A-level Graphic Products/Edexcel/Unit 3 :Designing for the Future/Systems and control/Computer-integrated manufacture

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Computer-integrated manufacture takes FMS, the companies manufacturing line and all other aspects of the company into one network where they all share information with one another; computers control the whole process.[1] CIM works on closed-loop processes and real-time inputs are gathered from sensors.[1]

Tasks that CIM performs may be:

  • The design of a product using CAD
  • Planning the most cost effective workflow
  • Controlling the operations of machinery and equipment
  • Performing business tasks like: ordering stock and materials and invoicing customers


The main main advantages of CIM are:[1]

  • It's faster
  • Less error-prone
  • Creates an automated manufacturing process


A disadvantage of CIM is that it is full dependant on computer data. This can be a problem if the data can only be interpreted on one brand of software company, and if some machinery requires software for another software brand then this can be an issue (Machinery's automatic storage and retrieval system (ASRS) is loyal to a different software brand to which the company works with). This problem can be fixed with the use of a product data management system (PDM).

Product data management (PDM) with CIM[edit]

PDM follows a product's process from design to manufacture; it uses plans, 3D Models, CAD, CNC programs and all other design/manufacture documents. PDM also monitors changes that have been made onto a database, this means that further changes can happen based upon this change.

Advantages of Product data management (PDM)[2][edit]

  • Reduced time-to-market as all of the data is instantly available for everyone on the team to see, this eliminates waiting times during development.
  • Improved productivity as changes are handled automatically, reducing document retrieval time.
  • Improved control due to efficient control management systems that ensure that everyone in the company are working from the most recent data.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) within CIM[edit]

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a business management software—usually a suite of integrated applications—that a company can use to collect, store, manage and interpret data from many business activities, including:[3]

  • Product planning, cost and development
  • Manufacturing or service delivery
  • Marketing and sales
  • Inventory management
  • Shipping and payment

ERP systems can cost a lot of money to install as well as the fact that when the new hardware and software is installed, there is a 'switch over' period; staff will need to be trained with the new software which takes more time.[4]

Lean manufacturing and just-in-time systems[edit]

Lean manufacturing[edit]

Lean manufacturing improves business performance using simple, practical tools and techniques to enhance quality, cost, delivery and people contribution.[5] The end goal of Lean is to make the end product have value.[6] You can learn more about lean manufacturing here.

Lean manufacturing requires:[5]

  • that people need to change their long standing work practices and ideas.
  • that senior management needs to drive the lean principles forward with total commitment to its success.
  • a total change in culture.
  • you find all of the waste within the current system.

The five key stages of lean manufacturing[edit]

Key Stage Content
1 Value This is about what the customer is prepared to pay for.
2 Value stream Value stream mapping is a lean-management method for analyzing the current state and designing a future state for the series of events that take a product or service from its beginning through to the customer.[7]
3 Flow The idea of an uninterrupted work flow; materials come in, final product goes out.
4 Pull The idea of responding to demand, rather than just producing a consistent amount.
5 Perfection (Kaizen) Use the approach of continuously improving the working process.

Just-in-Time (JIT) systems[edit]

JIT is a Japanese manufacturing philosophy. JIT ensures that the right materials, components and products arrive at the right time, the right amount and right place. This reduced over stock, which would require the company to pay for a storage location. This also means that you don't buy too much stock for a product that might not be of high demand at that time. One disadvantage of JIT is that it is totally reliant on the suppliers coming in at the right time, else manufacturing will be put to a halt.

Pull tools - Kanban[edit]

This is the concept of when a product/material is removed from the shelf to be used as a part of the final product, on the shelf it is replaced by a card saying that this needs to be replaced.[8]

The main benefit of Kanban is that it reduces the amount of work-in-progress and finished goods in stock; thus making for a more effective JIT system.

A visual demonstration can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIv2e61SH1A

Perfection tools - Kaizen[edit]

This is the concept of tweaking small parts of of the production process, the cost for these tweaks are minimal, but they can achieve a small over all advantage for the company.[9]

Flexible manufacturing cells[edit]

This is there the machinery is arranged in such a way that means that process can happen in a cyclic way. This video illustration will give you a good insight on how the process works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUPji7L9aSs

CAM in context of CIM[edit]

What is CAM? Click here.

Advantages Disadvantages
Give a greater control of the production process, meaning that it can be fully automated. Extremely high set-up costs as the machinery costs a lot.
Safer for humans, no human risk as no traditional tools are used. Has negative effects on employment (human jobs are replaced by machines).
Flexible production thanks to the use of CNC machinery which can be re-programmed.
The amount of products produced can be directly linked to the demand, this means that there is no waste and minimal storage costs.
Improved productivity as production times are consistent.
Increased reliability and productivity of repetitive tasks.
Reduced manufacturing times as efficient cutting paths are generated by software.

Computer-aided quality (CAQ) control systems[edit]

CAQ can be achieved with the use of the manufacturing cell: coordinate-measuring machine (CMM). This is used to accurately measure the products that are being created to make sure that they are of the highest standard. All of this data is fed back into the database for analysis of tolerances and quality, thanks to laser scanning technology.

Automated materials-handling systems[edit]

This is the process of transporting goods and components within the factory. These components will come in from a truck, they can then be place on a conveyor belt and be taken to the correct location. Goods can then be loaded onto another truck for exportation.

These forms of transport could be:

Systems are best when they require no manual labour, this means that all of the machinery and stock levels are consistent, there's no room for human error that way.

Automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS)[edit]

Fully automated 4 aisle bin warehouse for electronic components with Mustang AS/R machines from TGW

This is a robotic sorting, storing and retrieving system used in warehouses. All stock levels and locations of parts are stored within the computer; they are all physically stored on a shelves that are often stacked up high to make the most of a small space. Items are then placed onto conveyor belts or AGVs.

The advantage of this is to speed up the process, it allows for products to get to market quicker meaning that products can sell better. Additionally, this reduces labour costs, but the sorting machinery would have high set-up costs.

Automated guided vehicles (AGV)[edit]

This is a machine that is powered by one of the following methods:

  • Radio frequency from wires buried in the floor, local transmissions are sent from the floor to the vehicle.[10]
  • Optical sensors in a laser-guided navigation system.[11]

They are small independent powered vehicles that move parts between machines and work-centres. They receive their command and instruction from a central computer, or from their on-board computer.[12]

AGVs amarillos.jpg

The impact of advanced manufacturing technologies on employment[edit]

Having a CIM system integrated can result in a reduction in workforce, however, for the people that are still working there they will be skilled professionals in fields such as:

  • Product designers
  • Manufacturing engineers
  • CNC programmers
  • People that use simulation tools

Affects on employment:

  • Reduction is low skill workforce
  • Increase in the need for skill workforce
  • Need highly computer literate workforce
  • Greater need for more flexible workforce
  • Workers need to be multi-skilled
  • Effects on workforce morale.