Select and grow

Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology

ISSN: 0002-2667

Article publication date: 1 June 2000




(2000), "Select and grow", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 72 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Select and grow

Keywords Seiki Systems, Software, Manufacturing

With the launch of Version 4 of Seiki Systems' modular suite of shopfloor management and NC program transfer software, the Brighton-based company has introduced a "select and grow" capability for the Windows-based software which allows users to progressively introduce new elements as needs dictate.

Each of the software modules within the suite is designed so the customer is able to specify a starting level in order to satisfy current needs. Then, with a technical growth path defined by the customer's need to further improve productivity, the commercial package offered by Seiki Systems enables the user to, in effect, "trade-in" existing software recovering the initial price paid and upgrade to meet the new requirement.

The objective of this approach by Seiki Systems is to avoid the initial purchase of an "over-complex" system that is difficult to implement. According to David Trowell, general manager: "The benefits are twofold. It ensures that the initial system is easily implemented and therefore readily accepted by the operators, which maximises immediate benefits and helps to rapidly recover the cost of the initial investment. Second, progressive addition of improved functionality does not incur major cost penalties or disruption which spreads both investment and implementation costs in line with productivity improvement."

Explaining the reasons behind this approach David Trowell continues: "Manufacturing software is often purchased with a crystal ball as potential users try to ascertain future demands and predict the 'final' specification. Managers do not wish to suffer the disruption and re-training caused by installing a replacement system with increased functionality at a later stage. In addition, managers want to avoid the embarrassment of justifying a new system all over again and genuinely attempt to maximise 'performance per pound' spent as far ahead as possible."

According to Seiki Systems' research, there are significant gains to be made when using DNC systems. For example, when CNC machine tools are used on small batchwork they can be non-productive for up to 70 per cent of the time. The research demonstrates that this lost time can be attributed to a wide range of reasons, including unavailable tools or programs, poor communications, accessibility of manufacturing data, work flow and recording of problems.

"Consequently, job changeovers take far longer than necessary", says David Trowell.

Various DNC modules such as the Seiki Systems NC program manager, Direct DNC and Networked DNC, can reduce non-productive time by around 10 per cent by providing a centralised storage of NC programs and DNC links to the individual machine tools.

The advanced module, networked manufacturing system, which provides technical data to the operators, such as drawings, tool lists and setting instructions, can reportedly create a further 15 per cent saving by providing access to a centralised storage of all manufacturing data. This facility claims the additional benefit of providing engineering management with a single area to file, manage and update all the data relevant to a particular operation and is being viewed by some of Seiki Systems' users as an attractive alternative to a product data management (PDM) systems.

The networked manufacturing system provides a method of integrating the manufacturing data with other systems, such as tool management and MRP systems, at a minimal cost and without causing any serious disruptions during installation. The additional benefit claimed of this approach is that it is manufacturing based, as opposed to most PDM systems which are design based. As such, the Networked Manufacturing System is designed to provide serious productivity improvements in terms of improved CNC performance.

Additionally, this module can reportedly overcome the 20 per cent losses that can be attributed to poor organisation, planning, maintenance or unsuitable methods. In order to achieve this, networked manufacturing system provides the facility to collect relevant machine tool utilisation information.

It will also remotely display the current status of each machine together with the elapsed time of the current state, and provides an analysis of the collected data, including trend curves. Information of this type is vital to any management team wishing to take corrective action to improve productivity.

The tool management package, Toolman, is specifically aimed at the improvements in CNC productivity that can be made by using common tooling and minimising tool setting in order to reduce the tooling changes required between different jobs.

Details available from: Seiki Systems. Tel: +44 (0) 1273 680411.

Related articles