Digitizing and creating the factory of the future is a journey, but it has the potential to help composites manufacturers address real-life disruptions and enable fast replanning of production operations for increased flexibility and enterprise-level performance.

How can AI and digitalization help Composites supply chain and production disruptions?

At CAMX 2021 (October 19-21, Dallas, Texas, U.S.), I sat down with Avner Ben-Bassat, president and CEO at Plataine (Waltham, Mass., U.S. and Petach Tikva, Israel), to discuss how the company’s connected suite of software for tracking materials, machines, tools and production scheduling was being used to overcome supply chain issues at composites manufacturers. Ben-Bassat introduced me to digital twins in 2016 and we met again later that year during my tour of the Composite Technology Center (CTC, Stade, Germany) where Plataine’s software was being demonstrated for Airbus. Over the years, Ben-Bassat has continued to help me understand the digital transformation, Composites 4.0 and the issues involved for manufacturers (see Composites 4.0: Architecture and ontology and Where to start?).

In this blog, we discuss how using artificial intelligence (AI) can help companies to optimize composites production and better navigate disruptions, whether they stem from global pandemics, wars, lack of materials and personnel, or a machine outage in the cutting room.

Gardiner: “Last year, CW wrote a lot about supply chain issues. What are you seeing now as you visit with customers and potential customers?”

Ben-Bassat: “We see that most tier suppliers in aerospace are ramping up production volumes, meanwhile supply chain disruptions continue. And companies are also facing hiring challenges. Many companies say they don’t have the number of employees they need with the desired level of skill and experience they would like. We are seeing companies face long lead times and materials shortages, which can cause them to slow or stop production until they can get what they need.”

Gardiner: “This year, I’ve been writing more about sensors, and how they are being used to achieve Composites 4.0. But does Plataine really deal with sensors that much?”

Ben-Bassat: “Absolutely, our software apps collect sensor data, such as temperature and RFID codes from materials, parts and tools, etc. For us, the question is how do you use that data to help your operations? Let’s say that someone has prepared a production plan for the week. They send it down to the production floor. And some of what is in that plan will happen on time, and some won’t because a machine fails, a part fails, materials are late, etc. Sensors give us this type of data on the actuals of production. We strive for a closed-loop environment, so that we can feed that data back and quickly reassess our operations and replan accordingly. And this is what we call flexible production.”

Sensor-based management of composites materials and kits

“An inflexible operation is the current legacy for most companies. A planner sits in his or her office, and it takes hours to prepare the next plan. The production plan for next week is finally sent on Friday. On Monday, the production team begin to execute that plan, but as we discussed above, all kinds of things happen — mistakes, defects, customer issues, quality issues. An inflexible organization just keeps trying to move according to the plan, and at the end of the week, they assess what they didn’t achieve and just add that to the following week’s plan. And this has now slowed production and led to excess costs and missed delivery deadlines.”