The global COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the conventional planning practices of manufacturers and inspired them to utilise their facilities and resources to help the cause.
Throughout this period, many manufacturers have supported the fight against the virus by re-tooling their factories to produce the vital pieces of equipment desperately needed by medical professionals. This retooling is a step forward to help save lives. However, re-tooling, scaling-up and speeding-up production carries newly emerging risks.
3D manufacturing simulation can play an important role in helping manufactures to validate the re-tooling of their factories and mitigate production risks. 3D simulations and validations help develop manufacturing systems remotely, and introduce a new level of flexibility, where personnel are not required to be present during equipment tests and updates.
WMG is developing virtual training courses to help students and engineers learn about PLC code software and hardware development, virtual modelling, engineering and commissioning, robotics and AGV virtual trainings. Students and trainees are not required to be on-site during these training sessions and can learn about manufacturing systems engineering using the ‘Digital Twin’ virtual solution. This reduces the risk of spreading the virus.
WMG has also developed a Digital Twin for Integrated Manufacturing and Logistics (IML) to bolster research, teaching and training in modern manufacturing. This system showcases Industry 4.0 methods and encompasses both new production systems and legacy equipment within a series of advanced manufacturing scenarios.
Planning the layout
Whether it is making changes to the existing production system, adding a new line or automating manual processes, layout planning is needed to identify the location of equipment, inventory, station size and material flow paths.
3D models enable professionals and wider organisations to visualise these details and make informed decisions around the functionality of the respective facility to ensure maximum efficiency, productivity levels and manufacturing outputs.
To ensure production requirements can be met, simulating the workflow in a manufacturing environment through 3D technology can validate production re-purposing plans. This is particularly important when considering elements such as layout design, the movement of employees around the facility whilst maintaining physical distancing measures, and achieving throughput goals.
After making informed changes to the factory layout, there are opportunities for continuous improvements. For example, testing and validating production processes in a 3D environment, training operators on the shop floor, and simulating processes to realise opportunities for improvement and scaling up production.
WMG aims to focus on remote research and teaching through Digital Model and Digital Twin technology having demonstrated the capability to aid knowledge transfer around manufacturing processes and engineering at a high level without physical machines needing to be involved. These technological tools and methods will be further researched and used to deliver a safe learning environment during the pandemic.