Unsuccessful or costly attempts at introducing Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) at some facilities have contributed to slow introduction of CAM on the factory floor. Characteristics that are indicative of a high risk approach to introducing CAM include: (1) the lack of a well-defined corporate objective, (2) the weak translation of the corporate objective to an integrated plan for implementing CAM, (3) the use of CAM as a "fix" for discrete production line problems, (4) failure to consider the CAD interface, (5) failure to consider total factory requirements in terms of database development (i.e., requirements for inventory control, cost accounting, purchasing, etc., are often not considered), and (6) the lack of a comprehensive retraining program for personnel. These characteristics have basically one root cause: an ill-defined policy and plan for implementing CAM.
When manufacturing personnel are involved in the design process, the transition to production tends to be low risk. Corporate policies, therefore, should provide for the integration of CAM and CAD. The corporate policy should identify the design and manufacturing capability that is desired within the next five years, and these requirements should be translated into an implementation plan that addresses the requirements of all departments associated with the manufacturing operation. Remember, the factory is much more than tools and machinery. To keep a factory running smoothly, for example, parts must arrive on schedule, in specified quantities, and will be utilized at a projected rate. As the factory operation becomes more automated and efficient, real-time monitoring of those parameters is essential for precluding parts shortages that will virtually stop the production line. In addition, production engineering and quality control will require real-time monitoring of yield information on critical process and test points on the production line. Clearly, the use of computers to control the manufacturing operation (fabrication and assembly) and the use of computers to collect the data that maintain an optimum level of factory productivity are essential objectives in CAM implementation. A top-down strategy for implementing CAM will normally decrease the time required to achieve a return on the investment in CAM, as opposed to an uncoordinated or bottom-up approach.
When manufacturing personnel are involved in the design process, the transition to production is achieved readily. The use of a common CAD/CAM database will make this involvement more automatic. A CAM database when integrated with a CAD database provides for the maximum exchange of data between design engineering, manufacturing engineering, and the tool design shop. The use of such a database by design engineers identifies the manufacturing process limitations that must influence product design decisions. Also, the use of the design data for tool and test equipment design and the automation of test is a significant aid in the preparation for production. An integrated CAD/CAM database efficiently provides the necessary design data to reduce the tooling design and product design iterations. Tooling costs in some cases can be reduced by 50 percent, when an integrated database is used.
When computer-assisted equipment or automated factory equipment is implemented on the factory floor, personnel often become concerned about job security. These concerns can be eliminated through the use of a visible formal retraining program for employees. The use of an apparatus lab for off-line hands on training, coupled with classroom instruction, not only ensures that qualified personnel will operate the new equipment, but also serves as an employee motivation tool and relieves some of the uncertainty of an employee's future when state-of-the-art equipment is being introduced.
On the factory floor, maximum use of computers should be made to reduce the number of manual operations used in the manufacturing process. Some areas of manual operation that make effective use of computers include:
a. Control of fabrication, assembly, test, and
b. Collection and analysis of shop floor data
c. Collection and analysis of test data
d. Parts kitting, material flow, and inventory control
e. Configuration management