Project Documentation


Why PROS? Not long ago I met the operations director for lean manufacturer that does contract work. When I asked him his challenges he told me there were three.

First, he told me when they reconfigure the operations floor to transition from one work order to the next, usually it impacts any number of workstations, work-centers, machines, conveyors and/or robots, etc.. Sometimes, people and/or machines aren’t always available due to the existing work orders, so they need alternative configuration plans as well. They want a tool that allows them to virtually reconfigure the operations floor for a new work order as well as any alternatives before making the physical changes.

Second, they want to simulate the work order operations (and alternative configuration plans) to forecast a new work order completion date and time.

Third, they want a tool that lets them virtually configure and simulate the manufacturing operations when they add or change out equipment, alter operations or come up with new ideas to try.

When we learned about the Brilliant Manufacturing Suite, we were ecstatic! This suite gives us exactly what we need to build a solution that helps this lean manufacturer and others quickly and easily respond to dynamic operational changes virtually. Hence PROS.

What it does

PROS provides operations floor engineers the ability to:

  • Reconfigure and simulate operations virtually in 3D for work orders and the transitions between work orders,
  • View Efficiency Analyzer information associated with the work order operations,
  • Forecast the completion date and time for a work order given the current operations configuration, and
  • Run simulations for what-if scenarios.

How I built it

PROS was built with the gaming platform Unity as it provides the ability to render and simulate work order operations in an immersive 3D environment. Using this platform will enable us to port this application to other platforms (i.e., browser, mobile, etc.) or run in Virtual and/or Augmented Reality.

Challenges I ran into

Working with new technologies always seems to present challenges. I can't think of anything we did that didn't have some challenge associated to it. Some of the more relevant challenges include understanding the API content, integrating with the APIs, figuring out how to associate and integrate API information with a 3D simulation and building the runtime editing capability for the 3D configuration.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

I'm proud to have taken an idea from inception to a developed solution leveraging virtual 3D technologies, which was fun in itself, but which also has the additional value of advancing the digital transformation currently underway in manufacturing. It's exciting knowing that this application is a step towards solving challenges in manufacturing today. I'm looking forward to where it is going to take me!

What I learned

When I started this project I thought I would have an application that was complete. During the process of developing the application I realized that even though the original scope was fundamentally complete, the potential for what this application could be and do is just in the early stages and far from being complete.

What's next for PROS

We are currently planning to:

1) Better understanding of manufacturing requirements - I came up with the idea for this application after speaking with the operations director for lean manufacturer that does contract work. Before moving forward I want to better understand the needs of a variety of manufacturers in order to make this application significantly more meaningful as part of the digital transformation underway.

2) Enhance existing functionality and capability - The current scope of this application is a bit limited. After I better understand the manufacturing requirements above, I plan to vet potential enhancement ideas with various manufacturers to determine what functionality and capabilities would provide the best value to them. Additionally, we plan to address API endpoint integration performance which were not implemented due to the short timeframe of the project.

3) Identify best platform for ease of use - Currently our application runs on PC, Mac and Linux standalones. Since we are using Unity we know we can build this application on selected browsers; Android and iOS devices; and in VR and AR. Again, before moving forward I'd like to better understand from manufacturers what makes the most sense for them.

4) Incorporate analytical tools - Running a simulation requires data from the WiP and EA APIs in addition to the locational and animation data used to build the 3D scene. Having this data available lends itself to incorporating analytical tools to optimize the operations which might include machine learning, linear programming, neural networks or other relevant tools.

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