Industry 4.0 has become the way to go with gradual, but steady increase in labour cost and more intense competition within the window and door industry in Asia.
Industry 4.0 refers to the fourth industry revolution that is geared towards intelligent manufacturing. It transforms conventional factories into digital factories by replacing traditional production techniques with more intelligent ones, and by converting the previously popular mass production model into that of batch-size-one. It can satisfy customers’ craving for personalised products, while ensuring greater efficiency and reduced costs.
In order to achieve batch-size-one production, the window and door industry has to undergo two critical steps: automation and informatisation.
Automation simply refers to the use of automated equipment for the production of window and door products. The equipment must be able to read third party software data, something that is very popular in Europe and increasingly prevalent in Asia.
However, most automated equipment has failed to fully realise their potential in terms of efficiency, relying on manual programming during operations. Although this is sufficient in handling material batches, it is incapable of catering to the needs of personalised manufacturing. In addition, the loss of materials and additional processing incurred by human error often create unnecessary costs.
Focus On Software
The solution is to place the focus on the software component instead. Software is an essential component of automated machines that ensure efficiency. By replacing human in conveying complex commands to the equipment, software can achieve increase in both efficiency and performance without any human error. Successful implementation of software technology often hinges on cooperation between equipment suppliers, tool suppliers, fitting suppliers, hardware suppliers and software solution providers.
Similarly, product standardisation is very important as well. In Asia, the standardisation of wood and aluminium window products is relatively high, making it easier for automated processes to be applied to these products.
Most CNC machining centre can work directly with door and window design software, but some still require additional support from third party CAM software.
At the core of informatisation is the connection between people, product and equipment brought about by software integration. From the initial receipt of orders to personalised processing through automated machinery at the workshop, and to subsequent barcode scanning of products to receive work information, the software will provide constant feedback to the company’s ERP system.
Using a simple calculation as an example, for a wooden window manufacturer with a daily production capacity of 200 windows requires 2,000 main profile components (4 frames + 4 sash + 1 mullion + 1 filler), the saving of one second at each process will result in a time saving of 0.55 hour, which is around eight percent of the daily work hours!
The benefits of software efficiency goes far beyond that as time saving in material handling processes are often much more than just one second. This example illustrates how informatisation can help reduce costs drastically.
Fully Integrated Production
Shandong ViewMaxEnger-saving Windows is one of the first door and window manufacturers in Asia to adopt Industry 4.0 and implement software solution across the entire production chain.
According to Li Xiao Hu, GM of the company, it is also one of the first Chinese companies to utilise a fully automated CNC production line. Projects of the company are initiated through a digitalisation and informatisation process using professional door and window design software.
Once the production plan has been determined, all processing commands are sent to the different equipment at the workshop through the network. Two fully automated production lines from Germany will perform the work orders including material loading, cutting, drilling, milling and fitting before assigning each material with a unique code. The code will become the key identification in subsequent paperless processes. The barcode provides information such as the specific placement of the material on the trolley to facilitate quick information checking during when needed.
At the fitting station, operators only need to scan the barcode to check the hardware needed on screen. After work has completed, the barcode is scanned once more to log the progress before the material is placed onto the trolley. The information of the trolley will be displayed on the workpiece information screen immediately. In addition, information on the glass required for assemble will be available directly from the glass processing and cutting stations.
Once the final product has pass quality control testing, it will be packaged and scanned again to print an end product label which will be attached to the product for storage and distribution. The label will display all the essential information, including product dimension, corporate logo, delivery address and installation location. At the same time, all process information, such as production time, quantity and quality will be available on screen for operators to perform various analysis.
As special non-standardised products, customers are constantly demanding more flexibility and complexity from door and window products. This has presented a great challenge in terms of management for door and window manufacturers. In order to stay competitive, companies have to ensure flexibility, reliability and expandability in terms of work flow, information and production process management. In the future, smart manufacturing through digital factories will become the main driver of the industry.