In Part-3 of this series we continue to write about foundries, being the last frontier when it comes to digital transformation and digitalization of company processes; as ancient traditions carried forward by generations, and huge quantum of experience, may be replaced by modern state-of-the-art software solution technologies; making the industry attractive to young talent, providing room for legacy renewal and helping to rejuvenate.
This Part highlights: “What obstacle foundries face, and why MS Excel (or any generic ERP) is no solution at all.”
Third in the series of 6 Articles showcasing:
“How foundries can move the Next Step into ‘INDUSTRY 4.0’ level”
Mr Bhushan Bhatt – Bhaunagar, India
and Mr Christian Kleeberg – Singapore.
Summary of Parts 1 & 2
Planning and Control systems for foundries have been introduced, processes have changed, and these are now constantly being put to test. Many companies, however, still work with “traditional methods”, and Excel is part of the daily struggle. However, you just cannot do things by “Rule of Thumb” anymore today. Cost transparency, material- and energy-efficiency, and process security in real time; combined with the much quoted “fast time to market”, have become essential, if foundries want to survive. Digital transformation in foundries is taking place right now. Foundry Managers of the future become IT-gurus as many computer-based technologies must be mastered in parallel; it is not enough to know about just Methoding and Casting.
Standard Enterprise Resource Planning (E R P ) Solutions continue to fail in foundries and foundry related processes as they do not cater for discontinuous special company processes all are facing. A new, adaptive solution, already used in many foundries in central Europe, is now launched in Asia, and particularly in India. It’s called: FRP = Foundry Resource Planning Solution Technology.
Now Let’s proceed in Part 3….
ALL Foundry Specific Processes – from inquiry to manufacturing, and ultimately delivery of castings – must be covered to create “cost to cast” transparency.
Major Bottlenecks: Many foundries face the following major obstacles when it comes to planning and scheduling production areas, and combining continuous and discontinuous operational workflows:
- PEOPLE – usually shortage of qualified and skilled individuals at all levels
- Lack of Orders (i.e. lower workload) – which makes good planning even more important
- Increase in Energy Bill – as cost drivers are not known good enough
- Prices of Castings drop, but Cost doesn’t – which demands even still improved planning.
- Missing customer deadline for Shipment – due to many factors
- Shop-Floor Data – struggling to get correct data due to lack of transparency
- Tedious Excel-paper or Whiteboard based Planning & Scheduling, as no alternative is in place
- Non-productive Hours of Meetings – for planning, scheduling, delivery for many reasons
- Data Collection – unable to collect data from shop floor on shift-, daily-, weekly-basis and in real time
- Impractical/ erroneous/ confusing shop floor data
- Mismatching of “planned” v/s. “achieved” production data for all stages
- Mismatching Reporting – before/after scheduling due to lack of transparency
- Real “cost to cast” – further transparency missing
- Inability to forecast real delivery dates, and identifying bottlenecks
- WIP reporting and tracking of castings in the foundry not available
- Automatic coordination of QC Data not available
- ESP activities non-traceable
…. and the list can go on and on.
Now many foundries, having the desire to improve, are still relying on “old school” methods via MS-Excel, and/or own customized ERP solutions, and/or no ERP at all. As such, they fail in the above-mentioned list of tasks to create reliability based on technology and facts, rather than reliability based on human skills, to improvise and overcome the above-mentioned obstacles.
So why is, for example, MS-Excel (can be extended to any generic ERP solution) actually NO solution at all when it comes to Foundry Resource Planning?
Please remember! Foundry is no common enterprise, and it is the only industry sector that creates and is shaping a product from a liquid (i.e. molten) metal and has both – “continuous” and “discontinuous” – processes in the same workplace.
Excel Vs. FRP
Comparison between Excel and FRP under different performance criteria is presented in this part. The Holistic
Overview appears below. Detailed information about different criteria appear in Tables 1 to 4.
Holistic Overview of Foundry Data – Looking at the Big Picture
=> No availability of anything equivalent, and no flexibility to cater to special requirements highlighted.
Annexure having 4 Tables appears on 4 important Criterions.
- Process data is available at your fingertips for re- evaluation, precise cost calculation, i.e. target vs. actual, thus CIP enhancement.
- Web-enabled system for reporting without using programme forms, the FIS serves as Management Info System as well as single point of information for the shop-floor.
- Usage of several standard reports and workflow components throughout the whole foundry process, e.g. Daily Production Reports, Scheduling Results, etc.
- Usage on daily basis in the production of knowledge-based eng. (KBE) and electronic content management (ECM).
- Work instructions and Target values at the point of operations.
- Deviations from Process or Materials are fed back to the system to allow post – evaluation of the manufacturing process, and thus again serving as a means to Continuous Improvement Processes (CIPs).
- Product Data Man agement (P DM), Life Cycle Management (LCM), maintaining of drawings, 3D data, process documents and check of utilisation of Patterns and Machinery is possible directly through FIS.
Table 1 - Criterion: Process Stability
- Many copies of the same information, with no date
- Only one person can work with the same file/document at the same time.
- Data is not transferred automatically from one line of work to the next.
- Drawings are not maintained.
- Customer documents are stored in folders.
- Manual log sheets are prone to transcription errors and human failure.
- Status of parts during production is not visible; has to be assessed manually.
- Complex formula for calculation is subject to fail. The formulas, macros etc. are not documented, and are mostly usable only by the person who created them.
- Knowledge is lost with partying employees.
- In the case of a crash of hardware and/or software, it is virtually impossible to restore the status of the work.
- “Who changes information?, In what field?, Of what excel table? At what time?” – is not known.
- Different formats in Excel cells, data is not comparable, cast parts are described differently and with different levels of detail.
- Presentation of data to employees (working papers, instructions, drawings etc.) is insufficient.
- Quality requirements are difficult to allocate to multiple purposes, material, part, a customer.
- Single point of information – the same data for everyone on daily basis
- Collaborative work in a client-server infrastructure. Live updates in the systems while users work with it.
- Sequential workflow with pro-active process control, work information/data is passed on automatically.
- Drawing archive with automated revision and archiving of old drawings – only the most recent version is accessible to everyone.
- Customer documents are stored in the database, allocated to the appropriate processes.
- Automated data where necessary (e.g. spectrometer), and plausibility checks for manual data entry.
- Vital information on mouse click, status on production order (cores produced, castings poured, location of half- finished products,etc.).
- Formulas are maintained centrally, are already part of the system, and can be altered by qualified personnel, e.g. the FRP administrator.
- Employee-independent binding of foundry knowledge inside the system
- Disaster recovery integrated, included in database licenses
- Detailed audit trail on field level: contents, date & time, person. Traceability of the content management
- Unified, detailed description of every layer of the cast part in a central resource plan (combined BOM and routing) in chronological order of manufacturing steps.
- Integrated FIS (Foundry Information System) presents pre-defined and adaptable reports as web pages at a point of work or management screens with the possibility to drill down to more detailed information via links.
- Integrated quality management with test planning and variants for parts and alloys, easily accessible and linked via the resource plan.
Table 2 - Criterion: Planning Reliability
- Order scheduling is a manual jigsaw puzzle.
- Stock information has to be kept manually and counted regularly.
- No real-time survey on capacities and utilization
- All shops are planned separately; synchronization of work is difficult (Cores ready? Moulds ready? Melt in right quality ready? etc.)
- Different production operations have to be changed manually, such work is too complex for the human brain, hence manual approach is slow, step by step.
- Up to 50% of the time of any highly qualified employee is spent with highly unqualified and unproductive work on the phone, talking to people, writing emails, looking for things in the foundry, completing customer orders from different stock positions, generally waiting and searching for inaccessible information.
- Manual work in progress reporting renders outdated data
- Excel is prone to produce wrong quantities because of unreliable data like missing scrap, risk or rework, risk per line of work, stock is blocked with unnecessary items or with shortfall to desired production quantity
- Casting variants have to be produced with copy & paste and good faith in the data
- System schedules production orders automatically against available capacities, existing orders and defined bottlenecks, with many scheduling options (backward, forward, basic dates etc.).
- Stock information is maintained inside the system, material demands are recognized automatically from order scheduling, purchases; and requests to the external service provider are generated when needed.
- Exact knowledge on capacities and utilization for random points in time
- Synchronized process as per defined work sequences. Work is passed on inside the system (e.g. Fettling Shop can access only knocked out castings; other work not visible to them.)
- An automated setting for different order types, frame orders, single/series, prototype, 0-series, variants for different machines (e.g. cycle times differ from molding line 1 to 2, the casting stays the same, production times are different.)
- Mission critical information on mouse-click, FRP enables your employees to do what you pay them for
- FRP-system does not replace your employees but serves as a technical assistance system to raise performance, productivity, and quality.
- Data is captured at point of work with suitable industryPCs, real-time data on work in progress
- Scrap and rework risk is calculated automatically per operation (core risk, pouring risk, molding risk etc.), production is always optimized, no capital lock-up with surplus stock items, less post-production.
- Castings and variants can be easily duplicated and calculated inside the resource plan.
Table 3 - Criterion: Equipment Integration
=> No flexibility is available in Excel to cater the mentioned special requirements.
- ALL equipment inside the foundry (CE Meter, Spectrometer, etc.) that have direct interfaces can be connected to FIS and FRP.
- If need be, manual or “ old style mechanical instruments can also be integrated via recording stations (manual) or sensors.
- Professional and industrial PC’s can be used that withstand even the harshest production environments, e.g. foundry and metal casting operations.
- Considering all aspects, about 90% of manual data can be digitized or auto collected from plant after implementation of FRP, provided the instrumentation is suitable for such purpose.
- Future equipment with digital recordings can be automatically integrated with the system.
Table 4 - Criterion: Transparency & Optimization of Costs
- Manual reporting is not precise in matters of time & effort, difficult to evaluate comparison between target and actual values.
- Difficult to get reliable data on manufacturing costs.
- Data has to be manually reported for finance and cost accounting.
- Costs for all viable operations are spread amongst many excel sheets.
- No analysis on the productivity of HR.
- No analysis on the productivity of machines.
- You will never know why things work, or why they do not work; success is merely based on luck and the competence of very few people.
- Consolidation and presentation of data are difficult and follow an old saying: “Do not trust statistics except when you manipulated them yourself!”
- Bits and pieces of cost-related data are scattered everywhere.
- Actual time can be compared to target values and the resource plan can be optimized accordingly, CIP (i.e. Continuous Improvement Process) is enabled, hence the next production can be higher cost efficiency.
- Each cast part with all production layers can be easily calculated on cost level, even external work. Each change is saved in the costing archive so price changes on materials and other costs can be easily traced. Manufacturing costs are available on mouse click, parts can be automatically re-assessed in the case of price list changes or material differences…
- Comprehensive data can be delivered for re-calculation purposes in external finance and cost-accounting software via a standard interface.
- Cost overview for all operations, materials, and auxilliaries. Automated validity of price tables, wages, etc.
- HR Productivity grades calculated with shop-floor reporting. HR productivity improvement can be visualized.
- Detailed information on overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), malfunction periods and downtimes are captured.
- Get back control, know your strenghts and weaknesses to engage in a cost-effective production.
- Standardized reports with temper-proof data provide you correct information, and enable you to make the right decisions on the right time based on valid data.
- Holistic overview and stream of values and quantities from first order or offer to final dispatch.
Next Parts of the Article Series will highlight:
Part 4: The benefits FRP provides, and how to achieve foundry 4.0 in easy steps.
Parts 5 + 6: The outlook to transform the industry into something technically and IT-wise advanced, and make the foundries a modern high-tech enterprise that’s fun to work in, and attract young talent.