Factories of the future

Factories of tomorrow will present certain contrasting features. They are:

1.There will be stress on high product quality.
2.Greater emphasis on flexibility.
3.Customer orders will be executed and delivered fast.
4.There will be changed production economies. Fixed costs will become variable and variables shall turn fixed.
5.CAD/CAM will be the basis for product design and process planning. CIM will integrate all phases of the business from a common database.
6.Organizations will undergo structural changes with line staff becoming staff personnel and vice versa. Maintenance, product quality, engineering, management of technology change, software development and maintenance, and automation projects will become mainstream activities of the organization.

The factory of future will have digital computers as a driving force. Popularly called as the computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM), the digital computers would provide shared data base for four primary manufacturing functions: engineering design, manufacturing engineering, factory production and information management. The shared database is the glue that synchronizes the four functions, thereby yielding gains in productivity. The database stores all product and process related information required to produce a component or a product. It contains information about machines, tools, materials, manufacturing steps, quantities demanded, due dates and vendors.

CIM is not a reality yet, but a vision of things to come. Some elements of CIM are found in factories today. They are CAD/CAM and robots. Robots were explained earlier. Coming to CAD and CAM—these (along with robots) are computer-based systems that integrate the entire product development process-from concept to market.

Computer-Aided Design (CAD)

This involves the use of computers in creating or modifying the product design. The designer makes full use of computer interactive graphics. The computer is employed to display pictures, symbols or data. In doing so the designer is able to sit at the console of a computer terminal and make any changes in the product design. The details of the design are stored in computer’s memory and can be withdrawn any time.

Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM)

CAM is understood as the effective utilization of computer technology in the management, control and operations of the manufacturing facility through either direct or indirect computer, interfaced with the physical and human resources of the company. Applications of CAM involve the monitoring and controlling of manufacturing operations as well as any indirect applications where the computer is used.

CAD and CAM are generally merged and the important result of this merger is the automation of the transition from product design to manufacturing. New products can be designed quickly as market demands change. And because these new product designs are stored in a common database, through CAM, the new products can be introduced into production much more quickly and with less expense. Thus, CAD/CAM promise great product flexibility, low production costs and improved quality.