Quotation of the Month—Will Rogers

by James P. Tate on August 23, 2017

There is no credit to being a comedian, when you have the whole Government working for you.  All you have to do is report the facts.  I don’t even have to exaggerate.

Will Rogers

American Comedian  1879-1935


Virtual Factory- A Technique Whose Time Has Come

by James P. Tate on August 23, 2017

In all the excitement and dreaming about the impact of computer software and virtual reality in the production world there has been one quiet project that could measurably enhance the use of computer software on the manufacturing process.

In a recent article in The Economist magazine (July 15, 2017 issue, page 58) a real factory in Germany was gaining competitive advantage by using a virtual twin to mirror the factory operation.  The Siemens factory in Amberg, Bavaria manufactures computer control systems for industrial factories.  The annual plant output is 15,000 units in over a 1,000 different varieties.  Opened in 1989 with an initial output of 1500 units, this factory has achieved its improvements without an increase in floor space and virtually no increase in work force size.

These improvements have come by improving the production process by first testing the improvements on a virtual twin of the factory.  This digital twin is identical in every respect to the actual physical factory with simulated production machinery, simulated workers and process flow paths.  Once an improvement is tested and refined in the digital twin it is installed in the real factory.  By testing the improvements in a digital form, kinks are worked out, adjustments are made and a benchmark is set for the actual factory.

This concept of a digital model of a factory or component was first utilized in the NASA space program in the 1960s.  Models were first build and tested in a realistic setting to determine if the designs would work, before building the final model.  The Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC was built using this concept.  First, a scale model of the planned museum and its displays was created.  Using this model, space constraints and viewing angles were measured to prove, or correct, the architectural plans.  The project manager for this museum was astronaut Michael Collins from the space program.  He was employing the same technique he saw NASA use in developing space vehicles.

In addition to Siemens, General Electric and Dassault Systemes (competitors of Siemens) are employing this digital modeling of production systems for customers in aerospace, automotive, heavy machinery, pharmaceuticals and consumer products.

A major advantage of this concept is the increased speed in which new products can be brought to market.  Product design iterations can be quickly tested without having to physical reconfigure a production line.  The final version of the production flow can yield information on how to remotely monitor long production lines and provide after-market service and planned maintenance for the machinery.  By adding on artificial intelligence capability, the virtual production line can provide on-going information on the wear and tear of machinery to maintenance personnel.

By adding sensors to the machinery, data can be analyzed in the digital twin to justify design and material changes.  Formula 1 racing teams use a digital program to analyze data from the racing car as it is racing to identify the hundreds of changes to be made to a car between races.  The jet engines from GE have a digital twin.  Data from the plane’s engines in flight is uploaded to the twin to analyze potential engine failures up to two weeks in advance of a visual inspection.

In the manufacturing world time is money!  By reducing the time to design, test and install production improvements or piece part problems, a company can gain an advantage over its competitors and gain market share.

Isn’t it time for your company to look into this concept?


August Manufacturing Survey – Federal Bank of Richmond

July 25, 2017

The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond publishes each month the survey results of manufacturing activity in the West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland area served by the bank.  This information is compiled each month from responses submitted to the Bank by manufacturing firms in the five state area.  The survey can be found here.

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Manufacturing is Growing in America!!

July 24, 2017

We have been hearing about the loss of manufacturing jobs in America for, at least, the past twenty years!  The recent political campaign focused on the loss of jobs and how important it was to bring manufacturing back to America.  But let’s look more closely at the hard data. Although manufacturing jobs have indeed been […]

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Napoleon Meets His Waterloo

June 13, 2017

There will be no article for the June 2017 e-bulletin.  I will be participating in the 202nd anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium.  The e-bulletin will resume in July.

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Non-Value Added Activities- Quality Control?

April 26, 2017

In the Lean philosophy the activities in a value stream are typically divided into “value-added” and “non-value added”.  Value-added activities are defined as those for which the customer is willing to pay.  These include those operations to transform the raw material at each stage of production into a finished good that meets the customer’s requirements.  […]

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The Fear of Change- The Risk & How to Manage It

March 25, 2017

With each new project being implemented in a business organization, there are two risks.  The first risk, and the most obvious, is the danger that you didn’t select the right solution for the business challenge? The second risk is the danger of poor implementation of the solution.  A good idea badly implemented will yield a […]

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Software System Evaluation

March 1, 2017

As manufacturing managers and executives we are focused on the machinery, manpower and materials that go into our products. We want to have the best quality of each of these components.  We spend a great deal of our time evaluating and upgrading our machinery, labor force, and materials to manufacture the highest quality products and […]

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Manufacturing Jobs- Where Have They Gone?

January 26, 2017

We have been treated to many articles and theories about the demise of manufacturing in America. However, it is a fact that the percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP) that comes from manufacturing has not changed in the last three decades.  But, the number of “manufacturing jobs” has certainly declined in this time period.  […]

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S&OP– A Process, Not a Technique

December 22, 2016

Over the past several years, APICS has been expounding on and explaining the Sales & Operations Planning technique.  APICS has a long definition of the S&OP technique in the 14th Edition of the Dictionary.  In this definition it uses the word “process”.  This word is probably the most important, and yet the most misunderstood, term […]

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