Digital technology gains traction

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Competing with the changing tire industry will require producers to use flexible, smart and low-cost solutions.

The tire production industry is experiencing an influx of change. A decade ago, there were maybe a few different kinds of tires to choose from. Now, there are more than 10, with the ability to customize mass quantities. Additionally, global tire demand is expected to grow 4% per year in unit terms from 2019 to 2024.

Facing SKU proliferation, product and asset scheduling challenges, reallocating resources and shifting operations, the tire industry is in need of smart, flexible and low-cost solutions now more than ever.

Digital technologies can expand what’s possible in your tire business while enabling you to quickly scale operations, reduce downtime and optimize speed and quality in tire production.

New insights from digital technologies can help manufacturers make better design, operation and maintenance decisions for their tire production.

As a tire producer, you might have an idea of how digital technologies could help your operations but don’t know where to start or how to separate fact from fiction as a large number of niche and mainstream companies profess a wide range of solutions and benefits.

However, based on Rockwell’s decades of experience and expertise working within the tire industry, it has identified three technologies can have a significant impact on your tire production: an end-to-end manufacturing execution system, dynamic digital twins, and analytics on operations and equipment that are straightforward to develop and easy to implement.

Set your production up for success
A modern manufacturing execution system (MES) functions much like a digital project manager. This system can improve your production tenfold, managing complexity in your production while still prioritizing quality and efficiency. Increased speed, flexibility and scalability are more important than ever as you face changes in your products, workforce and supply chain.

Manage complexity
As supply chain availability and consumer demand are changing, you need to stay agile the best ways you can. An MES can help you stay on track by helping you control, sequence, monitor, analyze and document tire production faster and more effectively. This makes it possible to stay productive while decreasing errors, improving traceability and still maintaining the standards you are striving for in production. While demand for consumers decreased and demands for trucking increase due to a boom in shipping and home delivers, you will be ready to meet these changes.

Another way an MES can do this is by automating data collection in your plants. For example, it can track each product and/or tire, gathering the process build data associated with each product and/or tire creating the traceability and a digital thread for those products. This eliminates manual tracking errors and unneeded paperwork that could be potentially harmful to your products and business.

Work smarter
Whether you’re replacing seasoned operators or re-staffing a plant, you will need workers to deliver high-quality tires, even if they have minimal production experience. An MES can guide operators through each stage of the production process to help make sure workers are building tires correctly as per design.

This system enables production managers to view operator availability and better match personnel resource requirements to production and equipment requirements, allowing them to move operators where they are most needed. There may be times where production is running smoothly toward one end of the line, but personnel may not be able to see a larger issue on another end. The production manager can then quickly see these imbalances via the MES and then move operators as needed to address the issue at hand.

Move faster
Finally, a digital technology, such as an MES, can enable businesses to respond to market demands more quickly and appropriately, overall. An MES can connect your operations across plants and global business systems. This provides management and production personnel with the opportunity to use real-time insights like work-in-progress updates to make faster, smarter decisions.

See digital doubles
The second solution that can make a significant impact in digital tire production is digital twin software. A digital twin is a virtual replica of a physical asset that can mimic the asset’s performance. Using this software can improve how workers do their jobs and can help you evolve and keep up with the fast-changing tire industry.

With a digital twin, you can design, test and validate machines and plants digitally – long before you purchase new equipment or scale up your workforce. For example, you can create a digital twin of a tire-building machine and apply physics to it to dynamically verify that it performs as expected over various conditions. This lets you virtually commission the machine before you deploy it on-site, avoiding costly, last-minute integration issues that delay startups.

You can also digitally recreate an entire facility. You could visualize a tire warehouse and simulate workflows to help you improve the flow of materials to the lines and reduce WIP. The result? A warehouse that is optimally configured to fulfill orders as fast as possible.

The value of a digital twin goes beyond just the commissioning phase. It can still help you optimize overall production. A digital twin can provide training in a secure, virtual environment, enabling operators to learn how to run production in an ideal state. A digital twin’s value doesn’t stop at the commissioning phase!

A digital twin could also be utilized to guide maintenance. A technician could review a digital copy of a machine in an augmented reality (AR) environment to diagnose it quickly. Then, they could receive digital instructions to accurately and rapidly repair it.

One major tiremaker was able to use this simulation software to identify bottlenecks in a final-finish system design that reduced capacity by 25%. The system was then reengineered based on the simulation, ultimately saving them US$4m.

Uncover the unknown
The truth of the matter is, sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. Implementing analytics in your operations can often make this apparent. The answers to a more efficient line often lie in your current production systems.

Scalable analytics software can take the raw data from your present systems and turn it into useful information for operators, technicians and production managers. But this software needs to have prebuilt tools that quickly enable you to quickly build models to integrate plant floor assets and analyze the data.

Analytics software in tire production can combine production data, tire records and other information to help pinpoint the cause of problems like quality issues. The software can help tire producers uncover the variabilities that can occur between different operators, molds and machines.

Predictive analytics, on the other hand, can help you improve the uptime of critical assets such as extruders, mixers and tire-building machines. This software gathers machine data to learn the common patterns that precede production failures and marks them to be alarmed during future production. Issues can then be addressed proactively, before they cause unplanned downtime in your production lines.

Additionally, this capability can help minimize downtime and reduce the time and money spent on unnecessary repairs.

Let’s get digital
Digital solutions that have already been proven in the tire industry can save you time and effort. They’re ready to use and can even start providing value in mere minutes. Technologies like MES, digital twin software and advanced analytics can be deployed in a consistent, standardized manner across one or many plants.

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