Welcome readers and new fans to the AutoForm blog.
In this blog post we interview two experts from AutoForm: Dimitris Servis, Development Team Leader (Ds) and Michael Stippak, Technical Product Manager (St) on the AutoForm-TryoutAssistant solution. New to many countries, this solution increases the success of forming simulation thanks to improved knowledge transfer.
We put the following questions to our two experts:
Q1: Please tell us what you do at AutoForm.
Ds: As a development team leader, I manage two teams of developers and I am the product owner & project manager of a new product called AutoForm-TryoutAssistant. For this product I do market research and stay in contact with customers to get their feedback and their ideas and integrate these and our own ideas in our solution.
St: I am the technical product manager of AutoForm-Sigma and AutoForm-TryoutAssistant. Among other things this means I collect worldwide requests from our customers about both products and distill them into our own ideas for further release. Our aim here is to maintain a stream of communication from customers in order to understand their special requirements in this field and to keep our customers informed about what we do with their feature requests.
Q2: Please tell us more about AutoForm-TryoutAssistant.
Ds: Its target user base is different from our usual user profile. Instead of the typical engineering department, we’re targeting factory specialists – those who do the technical work to prepare the tools for production, many of whom are not engineers. Observing our customers, we noticed that there is often a communication disconnect between engineering and tryout/production departments. To my surprise, the main problem is that the information flows are fragmented and intermittent. The results range, in practice, from using outdated engineering data to not using engineering data at all in tryout, because it is often inconsistent with what people have in front of their eyes. So AutoForm-TryoutAssistant has two pillars: one is to build communication bridges and the other is to assist technical specialists to use the knowledge obtained during forming simulations in the engineering department. The target is to help both departments understand each other better; on one hand prepare engineering data sets that are relevant for the factory practice, on the other provide useful tools to specialists to leverage engineering knowledge.
St: Right, communication here is one of the most important topics. Of course, engineering could print a lot of report slides on paper, yet it remains a fact that the interpretation of simulation results is difficult for staff not familiar with simulation technology and this document has to be available all the time. And imagine that at any tryout location there is always the risk of dirty hands or clothes etc. from oil on tools, which tends to ruin printed documents. Instead of allowing such conditions to make work more difficult, we would like to streamline this cooperation with our new solution for both parties – tryout and engineering. The data transfer via digital technology and mobile equipment forms a totally new basis for collaboration, which means anyone can work with AutoForm-TryoutAssistant on a PC or on a tablet in front of a tryout press, next to the real stamping tools.
Q3: What do you think is the greatest challenge that customers face?
Ds: There’s nothing more difficult to implement than change. Customers know their pains but on the other hand we have cars in the streets, so the process is working and turning out sheet metal parts. The issue at hand is at what drives cost up and what we can do about it. For most customers, I can see the buildup of information silos where valuable knowledge is locked. Implementing changes that would unlock information flows, both downstream and upstream, is key to reducing the overhead costs of the current processes. AutoForm-TryoutAssistant therefore is not just about integrating yet another piece of software, but radically changing the process transparency between engineering, tryout and production. Obviously that’s a tough call, but luckily the inception of AutoForm-TryoutAssistant coincided – even preceded – the Industry 4.0 initiative. Now that concepts such as the Digital Factory become quite ubiquitous and broadly accepted, the process changes we support seem quite natural and fitting the plans of our customers for the future. Even more so because AutoForm-TryoutAssistant addresses a process that is quite difficult to automate as it depends on human experience and intelligence.
St: We saw that the engineering department had archived the project months before tryout tackled the same project with real tools. Now when problems arise in tryout and engineering is called upon to provide support to find a solution we saw that it takes far too long for the factory specialists to receive simulation results. In summary there was too much back and forth between tryout and engineers and delays in support and implementation. Thus there was a need to speed up the data delivery. Furthermore, we learnt that for factory specialists it is often unclear if the final status of the engineering department’s analyses matches the actual tools they are supposed to work with. With our product they now have the possibility of comparison and verification. And at the end of tryout this product helps to provide support in the other direction as well. Engineering is now able to easily review the final tool status after tryout, in order to learn from tryout and integrate this knowledge in the engineering of future projects.
Q4. What are the next steps for AutoForm-TryoutAssistant and AutoForm in general?
Ds: My immediate plan is market growth. We need the critical volume of customers that will embrace our concepts and help us to further develop them. My goal is to satisfy the requirements that are critical to enter specific markets and make the life of our customers easier. Later on we want to move to the next step, which is production. Once we stabilize cooperation and coordination between engineers and factory workers, we can use simulation to drive presses. I would also like to try enhancing this software with touchless technology, and to speed up the process of taking measurements – they don’t have to be high-precision; speed is more important.
AutoForm’s long-term vision is to cover the entire stamping process. We want to encourage customers to use AutoForm more. We want to convey that we have the courage to test out our simulations in reality, when not many do that. In doing so, we hope that factories can trust our simulations more.
St: For AutoForm-TryoutAssistant we are geared up with many new ideas for its future, but of course it takes time to implement these effectively. The Industry 4.0 trend fits well to our philosophy, because we are combining industrial production with modern information and communication technology. Our goal here is to expand in this direction. An interesting future for us indeed! Now we are going to release the latest version of AutoForm-TryoutAssistant worldwide. Let´s go!