TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION: YOU CAN’T BUY INNOVATION OFF THE SHELF
For a sheet metal working supplier like Suplacon, the digital agenda is a top priority. Equipped with modern and reliable machinery and a well-functioning ERP system, attention is now focused on a reliable planning system and shorter lead times.
As far as lead times go, there is still a great deal to be achieved. Despite all our efforts, the wait times of combined orders can amount to 90% of the lead time. As part of the Advanced Manufacturing Program (AMP) by Fraunhofer Project Center (with Maaike Slot, project manager), Suplacon has initiated a research programme together with three other companies in the area to develop a support system using an enhanced planning system and smart AI algorithms to reduce wait times by almost half.
There are seven work packages involved in the project and we have already held the first in-depth session at Suplacon. The value chain has been mapped out in precise detail and the management has received many questions about the whys and wherefores.
Positive results from this research could mean an extremely welcome improvement to our in-house developed platform Plaatwerk 365, which has been continuously developed over the past few years. This platform enables customers to upload their 3d drawings and allows them to check the feasibility of manufacturing their products by comparing the difference in price when selecting different materials and quantities. In the case of an order, the current online capacity and/or the planning status is, of course, particularly important. It is worth noting that when the customer uploads a large number of files to the platform at the same time, the platform switches on extra WiCAM calculation capacity for the CNC machines using an API. An e-marketing research study is currently looking into the experiences of the various groups of users of the User Interface (UI). These findings will form the basis of the subsequent look and feel of the UI of Plaatwerk365.nl.
In addition, a study has now been initiated in cooperation with Windesheim University of Applied Sciences to work out how Work In Progress carts can be moved around the factory using an AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle). The unusual part of this task is that the AGV would not have to move from point to point but is dependent on the sequence of order production stages on the cart. And that is then related to the workload of the first available production machine. You can’t buy digitalisation – it’s sometimes hard work.
However, we are not solely occupied with digital innovation. We now have a talent pool of five young professionals engaged in the continuity of the business and developing future entrepreneurship. We do this by discussing all kinds of subjects with the talent pool which are related to running a business. This includes finance for non-financials, inspiring management, and attendance at (pre corona) expertise lectures and presentations, for example. The members of the talent pool all fulfil their roles within their own professional field. These range from e-marketing to being ICT product owner of plaatwerk365.nl. They also share a lot of knowledge, including aspects of innovation, with each other.
Every now and then, it is time to move forward. Suplacon was an early adopter of process integration of CNC management. Over the years, we have produced many custom-made items, but now that products such as Wintheon/ECI and WiCAM API have come on the market, it is time to switch over to them. This means that we are now abandoning some of our own software modules and switching over to the above-mentioned products. The ICT capacity released will then be used to develop and speed up our own platform Plaatwerk365.nl, our connection to the platform economy of the sheet metal value chain.
Together with a young management team and a clearly defined digital path the future is not only hard work, but also challenging and bright.
Jellard Koers is the CEO of Suplacon B.V.
Suplacon is a B2B co-supplier for sheet metal products. Engineering solutions for our clients by delivering custom made parts and modules serving different industries. Due to a well formulated innovative digital agenda and our platform http://www.plaatwerk365.nl servicing clients over the digital highway.