UGS also announced that by more tightly integrating Tecnomatix with its Teamcenter PLM software portfolio and creating closer alignment with the UGS PLM Open business model, it has elevated digital manufacturing's impact on PLM and made significant progress in closing the gap between product and process design for the entire global manufacturing industry.
"The need for speed-to-market consistently ranks high on the business agendas of most manufacturing executives," said Gisela Wilson, Director of the PLM Solutions analysis at IDC. "By supporting manufacturing industry workflows in its Tecnomatix digital manufacturing portfolio, UGS is creating a virtual 'day-in-the-life' scenario for the manufacturing engineer and addressing the critical manufacturing business objective of accelerating production launch and meeting time-to-market commitments."
Enhanced workflow support in Tecnomatix 7.6 is designed to help manufacturing engineers define consistent, unambiguous, error-free processes that are optimized for efficiency. This industry-leading functionality includes support for a variety of common business workflow processes:
- A new Robotic Process Simulation offering provides Body-in-White (BIW) users with an ability to accurately simulate and validate complex robotic processes, obtain accurate cycle times and improve the quality of virtual process validation.
- A new quoting tool helps suppliers produce fast and accurate responses to RFQs, by reusing best practice processes to select the best quote alternative.
- New technical publication capabilities, including a significantly improved user interface, helps customers from all industries produce better process documentation and improve process communication.
UGS has focused many of the enhancements in Tecnomatix 7.6 on increasing the productivity of manufacturing engineering by reducing the time required for process design and validation tasks and improving usability. Some of the major enhancements include:
- A new automatic weld point distribution tool assigns, validates and reports on weld point distribution in the process design, replacing a tedious manual process and saving hours of manufacturing engineering efforts.
- A process mirroring capability reduces the time necessary to model assembly processes by up to 50 percent.
- The automatic path planning capability enables manufacturing engineers to define robotic and/or assembly paths within minutes instead of hours.
- A new distributed flow simulation experiment capability significantly reduces time to execute "what if" simulation experiments and optimization.
- A wide variety of usability enhancements -- including new color tree indicators, automatic note placement, Windows-like application framework, and interactive parametric report generation -- create a more user-friendly and efficient work environment.
Tecnomatix enables companies to innovate by:
- Capturing, managing and leveraging manufacturing process information
- Authoring a manufacturing process in an efficient and reusable manner
- Validating and optimizing manufacturing processes
- Communicating, collaborating and executing manufacturing processes
About a year ago, I saw a poll conducted by the folks that run the International Machine Tool Show (IMTS) that showed that the Top 10 general product categories that IMTS 2004 attendees were most interested in included:
- Machining centers
- Turning centers and lathes
- Milling and drilling
- Tools and tooling
- Grind and finish
- Workholding devices
- Quality, test, and measurement
- Computers and CAD/CAM software
- Sawing and abrasives
- EDM and ECM
Equipment flexibility has definitely become a major trend and direction lately on several different levels. Although flexibility means different things to different vendors, most equipment vendors would agree to define flexibility as the freedom and ability to perform a wide variety of tasks; the ability to be reconfigured extensively and quickly; the ability to handle a wide range of raw material;, and the ability to handle several different manufacturing operations with a tool, ideally reducing manual setups, work handling time, and tool inventories. While it can be a complex endeavor to successfully accomplish, technology and equipment flexibility is a major step forward in the areas of multi-tasking and multi-processing.
Another trend that I have seen emerging in manufacturing is automation integration and not just automation features of specific equipment. For example, I've seen and read about several instances of vendors demonstrating their equipment integrated at different levels of automation to showcase their ability to help customers arrive at the proper level of automation for their particular businesses. One vendor calls this concept "automate to order," where the customer's true needs are evaluated before implementing a blanket solution, and there is no longer such a thing as "one size fits all." What a refreshing concept - putting customers first and providing them with what they truly need and not just what the vendor thinks they need!
Although CAM software ranked near the bottom of the IMTS Top 10 list, like many of the other areas of technology, flexibility was a major trend and customer demand, along with efficiency. Much like what has happened on the CAD side of the equation, simulation is coming into its own on the CAM side. Programmed tool movements can be previewed for errors and wasted motion and can be corrected, saving machine tools and time. More complex, multi-tasking equipment demands CAM software that is also up to the task, especially with regard to the myriad synchronizations required - a tough proposition to say the least. Several CAM vendors are addressing this problem by forming partnerships with equipment vendors, and these partnerships are making things better for the respective vendors themselves, as well as their customers.
These are just a few of the things I've been following, but they all seem to point to the fact that technology, properly employed, could very well be a key that leads the way to a North American manufacturing revival. We've got a long, long way to go, but it is a start.