KORT realises gateway to intelligent production planning

KORT realises gateway to intelligent production planning

KORT project has reached a milestone in successfully applying artificial intelligence in the sheet metal processing industry.

Fraunhofer Innovation Platform for Advanced Manufacturing at the University of Twente’s (FIP-AM@UT) KORT project, subsidised by the Advanced Manufacturing Program (AMP), has achieved a milestone with the successful implementation of artificial intelligence in sheet metal production. A consortium was formed around the AMP that consisted of four sheet metal production companies. The project resulted in a data-based user interface to find the optimal in-process buffer time in relation to in-production or touch time. This can then be used to optimise throughput times without loosing confidence in the planning. The algorithm used can be developed further and tailored to the unique production environment of the participating companies, to reliably forecast and decrease turnaround times at sheet metal production facilities.

The beginning

In the autumn of 2020, Suplacon CEO Jellard Koers contacted the Fraunhofer Innovation Platform for Advanced Manufacturing, at that time known as FPC@UT, with the challenge of very low touch times and high waiting times within their sheet metal production lines. Together with three other companies facing a similar problem, a consortium was formed to bring about KORT, a project subsidised through AMP.

The consortium was made up of Suplacon, GS Metaal B.V., Hoekman RVS, and Disselhorst Metaal.

The primary objective of the KORT project was to find a solution to improve the production flow and decrease throughput times, in a way that the solution was applicable for the metal sheet manufacturers. Representatives of the four companies worked together with FIP-AM and UT scientific researchers on the development of a digital demonstrator. This demonstrator visually shows the effect of adjusting one of the production variables, buffer time, on the other elements in the production line. If the different steps in the production line are planned better, the flow will improve, and the throughput times can be reduced.

To achieve this, the project was managed through the following work packages:

  1. Understanding the production process and identifying the commonalities between the companies which can be influential for improvement
  2. Gathering and analysis of all available data, to further understand the processes and how they are measured
  3. Developing a proof-of-concept algorithm for smart planning, which takes into according to predefine parameters
  4. Optimising and visualising the end result in a more easily transferable format
  5. A knowledge transfer component to transfer knowledge relevant for the companies regarding the problem statement, the problem analysis, and the possible solutions.

Project result

The end result, a proof-of-concept algorithm, forms the gateway to intelligent production planning at the sheet metal production companies. The algorithm is visualised with a user interface and has the capability of defining a correlation between the potential buffer time for an order and the possible touch time. This can be manipulated by the user through selecting an overall static buffer value, or by allowing the algorithm to apply a dynamic buffer.

The visualisation tool therefore supports in finding the optimal buffer time to apply, without loosing confidence in the overall planning. This is a critical step in digitalising the forecast, and at the same time a complex one: low buffer times give better touch times, but less confidence in the planning, whereas high buffers generate less touch time, but more confidence in the planning. The project result enables the participating companies to take a major leap forward in optimising their production planning and forms a starting point for any next digitalisation steps.

The algorithm is set for further development and tailoring for implementation in the companies’ unique production environment.

About the Advanced Manufacturing Program

The KORT project was subsidised by the Advanced Manufacturing Program. This is a funding programme supported by the Province of Overijssel and the Dutch State. The programme is developed in particular for companies in East Netherlands, that are looking for an academically backed but practical solution for their manufacturing challenges. During a project, the participants will be become more aware of the newest technologies during specific knowledge transfer sessions. In addition, they receive access to a wide reaching and experienced international research network. In this way, the Advanced Manufacturing Program supports manufacturing companies in the transition towards Industry 4.0.

Participating in an AMP project

The AMP works with consortia projects, based on a common problem or challenge faced by industry. For example: an organisation based in Gelderland or Overijssel has a technical manufacturing issue and reaches out to FIP-AM@UT for support. At least three companies with a similar challenge form a consortium together. Within the timeframe of usually a year, they bundle forces and, under guidance of an expert research engineer from FIP-AM@UT, develop a solution. This solution could be a proof-of-concept demonstrator, guidance on the implementation of a new technology, or a simulation, to counter the issue.

The benefits

Participating in an AMP project has many benefits, including:

  • Test before invest: the possibility to test new frameworks or solutions
  • Gain enhanced knowledge on Industry 4.0 enabling technologies and business models
  • R&D of new frameworks and methodologies connected to Industry 4.0
  • Growing your network through the connection to other industrial partners of the FIP-AM@UT


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