From EventMAP’s current specialisms, the optimisation of industry is somewhere between a logical step and a giant leap into a vast pool of opportunity.
We’ve always said that almost everything can be made more optimal – and the benefits of taking the optimisation technologies that we use within universities, NHS Trusts and government departments and applying these to industry are potentially huge. But it’s clearly not something you’d dive into lightly – so when we had the chance three years ago to test the waters within industry, we jumped at the chance.
Our collaboration was with the Northern Ireland Technology Centre at Queen’s University Belfast on a three year Factories of the Future (FoAF) research project, funded by Innovate UK. The Factories of the Future initiative’s aims were to envision and redesign a 21st Century manufacturing environment using the latest cutting-edge technology – and this brought us to the Airbus wing manufacturing plant in Flintshire. We saw this as an excellent opportunity to apply our extensive knowledge of utilisation and resource optimisation – as well as our state-of-the-art algorithms – to an application within a large-scale manufacturer, where we could examine how well our technology transferred to the task of production process optimisation.
EventMAP’s optimisation research and software proved to be a perfect fit for the plant’s planning team, who were responsible for end-to-end production and line management of over 1,000 Airbus wings every year. The existing planning process, which is a largely manual task that requires a team of highly trained experts to execute, was proving very time intensive and costly for Airbus. To address the problem, EventMAP and NITC developed a cloud-based data visualisation tool based on EventMAP’s OPTIME software which was capable of housing all relevant production line and workforce tasks, reporting on the execution of these tasks and then benchmarking their performance against a number of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). This allowed the plant’s management team to easily see and understand tasks completed and where bottlenecks were occurring across shifts.
The OPTIME-based tool was designed to integrate with Airbus’ planning simulation package, Delmia QUEST, to automatically generate reports on proactive planning simulations to ensure that any line or plant changes would perform against all established KPIs before rollout. One of the principal areas of focus for the application was to ensure ease-of-use for non-expert end users and the cloud-based deployment increased flexibility and efficiency, as well as enhancing performance, reliability and scalability.
At this point in time project has reached beta stage, fulfilling all of the requirements of the Factories of the Future initiative, and has been demonstrated to various internal departments within Airbus UK. There’s still plenty more work to do, but so far the consensus here is that the integration of our algorithm-based optimisation technologies into the design of manufacturing workflows like this genuinely has the potential to reap huge benefits for industry. So, as ever, watch this space…
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