Tag Archives: Manufacturing

Updates from Siemens

Designing large scale automation and robotic systems using Solid Edge
By David Chadwick – Precision Robotics and Automation Ltd (PARI) is a leading developer of automation and robotic systems globally. Their customers in the automotive sector include established giants like Ford, Chrysler, PSA, Daimler-Benz, Tata Motors, Mahindra, and new significant players like VinFast. PARI designs, manufactures and installs complete, automated systems including multi-station lines for machining and assembly of powertrain components and assemblies.

PARI has been a major user of Solid Edge for 15 years with 160 licenses deployed at their headquarters near Pune in India. Typical automation solutions deployed by PARI incorporate a wide variety of robots, actuators and sensors and other mechatronic items. These systems can comprise over 25,000 unique components.

Mangesh Kale, Managing Director of PARI describes their design process. “If a six-axis robot is required for a specific application then we use robots from major suppliers like FANUC, ABB and Kuka, or other makes specified by the customer. We typically receive 3D models from these manufacturers and we integrate these into our automation system designs. However, many applications demand gantry type robots that we design and manufacture ourselves. In a typical solution, about 60% of the design is using standardized commodities of PARI. However, custom parts are typically 40% of the design. For example, the gripper sub-assembly for any material handling solution is typically a custom design. This design meets specific application needs to handle components at different stages in the machining or assembly process. The customization required for assembly processes is even higher. We find that Solid Edge is a very powerful and flexible solution for designing these sub-systems.” more>

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Updates from McKinsey

Global emergence of electrified small-format mobility
Electric two- and three-wheel vehicles are gaining in popularity. What does the future hold for the market?
By Patrick Hertzke, Jitesh Khanna, Bhavesh Mittal, and Felix Richter – Inventors patented the first electric bikes back in the 1890s, but their innovations never garnered the same attention as other early-transportation milestones, including the first subways and the Model T Ford. Today, however, several trends have converged to bring e-bikes out of obscurity. Sales of electric vehicles (EVs) are increasing as governments crack down on emissions. Meanwhile, innovators have introduced new technologies and business models that are breathing life into the market for small-format EVs (those with two or three wheels). Improbable as it may seem, e-bikes could finally be having their day.

To gain more insight into the burgeoning market, we examined worldwide trends for small-format EVs, looking at both geographic growth patterns and the forces shaping the industry. Our analysis shed some light on strategies that can help OEMs and other players succeed as small-format EVs gain traction.

The sales figures for small-format EVs may initially seem modest. The market for two-wheel EVs (E2Ws) and three-wheel EVs (E3Ws) was valued at around $97 billion, or 4 percent of global auto sales. The sector has momentum, however, and global sales of E2Ws and E3Ws are increasing by more than 14 percent annually. (That figure excludes sales in China, which was an early adopter of small-format EVs and is thus experiencing slower growth.) By 2022, global sales of E2Ws and E3Ws could reach $150 billion.

It’s impossible to generalize about global sales trends, since transportation patterns and preferences vary widely by location, but some country-specific developments are striking. Take China: the country now accounts for around 30 percent of the global market for small-format EVs. What’s more, more than 80 percent of 2Ws in China are electrified, making it the dominant market by far in that category. The story may soon change, however, since growth of E2Ws is plateauing in China and surging in the European Union, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, and Southeast Asia.

India sells the largest number of E3Ws by far, and they now account for about half of all rickshaws in the country. By 2026, around 80 percent of 3Ws in India will be electric. One caveat: if more light commercial vehicles become electrified, they could become the default option for cargo transport, provided that their performance and economics improve.

Globally, we expect electrification to accelerate most quickly in the scooter and light-motorcycle segments. Electrification of heavy motorcycles will follow, but it won’t reach the levels seen with smaller vehicles. more>

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Updates from Siemens

Solid Edge 2021 Feature Highlights: Free CAD Models for Solid Edge Users
By Shannon Kruse -Solid Edge 2021 has been launched and with it comes a vast array of new capabilities and features for users! In this blog series, we will be highlighting a new capability every other week, allowing you to become familiar with the software and learn what Solid Edge 2021 has to offer.

This week’s blog post will be covering 3Dfindit.com, powered by CADENAS. 3Dfindit.com, an online visual search engine, streamlines the process of finding 3D models using advanced search functions such as classifications, geometry, filters, sketches and much more to allow you to significantly reduce technical search times and increase design efficiency.

3Dfindit.com for Solid Edge gives engineers like you a wide variety of intuitive search methods, making it easy to find the exact part you are looking for. You can create a rough model in Solid Edge and initiate a geometric search in 3Dfindit.com to find parts that are similar to that specific model. With millions of 2D and 3D CAD files verified by component manufacturers to choose from, you can easily select and configure the components that match your needs. Once the proper part is located, a single click places it directly into your active Solid Edge assembly.

CAD files of requested parts are automatically generated on the fly, ready to use in Solid Edge. Depending on the catalog, the digital parts are enriched with extensive metadata such as kinematics information to test motion sequences, centers of mass, material, environmental protection standards, order numbers, etc. This saves time by enabling engineers to find and deploy approved parts instead of manually creating them. more>

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Industry 4.0: the transformation of work?

‘Industry 4.0’ may be neither so extensive nor advanced as those in whom it arouses hopes and fears.
By Hartmut Hirsch-Kreinsen – It is widely believed that the new digital technologies are opening up completely new potential applications, with social and economic consequences no less than disruptive. In the public debate, this is linked on the one hand to fears of massive job losses, the discounting of qualifications and far-reaching control over workers. On the other hand, digitization is envisaged as facilitating innovative work design and decent working conditions, or ‘new work’.

This thesis cannot be fundamentally refuted. In a range of sectors—information technology, software and various service fields—digitization has been associated with sustained, far-reaching, structural change for many years. But this is by no means true of most sectors and work processes.

Contrary to expectations, as expressed especially in the German-initiated ‘Industry 4.0’ discourse, evidence shows that industrial production in particular has in recent years seen only moderate innovation patterns and transformative tendencies. Available empirical findings show this especially for the large German manufacturing sector and the same can be observed in many other European countries: the reality in most companies remains technically and organizationally very conservative.

Indeed, digitalization in industrial production has up to now been a path-dependent transformation of work processes. In the vast majority of companies there is no lasting change in work, nor are the much-discussed design options for ‘good work’ really being used.

Digitally-based process innovations in most companies proceed mainly incrementally, closely bound to given technological, functional, organizational and economic exigencies. While debate tends to focus on large, technologically ‘high-end’ companies, in most average-size and especially smaller firms digitalization takes place only step-wise and within limits. This is evident from statistical data on the spread of digital technologies in German industry, as well from case studies. more>

We have to accelerate clean energy innovation to curb the climate crisis. Here’s how.

A detailed road map for building a US energy innovation ecosystem.
By David Roberts – “Innovation” is a fraught concept in climate politics. For years, it was used as a kind of fig leaf to cover for delaying tactics, as though climate progress must wait on some kind of technological breakthrough or miracle. That left climate advocates with an enduring suspicion toward the notion, and hostility toward those championing it.

Lately, though, that has changed. Arguably, some Republicans in Congress are still using innovation as a way to create the illusion of climate concern (without any conflict with fossil fuel companies). But among people serious about the climate crisis, it is now widely acknowledged that hitting the world’s ambitious emissions targets will require both aggressive deployment of existing technologies and an equally aggressive push to improve those technologies and develop nascent ones.

There is legitimate disagreement about the ratio — about how far and how fast existing, mature technologies can go — but there is virtually no analyst who thinks the current energy innovation system in the US is adequate to decarbonize the country by midcentury. It needs reform.

What kind of reform? Here, as in other areas of climate policy, there is increasing alignment across the left-of-center spectrum. Two recent reports illustrate this.

The first — a report so long they’re calling it a book — is from a group of scholars at the Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP), led by energy scholar Varun Sivaram; it is the first in what will be three volumes on what CGEP is calling a “National Energy Innovation Mission.” The second is from the progressive think tank Data for Progress, on “A Progressive Climate Innovation Agenda,” accompanied by a policy brief and some polling.

Both reports accept the International Energy Agency (IEA) conclusion that “roughly half of the reductions that the world needs to swiftly achieve net-zero emissions in the coming decades must come from technologies that have not yet reached the market today.” There are reasons to think this might be an overly gloomy assessment, but whether it’s 20 percent or 50 percent, aggressive innovation will be required to pull it off.

Both reports set out to put some meat on the bones of a clean energy innovation agenda. And they both end up in roughly the same place, with roughly the same set of policy recommendations. more>

Updates from McKinsey

Manufacturers that are ahead in scaling advanced production technologies are successfully navigating four durable shifts that are critical to managing unprecedented disruption.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution and manufacturing’s great reset
By Francisco Betti, Enno de Boer, and Yves Giraud – Since its inception in 2018, the Global Lighthouse Network (GLN) of advanced manufacturers has demonstrated how leading companies can work toward realizing the full potential of the innovations and advances at the core of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Beginning with a select collection of leading-edge organizations, we have seen how lighthouse factories can help entire organizations navigate their modernization journeys, inspiring and catalyzing change among partner organizations along the way.

That’s why GLN now comprises 54 sites, with ten sites added in Q3 2020. This growth reflects the accelerating adoption of core 4IR technologies, and their infusion into daily manufacturing and supply-chain operations, as organizations act on a new urgency to remain competitive—even as others have fallen behind, still stuck in pilot purgatory.

GLN includes companies that have achieved remarkable 4IR advancements within the four walls of factory sites or have effectively implemented end-to-end (E2E) digitization across the value chain. Indeed, in both cases, 4IR technology has powered the reimagination of manufacturing and supply chains across industries and sectors.

Moreover, an essential aspect of lighthouses’ success lies in a dedicated focus on workforce development and capability building through a variety of means. Indeed, these organizations have prioritized their people by transforming the nature of work through intentional upskilling and/or reskilling efforts, empowering workers to realize their potential through new ways of working.

Recent world events, most notably the COVID-19 pandemic, have led to significant disruptions on a scale unprecedented in recent times, affecting nearly every aspect of global industry and calling for a “great reset” across all sectors of the global economy: a decisive set of actions oriented toward delivering value not only to companies themselves but also to society as a whole. While supply-chain shocks have uncovered operational vulnerabilities, they also have presented transformative opportunities for manufacturing and supply-chain leaders. The advances in technology and new ways of working implemented by these trailblazing organizations have enabled them to adapt quickly during disruption, while remaining viable and operational. more>

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Updates from McKinsey

india’s turning point: An economic agenda to spur growth and jobs
A clarion call is sounding for India to put growth on a sustainably faster track and meet the aspirations of its growing workforce.
By Shirish Sankhe, Anu Madgavkar, Gautam Kumra, Jonathan Woetzel, Sven Smit, and Kanmani Chockalingam – India is at a decisive point in its journey toward prosperity. The economic crisis sparked by COVID-19 could spur reforms that return the economy to a high-growth track and create gainful jobs for 90 million workers to 2030; letting go of this opportunity could risk a decade of economic stagnation. A new report from the McKinsey Global Institute identifies a reform agenda that could be implemented in the next 12 to 18 months. It aims to raise productivity and incomes for workers, small and midsize firms, and large businesses, keeping India in the ranks of the world’s outperforming emerging economies.

A clarion call is sounding for India to put growth on a sustainably faster track and meet the aspirations of its growing workforce. Over the decade to 2030, India needs to create at least 90 million new nonfarm jobs to absorb the 60 million new workers who will enter the workforce based on current demographics, and an additional 30 million workers who could move from farm work to more productive nonfarm sectors. If an additional 55 million women enter the labor force, at least partially correcting historical underrepresentation, India’s job creation imperative would be even greater.

For gainful and productive employment growth of this magnitude , India’s GDP will need to grow by 8.0 to 8.5 percent annually over the next decade, or about double the 4.2 percent rate of growth in fiscal year 2020. Given the uncertainties about economic outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic, our analysis looks at scenarios beginning in fiscal year 2023, although many of our proposed actions would start well before then, and in fact be implemented in the next 12 to 18 months.

Net employment would need to grow by 1.5 percent per year from 2023 to 2030, similar to the average rate that India achieved from 2000 to 2012, but much higher than the flat net employment experienced from 2013 to 2018. At the same time, India will need to maintain productivity growth at 6.5 to 7.0 percent per year, the same as it achieved from 2013 to 2018. The two objectives are not contradictory; indeed, employment cannot grow sustainably without high productivity growth, and vice versa.

If India fails to introduce measures to address prepandemic trends of flat employment and slowing economic growth, and does not manage the shock of the crisis adequately, its economy could expand by just 5.5 to 6.0 percent from 2023 to 2030, with a decadal growth of just 5 percent and absorb only about six million new workers, marking a decade of lost opportunity. more>

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The World’s Top Automakers, Ranked by Revenue

There have been some changes in the rankings of the world’s longtime auto leaders and you won’t believe the revenue per second.
By Dan Carney – Business data aggregation and analysis site VisualCapitalist.com sifted through the annual results of the world’s car companies and ranked them by total revenues. For novelty, they’ve also included the total revenue per second of each company, with some eye-opening numbers at the top of the list. Even small-fry Tesla brings in $780 every second of the day! This list is based on last year’s sales numbers and represents the carmakers’ corporate entities as they existed last year. Since then, Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles has merged with Peugeot to form the head-scratchingly named Stellantis. So next year we should see some shuffling of the rankings.

BMW and PSA Peugeot Citroen have entered into a 50:50 venture to produce components for hybrids and electric vehicles, says a story in the Financial Times.

The two companies, which will launch the new operation in the second quarter of this year, will team up on the development of battery packs, electric motors, power electronics, generators, chargers and software to run the new breed of vehicles.

The German and French carmakers said that the components would be used in their own vehicles, and will also be sold to other automakers. The joint operation will begin equipping vehicles in 2014, the newspaper said. more>

Is this Last Mile for the Million-Mile Battery?

Announcements from Tesla and CATL show that a long-lived, cobalt-free and competitively price EV and grid/home batteries may finally have arrived.
By John Blyler – The much discussed 1 million-mile (1.6 million kilometers) battery may now be a reality. As the name suggests, these batteries would last for 1 million miles without breaking down. Tesla, along with China-based Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL), have announced such a battery that not only lasts longer but also costs less than $100/kWh and uses cobalt-free materials. Why are these two features important?

It has long been a metric for the success of electronic vehicles (EV) that their battery energy density be on parity with traditional gasoline-powered engines. Such a condition would allow EVs to compete with gasoline vehicles on both weight and range – especially the latter. This means that, if gasoline is 100 times more energy-dense than a battery, that a vehicle would need 100 lbs of battery to go as far as 1-lb of gasoline.

But past studies by the Argonne National Labs have shown that system efficiency is another key consideration when comparing EV and gasoline energy densities. The research lab noted that electric powertrains are far more efficient than powertrains powered by gasoline. In many cases, less than 20% of the energy contained in a gallon of gas actually gets converted to forward motion. After that power has been transmitted through a transmission and differential to the wheels, it would have suffered significantly more mechanical losses.

By contrast, an electric powertrain can be more than 90% efficient. This would suggest that the energy density of an EV battery could be far less than equivalent to a gasoline-powered vehicle and still come out ahead. more>

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There’s a hidden economic trendline that is shattering the global trade system

By Marshall Auerback and Jan Ritch-Frel – Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers has recently conceded: “In general, economic thinking has privileged efficiency over resilience, and it has been insufficiently concerned with the big downsides of efficiency.” Policy across the globe is, therefore, moving in a more overtly nationalistic direction to rectify this shortcoming.

COVID-19 has accelerated a process that was well underway before it, spreading beyond U.S.-China-EU trade negotiations and into the world’s 50 largest economies. As much as many defenders of the old order lament this trend, it is as significant a shift as the dawn of the World Trade Organization global trade era.

Economists, politicians, and leading pundits are often tempted to see new economic patterns through the prisms of the past; we are therefore likely to hear that we’re back in an era of 19th-century mercantilism, or 1970s-style stagflation. But that misses the moment—the motives are different, and so are the outcomes.

What we are experiencing is the realisation by state planners of developed countries that new technologies enable a rapid ability to expand or initiate new and profitable production capacity closer to or inside their own markets. The cost savings in transport, packaging and security and benefits to regional neighbours and these countries’ domestic workforces will increasingly compete with the price of goods produced through the current internationalized trade system. U.S. national politicians from President Donald Trump to Senator Elizabeth Warren will be joined by a growing chorus who see the long-term domestic political benefit of supporting this transition.

The combination of high-speed communication, advances in automated manufacturing and computing combined with widespread access to the blueprints and information necessary to kick-start new production capacity increasingly makes the current international network of supply chains resemble a Rube Goldberg contraption, and it lightens the currency outflow challenge that many economies have had to deal with for the past seven decades.

Growing political will to restore manufacturing capacity in the national interest will have a shattering effect on countries that built up their economies through a labour price advantage over the past 40 years. No amount of currency depreciation or product dumping can overcome the reality of a country’s foreign customer base suddenly opting to produce and buy their own goods at competitive prices.

Taken in sum, the transformation underway isn’t just Donald Trump demanding less dependency on China’s production capacity—it’s a global process. It’s also India signalling it’s going to try to strike its own technological path away from China.

The rationales provided by governments to escape the strictures of the existing trade arrangements and into the new era are fairly easy: a mix of opportunism and need, tied to the exigencies of the moment, such as the current pandemic, and long-term national security, which of course can ultimately amount to any economic activity of scope. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s introduction in July of her sweeping Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Defense and Enhancement Act demonstrates that the U.S. power establishment is beginning to reach a consensus on this issue—no longer the sole province of Trump-era nationalism. “To defeat the current COVID-19 crisis and better equip the United States against future pandemics, we must boost our country’s manufacturing capacity,” Warren said, recasting the consequences of decades of policy to offshore our economic production as an “overreliance on foreign countries.” Likewise, Senator Tom Cotton has introduced a new bill focusing on domestic production of semiconductors, titled the “American Foundries Act of 2020,” which aims to rebuild the country’s semiconductor capacity. This bill too has significant bipartisan backing.

The government of Japan’s newly defined restrictions on foreign investment as reported by the Financial Times of around a dozen sectors including “power generation, military equipment, [computer] software [and technology]” in effect prioritize the claims of domestic manufacturers on national security grounds.

The government of Australia has likewise outlined new powers to scrutinize new overseas investment, as well as forcing foreign companies to sell their assets if they pose a national security threat. The proposals come in the wake of an intensifying trade war between the governments of Beijing and Canberra, alongside “a dramatic increase in the number of foreign investment bids probed by Australia’s spy agency ASIO, over fears that China was spying on sensitive health data,” according to news.com.au. This is happening at the same time that there has been an overhaul of thought with regard to manufacturing, something Australia hasn’t typically done much of. The headlines from Australia are beginning to look a lot like the Area Development stories in the United States.

The Canadian government has also announced plans to enhance foreign investment scrutiny “related to public health or critical supply chains during the pandemic, as well as any investment by state-owned companies or by investors with close ties to foreign governments,” according to the Globe and Mail. This attempt to disaggregate beneficial foreign investment flows from those deemed contrary to the national interest used to be a common feature of government policy in the post-World War II period. Canada established the Foreign Investment Review Agency in 1973 as a result of mounting concerns about rising overseas investment, notably the domination of U.S. multinationals, in the Canadian economy. Its provisions were repeatedly downgraded as globaliaation pressures intensified, but its value is now being reassessed for compatibility with national health policy and resiliency in manufacturing chains. Predictably, pharmaceutical independence is high on the list.

Taiwan, “a net importer of surgical masks before the pandemic, [has] created an onshore mask-manufacturing industry in just a month after registering its first infections in January,” reports the Financial Times. “Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen… said Taipei would repeat that approach to foster other new industries.” And world economists have noted that Taiwan and Vietnam lead the world in growth of global market share in exports, at the expense of larger economies like China.

In Europe, the EU leadership is publicly indicating a policy of subsidy and state investment in companies to prevent Chinese buyouts or “undercutting… prices.” This was supposed to represent a cross-European effort, but the coronavirus policy response is increasingly driven at the national level. Consequently, it is starting to fracture the EU’s single market, which has long been constructed on an intricate network of cross-border supply chains and strict rules preventing state subsidies to national champions.

Even Germany, with a vibrant export sector that has long made it a beneficiary of globalization, has also signaled a move toward greater economic nationalism.

Economic nationalist considerations are also driving a shift in Britain’s negotiating stance in the current Brexit trade negotiations with the EU, with the UK clearly prioritizing national sovereignty over frictionless free trade with its former single-market partners, even if that means a so-called “Hard Brexit.” The EU’s single-market rules specifically preclude state aid to specific industries if it undermines the operation of the single market. But the UK’s chief negotiating officer, David Frost, has made it clear that the ability to break free from the EU’s rulebook was essential to the purpose of Brexit, even if that meant reverting to the less favorable WTO trade relationship that exists for other non-EU countries.

Over the past 40 years, this kind of overt economic nationalism, especially as it has pertained to domestic manufacturing capabilities, has generally been eschewed by the United States, at least until the ascension of Donald Trump to the White House. In part, this is a product of the fact that as global hegemon, the United States used to be able to dominate global institutions (such as the International Monetary Fund and the WTO) and shape them toward U.S. national interests. But when necessary, national security considerations have intervened.

More recently, national security considerations in the semiconductor industry have again revived in the wake of the Trump administration’s growing dispute with Chinese 5G telecommunications equipment maker Huawei. The U.S. Commerce Department has now mandated that all semiconductor chip manufacturers using U.S. equipment, IP, or design software will require a license before shipping to Huawei. This decision has forced the world’s biggest chipmaker—Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC)—to stop taking fresh orders from Huawei, as it uses U.S. equipment in its own manufacturing processes. Paradoxically, then, the Trump administration has exploited pre-existing global supply linkages in the furtherance of a more robust form of economic nationalism. The same policy attitude is now visible with regard to pharmaceuticals (as it is in other parts of the world, to the likely detriment of China and India).

A shift like this will have a knock-on effect that will reverberate to the other parts of the world that for centuries have been forcibly limited—by arms and finance—to being sources of raw material export, refined if they were lucky. They will watch closely what happens with Australia, which for the majority of the past 150 years has been an exporter of food and minerals, but is now jumping on the project to establish a national manufacturing base.

As dozens of countries build their own manufacturing base—something only a handful of countries controlled for most of modern history—big questions will emerge about geopolitical stabilization and the classical tools of foreign influence. The world today in some respects resembles the 19th century’s balance-of-power politics, even as the majority of countries understand that some minimal level of state collaboration is essential to combat shared challenges. China is party to a growing number of global disputes, as emerging great powers typically experience: the U.S. vs. China, China vs. IndiaJapan vs. ChinaChina vs. Australia, and the EU vs. China. But hot wars are unlikely to feature as prominently as they did two centuries ago.

Expect to see Cold War-style conflict intensify, however, albeit in new forms. Instead of the old geopolitical arenas including access to vital commodities or stable petroleum markets, the new forms of the competition will put greater weight on access to advanced research and technologies, such as the collection, transfer and storage of data and the quantum computing power to process it.

The speed at which global supply chains can potentially shift to accommodate the rise in economic nationalism is considerable. The success with which we manage the transition will largely settle the debate as to whether it is, in fact, the better path to greater prosperity and global stability. more>