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Development of a virtual process planning system

Exploitable results

The major pan-European benefit from this project is the potential to strengthen the competitive position of domestic SME special plant manufacturers against Pacific Rim suppliers, by differentiating the quality of their products and support, whilst generating time and cost savings in the design process - through improved communication from concept to build. Many of the key market segments for special purpose plant are represented by the SME end users in the core group. Because of their relatively small size, the SME manufacturers tend to be more flexible in offering bespoke equipment solutions than their European LE counterparts. Approximately 95% of this special purpose equipment sold in Europe is below the 100kECU price mark, being supported by an SME dominate (accounting for almost 70% of the 5,500 total population of suppliers). However, these SME manufacturers are often disadvantaged when competing with their European LE counterparts, and companies from lower labour base economies such as those in the Pacific Rim, as they are also often LE's (requiring powerful sales & maintenance support structures to overcome the disadvantage of the large geographic distances). This work has helped in laying the foundations for a technology-based competitive advantage for domestic software developers in the provision of a high volume, low cost plant visualization, design and optimization tool. It is hoped to reverse the trend for VR and real time simulation technology supply into Europe from very large U.S. corporations like Silicon Graphics, Division and Deneb Inc, by integrating SME VR software developers with the potential delivery network offered by the factory simulation and CADCAM software vendors. In turn, this may lead to an export market for EU virtual process planning technology into the Pacific Rim and the U.S. In response, European SME special plant manufacturers can concentrate on differentiating their offering by providing higher added value through building a partnership approach to the equipment solution they hope to supply, offering clients lean manufacturing techniques and accommodating numerous reconfigurations of manufacturing processes using a combined VR and Simulation tool.