What does digitization mean to the CNC shape cutting and fabrication industry?
As we travel through the information age, the systematic digitization of production and its underlying processes are increasingly becoming a competitive advantage for steel service centers and fabricators. As a provider of CNC cutting machines and software solutions, our mission has transformed from simply providing machinery to aiding our customers in their digital transformation and providing solutions that drive their digital strategies.
While digitization can aid in boosting efficiency and producing more output, it can also help you provide products and services with unique selling points to your customers. Companies that have embraced digitalization have seen rapid growth in a short amount of time; while it took a traditional company like Walt Disney 69 years to make their first billion, the highly digitized Amazon did it in only five.
How does a fabricator start with digitization?
In the steel and thermal cutting industry, the path to digitization starts with moving all production information assets and production processes into digital form:
- sales orders,
- work preparation instructions,
- production orders,
- production schedules,
- unloading information for parts,
- packaging instructions for deliveries, etc.
When done effectively, digitization leads to virtually paperless production with full transparency; everyone involved in the production process has access to the real-time information needed to execute up-to-date tasks and provide feedback into the system. Elimination of outdated and lost work instructions
- increases efficiency and flexibility,
- reduces waste,
- eliminates tribal knowledge, and
- transforms into financial rewards that increase competitiveness.
What are the key components of digitization?
One key component of digitization is paperless production. Machine operators, nesting engineers, and other staff running production tickets through the factory is wasteful and limits agility in production. Another equally important component is the connected machine; only when machines have the capability to cultivate and share relevant data and are a part of the digital environment, can the full benefits of digitalization be leveraged. Digitization at the machine level starts with automatically transmitting the most up-to-date production orders to machines so operators always have the latest production plan.
Which benefits of digitization give fabricators an advantage in the marketplace?
Moving further along the digital path offers real-time status of machines and the information about the progress of each and every production order. Questions like
- “Is this part already cut?”,
- “Is this order already packaged and ready for shipment?” or
- “What was my machine utilization this shift?”
are easily answered in the world of connected machines. Furthermore, transparency of what happens on the shop floor provides the data necessary for continuous improvement of production processes and material flow and delivers nearly real-time feedback when tweaking production processes. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are easily developed and tracked with access to appropriate data.
Connected machines and digitization results in a real-time overview of production and enables comparison of planned vs. actual runtimes. This level of transparency allows you to evaluate the true cost per part and ensures reliability in production scheduling. Industry 4.0 production combined with the most modern information and communication technologies guarantees the maximum utilization of existing resources. It ensures
- efficiency in operational management,
- production planning and control,
- work preparation,
- machine operation, and even
- service with the availability of predictive maintenance.
“In the steel and thermal cutting industry, the path to digitization starts with moving all production information assets and production into a digital form.”
Where do I get digitization solutions?
Messer Cutting Systems and Messersoft provide machines andto support you in your digitization journey. We offer a fully modular portfolio of software modules that can be configured and customized to your production needs. It ranges from ERP integration, software for CAD/CAM and nesting, work preparation, production planning and scheduling, real-time production data capture, to production job integration on the machine HMI. Combined with our Intelligent Cutting™ and automation solutions, production can be run nearly entirely with digital control. As an example, customers report production efficiency increases over 10% with only our real-time production monitoring and reporting system, Machine Insight. This module increases transparency in the production process and shines a spotlight on waste to aid in continuous improvement.
Insights into a major trend
Finally, we would like to share some insights into a major trend we see emerging in the industry: 3D models for collaboration between steel service centers and their customers affecting the quotation, order management, and work preparation processes. Increasingly, steel service centers are challenged by their customers to accept 3D models from which data has to be broken down for various processes like quoting, cutting, cleaning, bending, welding, etc.
Customers want to streamline their processes when outsourcing as part of their own digitization journeys and seek suppliers that can accommodate end-to-end digitized cross-company workflows. Accommodating these requests can be a competitive advantage for steel service centers and fabricators. Messer is following this trend by investing in end-to-end 3D integrated solutions along the value chain to provide our customers with the tools to meet this challenge and remain competitive while optimizing productivity and enhancing their own digitization programs.
Article was published in the Metal Center News / August 2020
Written by: Christoph Richter, Product Manager, MesserSoft and Matt Rhoades, Product Manager Technology, Messer Cutting Systems