufacturing processes’ cost, time and quality. This enables products to hit the market faster while achieving optimal quality and cost.

Aligning Product and Process

CLM accelerates the delivery of products at an optimal level of quality and cost while minimizing energy usage by aligning the “as-planned” product with the "as-built" product and the "as-used" product information into a continuous iterative improvement process. It enables a true loop of information, ensuring that engineering teams receive timely manufacturing feedback to improve a product’s evolution, evaluate alternative suppliers and speed up problem resolution. The resulting closed-loop manufacturing process optimizes new product introductions by accelerating time-to-market while maintaining fidelity to quality and compliance requirements.

A closed-loop manufacturing process requires the following capabilities:

Manufacturing planning and engineering to build products based on customer requirements, resource availability and scheduling.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) and scheduling to determine how to create products based on supply chain criteria, such as materials and available machine resources.

Data reuse and resource maximization, continuously improving processes against time and resource constraints.

How CLM Works

CLM represents an evolutionary upgrade over many traditional manufacturing execution systems (MES), as CLM more effectively encompasses quality management, advanced planning and scheduling, and manufacturing execution.

From a CLM perspective, there are three essential ingredients: 1) The ERP system captures order information and helps with supply chain logistics. 2) The product lifecycle management (PLM) system provides product definition and helps plan how production resources will be used. 3) The manufacturing operations management (MOM) system helps capture the details of the operations and combines the virtual world of PLM and the real world of production.

CLM utilizes enterprise-level manufacturing intelligence to furnish ERP, PLM and MOM—the critical solution capabilities essential for delivering a comprehensive manufacturing approach.

The first step in CLM is the manufacturing planning and engineering phase, which determines the sequence of steps needed to build products. In many cases, it’s based on customer requirements and paired against the schedule of the available resources. ERP and scheduling capabilities determine how products will be created while considering supply chain dependencies for parts and materials, ensuring maximized reuse and utilization of resources.

Enhancing ERP is a PLM system to provide crucial details on what needs to be manufactured and how it should be manufactured. This process includes the specific product production steps and how they will be tracked and built. The ability to capture and track all this information is critical for achieving CLM.

Meanwhile, MOM represents a significant and evolutionary upgrade over traditional MES, encompassing quality management, advanced planning and scheduling, as well as manufacturing execution.

Of course, the supply chain plays a vital and critical role in manufacturing. Collaboration with suppliers and customers ensures a more straightforward and efficient process for product completion. It is essential to ensure that new ideas have been tested and applied, and that suppliers can deliver product capabilities on time and to the desired quality specifications.

Digitalization Requires Accurate Data

With CLM in place, key data is available to streamline critical decisions and make necessary updates and changes to facilities and production lines. The goal is to improve the manufacturing process within the many constraints that can exist in a manufacturing plant.

To ensure CLM, data collection and analysis are key. With the rise of MOM on the factory floor, a manufacturer can collect and maintain a wealth of data on the production of physical products. Factories today are progressing from paper-driven manual aggregation to automated data aggregation, captured through various physical sensing capabilities, including programmable logic controllers, sensors, gauges, Internet of Things (IoT) devices and other technologies. This real-time data collection is valuable for understanding and improving what’s happening in the production process. It feeds the virtual representation of the manufacturing process, enabling design, engineering and manufacturing to establish and continuously improve overall operations.

For example, an OEM might want to change the configuration of an existing operating line based on new customer requirements. MOM’s capabilities deliver visibility into what’s already on the floor. Specifically, engineers can use the virtual representation of the line to determine how best to incorporate changes without significant disruption. It's possible to use MOM during assembly where work instructions may need to change. 

There’s a marked benefit in developing real-time digital twins of plants to meet customer requirements. A machining plant in Germany increased its productivity by 10%, with a 30% reduction in commissioning time, and a 100% avoidance of penalties and high product security.

“The virtual commissioning of plants saves us days to weeks and costs in the five-digit range,” says Jochen Heinz, industrial data services director, Schwäbische Werkzeugmaschinen GmbH.

CLM Improves Processes

When customers implement CLM in production facilities, several critical capabilities come into focus. The first is maximizing asset utilization. This capability ensures that a company’s biggest assets—machines in a factory that consume significant capital—are fully leveraged.


CLM utilizes enterprise-level manufacturing intelligence to furnish the trifecta of ERP, PLM and MOM. (Provided by Siemens)

Overall, it can help identify bottlenecks and improve productivity to meet individualized mass-production demands. One example: Airborne International BV saw an 18% increase in output of understanding correlations and providing optimal production setup.

“Production lines need to become so flexible that they can run small series in between large series," says Airborne CEO Arno van Mourik. "The digital manufacturing concept enables this reconfiguring of the line to the precise, optimized settings for each product.”

Or, when considering a new supplier, an as-built quality evaluation of parts can be done with CLM to better understand if adding a new vendor or new component will impact delivery schedules. This is especially crucial in today’s environment, where supply chain reliability has become a big challenge for many companies. Having a good MOM solution makes it very easy to address these issues.

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