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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2001, MCB UP Limited
Internet-based collaborative manufacturing
Internet-based collaborative manufacturing
Paul G. Ranky
Keywords Internet, Manufacturing, Assembly
The twenty-first century undoubtedly is the "knowledge driven century", meaning that information that can be turned into value adding knowledge will represent more power than ever before. This is because the Internet helps to reduce waste, as well as acting as a systems integration and collaboration enabler for creating new ideas that can be turned into product and then sold to a global economy quicker and at a lower cost than ever before.
The advanced design and manufacturing/ assembly industry is increasingly operating on a globally integrated, Internet-based collaborative model of production and support in which original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) assemble products out of components and objects (both hardware and software) by a network of distributed suppliers. This distributed client-server model is enabled by the Internet, company intranets and consortium based extranets.
In this new economy, leading companies are discovering that, besides minimizing design and manufacturing costs and maximizing quality, they can achieve competitive advantage by introducing new, innovative products that satisfy individual consumers on a global basis. This is possible because of the highly integrated collaborative opportunities of product and process design, information technology and management. Gains of such "hot new products" not only can increase the company's market share but can create an entirely new market category, in which the company is the leader, therefore enjoying the efficiency gains by orders of magnitude.
Internet-based, or Internet-enabled, collaborative manufacturing fosters innovation in integrated design and lean/ flexible manufacturing. This is because, coupled with enterprise management systems, it can contribute to further collaborative cost reductions and sustainable growth. Furthermore, product life-cycle management (PLM) activities and software systems, in integration with enterprise resource planning (ERP) and enterprise resource management (ERM) with supply chain management (SCM) coupled with customer relationship management (CRM), represent a very powerful methods base. These systems can be used on a real-time basis to fine-tune a business, continuously learn, innovate and satisfy customer needs, therefore sustaining growth and making profit on a global basis.
The primary delivery mechanism for the above outlined system is Internet e-business. At the beginning, the key value of e-business is cost savings, customer satisfaction and revenue growth. As soon as the factory or organization understands the benefits of Web-enabled enterprise processes that share resources, applications and data, the opportunities for further waste reductions and growth are even more dramatic. This is the stage when the e-business gradually becomes a network of connected lean and flexible e-manufacturing businesses.
There are several major success cases in which US manufacturers have found Internet-based e-manufacturing to be beneficial. As an excellent example consider the National Electronics Manufacturing Initiative's (NEMI) Plug and Play Factory Project. This consortium addressed the issues of how to quickly integrate new pieces of electronics assembly equipment into a shop-floor line management system and how to manage the vast amounts of data available in today's electronics manufacturing environment over the Internet, using XML messaging.
The necessary technical infrastructure was designed, developed, and demonstrated over a two-year period. New standards activities for electronics manufacturing were initiated, where existing standards were either non-existent or insufficient to achieve the project goals. The goals of the project were to reduce the amount of time and cost that it takes to integrate a new piece of electronics assembly equipment into a shopfloor environment and start collecting data and controlling that equipment (often several thousand miles away over the Internet).
It is estimated today that the integration cost of a typical factory information system is up to four times the cost of purchasing that system in the first place. Furthermore, the up to two-year period that it takes to typically design and implement a new factory floor system is much longer than the product technology life cycles of today's electronic products. Often what happens after a long period of analysis and design and implementation is that users declare, "It is just what I asked for, but not what I want". The reason for this is that the business model has changed so drastically during the time it took to implement the factory information system that the system is at best under-utilized and at worst never used to support real production.
By demonstrating an order of magnitude reduction in the amount of time and the cost of implementing a new factory information system based on the Internet client-server model on an actual electronics manufacturing line, linked to other systems and factories over the Internet, the project achieved its goal of drastically reducing the break-even point.
To summarize, the key is that understanding market drivers based on mutually beneficial collaborative problem solving processes enables companies to move beyond traditional design, manufacturing and trading mechanisms to new and different ways of solving challenges and capturing new markets. The challenges are enormous because most of the old models are changing at a rapid pace and, quite frankly, nobody truly understands the new economy … Some of the most important tasks facing today's able engineers, managers, researchers and IT professionals include the creation of secure Internet-based financial transactions, collaborative design and manufacturing, supply chain and procurement system integration and sustainable growth models. Those companies and individuals that will be able to understand and capture the essence of this new "knowledge-driven" Internet economy, in which this new, much broader manufacturing model is a major wealth creator, will be tomorrow's e-business leaders.