Innovation in global manufacturing: PLM makes manufacturing lines more competitive

Japan's Daikin Industries uses product lifecycle management (PLM) technology to build and enhance flexible production lines. Here's how Dassault Systemes helped.

By Patrick Michel, Dassault Systemes September 23, 2009

Dassault Systemes helped Daikin Industries model, simulate, and improve production lines.

Global manufacturing has become complex. Pressures have forced companies in the manufacturing industry to completely overhaul and re-engineer their design, development, and management processes to compete in the new marketplace. Companies need to improve tools, train staffs, and focus on creating products that will set them apart from competition. Manufacturers are driven by numerous competing forces, such as the demand for mass customization and the growing pressure to deliver products to market faster and at a lower cost.

Supply chains, equipment and resources need to be managed. Production schedules and logistics need to be organized. Most significantly, manufacturers need to be able to visualize the global picture and gain the control needed to make the right decisions.

This is where new tools in the manufacturing process can be game changers for a company. Today, many organizations are using product lifecycle management (PLM) technology solutions to get ahead of their competition. With PLM, manufactures have the flexibility to harness the power of their large networks, while remaining nimble and responsive to market changes and consumer demand for their products. For many manufacturers, PLM software has become the backbone to manage the challenges of global manufacturing.

Using PLM to adapt to rapidly shifting demand

Japan’s Daikin Industries Ltd. a global leader in the commercial and industrial air conditioning systems market, is an interesting example of how PLM can be incorporated in an organization on several fronts. With more than 40% of the air conditioning market share in Japan and a well-established presence in China, Southeast Asia, Europe and North America, the company is also one of the leaders in the fluorochemicals industry, with an approximately 20% share of the world market. Daikin employs roughly 19,000 people and has manufacturing operations in 11 countries.

Because of the seasonal nature of its product offering, Daikin Industries requires high flexibility production lines to adapt to rapidly shifting demand in the market. The company uses PLM and line simulation tools to develop highly flexibile, low cost production lines. With PLM, Daikin can position the required elements for production facilities, such as personnel, conveying systems and materials in a virtual space, then construct and validate virtual production lines. Simulating the production line in advance makes it possible to analyze equipment capacity, staffing, and buffer discrepancies between processes, quantitatively and visually, thereby shortening construction lead times.

Daikin initially deployed PLM tools as a way to expand the scope of their product offering and grow sales. In the 1990s, the company’s share of the consumer air conditioning market was small. To expand business, Daikin extended its sales channels from construction companies to mass consumer electronics retailers, which generated bigger sales volumes. On the manufacturing front, it needed to ensure increased flexibility to respond quickly to the fast-evolving consumer demand and retailer’s requests.

As can be expected, the consumer air conditioning market is highly susceptible to fluctuations in weather. Daikin needed to be ready to meet surges in consumer demand during hot summer months, while at the same time they needed the flexibility to quickly cut output when demand lowered during a cool summer, while still maintaining productivity. In the highly competitive retail air conditioning market, if Daikin was unable to meet these demands, large retailers would undoubtedly choose another supplier instead. As a result, the company deployed PLM tools to build and enhance flexible production lines in domestic and overseas plants.

Finding, correcting bottlenecks

Daikin Industries first used PLM to optimize production lines at the company’s Shiga plant. At the time, the lines were not operating at maximum capacity. Daikin Industries engineers began by modelling and verifying the existing lines. They then verified the locations of production line bottlenecks by varying parameters of production factors, such as plans, allocation and workforce, work content and equipment capacity. Due to worker limitations, equipment can’t always work at maximum capacity, even though in a "perfect simulation" it might seem that way. The PLM simulation demonstrated that even if Daikin increased the equipment capacity on this line, the capacity of the overall process wouldn’t increase significantly.

To improve this situation, "what-if" scenarios were simulated. It was determined that if part of the work carried out previously by one worker was shared between workers in the process chain, significant improvements would result. Ultimately, the process capacity was improved by 30% with the same equipment and workforce simply by running simulations with PLM and adjusting the distribution of work to make minor changes to pre-and post-processing.

Daikin also integrated PLM into other areas of their organization, including the design process.

When launching its Czech Republic plant in 2003, the company needed to have production lines running in an extremely short timeframe. With limited examination time, a simulation using PLM software was carried out on the minimum required resources (testing units and workforce) pre-allocated to the testing zone. By using simulation for this project and removing unnecessary resources virtually, the Daikin engineering team quickly identified that a simplified model was sufficient and got things up and running quickly.

Streamline, improve design and development

With the industry in a rapid state of change, organizations like Daikin need adapt how they approach their business process to remain competitive. PLM can be an integral component of that shift, giving organizations the tools they need to streamline their processes, improve their design and development chain and ultimately, deliver better products to market faster.

About the author:ngineering, Dartmouth College. In his current position he leads the Industry Solutions & Marketing organization for Delmia, Dassault Systemes’ brand for Digital Manufacturing, defining solutions for the different industries including automotive, aerospace & shipbuilding industries.

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– Edited by Mark T. Hoske, electronic products editor, MBT