Project name: A Web-based Collaboration System for Mass Customization (e-CUSTOM)
Keywords: user adaptive design system, decentralized manufacturing, environmental assessment.
Issues & Challenges:
The need for satisfying the individual customers’ requirements is stronger now than ever before. Customers require that the product they buy should fulfil their personal requirements in an individualized manner. Thus, it is time for the European manufacturing industry to bridge the gap between mass production and mass customization. New technologies make it possible for individual designs, products and communications to be prepared on a mass basis.
Under this frame, the first main objective of the proposed research is to engage customers in the design and development of personalized products. Specifically, potential customers will be given the chance to modify a set of characteristics, including the choice of materials as well as of the standard geometry and appearance specifications of parts, belonging to a carefully chosen, personalization-enabling, series of components of models and variants. In other words the first objective is about delivering “unique products to unique customers”.
The current experience has shown that a vast array of customization options is not always a panacea. Usually, when the customer asks for many different options to be installed, delays of several months may arise. Additionally, at the manufacturing site, many customization options frequently serve as an additional problem to production engineers, since economies of scale need to be maintained and the plethora of parts that have to be gathered and processed, together with their different characteristics, generate additional burdens.
This issue has intrigued our interest towards the second objective, to reach an efficient level of decentralized assembly. e-CUSTOM aims at developing the tools that will support the assembly of certain parts, outside the central manufacturing site. Depending on the selected customization options, certain assembly processes will be possible to be carried out by the material and/or equipment suppliers or by the local distributors and/or service providers in a coordinated manner. The environmental footprint of the possible solutions will be measured and be considered when deciding on the assembly procedure (where, how, who and when).
Research Strategy & Solution Statement:
e-CUSTOM is organized in the following four main research pylons.
- Pylon I - User-Adaptive Design System: the user-adaptive design system will be mainly utilized for integrating the customer and other stakeholders in the design of the product;
- Pylon II-Decentralized Manufacturing Framework: the decentralized manufacturing framework will define and guide the manufacturing processes in the remote sites;
- Pylon III-Environmental Assessment Module: the environmental assessment module will provide an algorithm to measure the environmental footprint of different solutions and support the activities of Pylon I and II;
- Pylon IV- Network Infrastructure & System Integration: a multi-layer data exchange infrastructure will be responsible for providing and maintaining the interoperability among the various stakeholders, OEMs, material/equipment suppliers and customers.
The different developments under each pylon will be integrated under a common software platform namely the e-CUSTOM Decentralized Manufacturing Platform (DEMAP).
Demonstration activities have been planned to take place within the project. In cooperation with the industrial users participating in the project, two cases have preliminarily been defined to apply and validate the implementations of e-CUSTOM:
- High-value, luxury cars, which are being produced in a low volume. In this case, mistakes are not allowed, while the buyer frequently asks for personalization options. Interior and exterior parts, patterns, texture, general appearance and even the exhaust system may be individualized, in order to satisfy the customer’s wishes.
- Retail orthotics perfectly fitting the designed insoles to the customer, according also to medical requirements, aiming to deliver unique, perfectly fitted insoles to everyone for the same price as mass-produced over the counter insoles.
The accomplishment of the aforementioned e-CUSTOM S&T objectives is expected to realize:
- Reduction of costs related to energy consumption in existing manufacturing systems (short term savings) by the selection of the most suitable production processes.
- Reduction of transportation costs and the respective environmental impact (CO2 emissions etc) due to the decentralized production approach.
- Reduction of raw materials cost, due to the cost-effective management of raw materials and inventory optimization.
- Higher alignment of production to the actual customer demand by integrating customers in the design phase while at the same time shortening the design time for personalized products using the web-based user-adaptive design system.
- Increase of market share due to the extended degree of customization offered to the customer.
- Decrease in time-to-market, by providing an agile manufacturing concept for the exploitation of a large number of potential suppliers and subcontractors, distributed in different geographical sites.
- Decrease in delivery time, by exploiting the decentralized manufacturing concept and the selection of the most appropriate supply and production scheme provided by the project developments.
Dr. Dimitris Mourtzis
LABORATORY FOR MANUFACTURING SYSTEMS and AUTOMATION (LMS)
Department of Mechanical Engineering and Aeronautics
University of Patras
Patras 26500, GREECE
|Laboratory for Manufacturing Systems and Automation|
|Centro Ricerche Fiat SCpA|
|Mecanica Mallabi, S. L.|
|Microfusión Alfa, S. L.|
|Prima Industrie SpA|
|Brandenburgische Technische Universitat Cottbus|