Chapter 3 – ICT in Manufacturing

  1. Introduction

In the face of ever-increasing competition from international market, many labour-intensive manufacturing companies face a stark choice: automation, or evaporate. Here are some of the many ways in which computers are used in the manufacturing world.

  • Order entry and processing systems accept and process customer orders. A fully integrated system will also calculate the quantity and cost of materials needed to make the items ordered, produce reports on any shortages of materials in stock that need to be ordered and raise the purchase order. It will then track the progress of the order through the manufacturing process so that customer queries can be answered.
  • Project management software provides management with the information necessary to keep projects within budget and on time. Reports can be produced showing actual costs versus projected costs, and the number of days ahead or behind schedule.
  • Expert systems can be used in a multitude of ways from calculating the cost of a new multi-storey office block to detecting when a batch of beer is ready for the next stage of the brewing process.
  • Computer-aided design systems are used in thousands of different applications from designing a new jumbo jet to the design of the most aerodynamic material for a ski racer’s suit.
  • Computer-aided manufacture enables components to be manufactured with the utmost precision.
  • Robots are used in every kind of industry from car manufacture to sorting items on an assembly line.

  1. Case study: The sweet smell of success

Bass the brewers has built a machine that can perform the daunting task of smelling beer and deciding if it’s up to snuff. The technology that makes this possible is neural computing, the revolutionary process that mimics the way the human brain works. The artificial nose makes a complex series of judgements based on the electrochemical stimuli received by its gas sensors, and could save the brewers a fortune.

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“By detecting an over-active yeast or a weak crop of hops at an early stage in the fermentation process, the nose could save us having to throw away a whole batch – 345,600 pints of beer”, explained Ian Morris of Bass.

It is not just brewers who are interested in the artificial nose. Manufacturers of instant coffee, perfume and other aromatic products are spending huge sums, in co-operation with researchers at several universities, to build a better-than-human olfactory sensor.

Source: Garth Alexander, The Sunday Times 19 September 1993.

  1. Computer-aided design (CAD)

CAD systems allow designers and ...

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