Textination Newsline

Reset
2 results
Cost-effective Ways to minimize Risks in the Supply Chain Photo: Pixabay
28.07.2020

Fraunhofer ITWM: Cost-effective Ways to minimize Risks in the Supply Chain

  • Algorithms for optimized supply chains

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the economy hard. What lessons can be learned from this experience? And what’s the best way for companies to protect themselves against this kind of crisis in the future? The answer will certainly involve a combination of different approaches – but new mathematical methods developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM look likely to be a very promising piece of the puzzle. These methods aim to calculate how the risks posed by supply shortages can be reduced significantly at very little extra cost.

  • Algorithms for optimized supply chains

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the economy hard. What lessons can be learned from this experience? And what’s the best way for companies to protect themselves against this kind of crisis in the future? The answer will certainly involve a combination of different approaches – but new mathematical methods developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM look likely to be a very promising piece of the puzzle. These methods aim to calculate how the risks posed by supply shortages can be reduced significantly at very little extra cost.

 Nobody ever expected hospitals to be struggling to get hold of the face masks and other personal protective equipment they need. The supply chain had always run smoothly in the past, yet the coronavirus crisis has now caused shortages of these products on multiple occasions. Previously, these supply chains had worked well – but the necessary restrictions on the global flow of goods led them to collapse.In many cases, for example, Chinese suppliers were unable to make deliveries even while factories in Germany were still working as normal, a situation that had a knock-on effect on goods production in Germany. And viruses are not the only potential risk: international suppliers can be paralyzed by all kinds of unforeseen factors, from natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes, storms and floods to strikes or other unexpected political developments. If a company chooses to rely on just one supplier for its production needs in order to reduce costs, this can have devastating consequences that may even bring production to a complete standstill. It can take a very long time indeed for other suppliers to ramp up their production and start delivering the required products.
 
Analyzing and safeguarding supply chains
This is where methods developed by Fraunhofer ITWM come into play. “The algorithms analyze how diversified the supply chains are in different areas of the company and thus how great the risk is of running into critical supply problems in an emergency, in other words in the event of regional or global disruption,” says Dr. Heiner Ackermann, deputy head in the Department of Optimization at Fraunhofer ITWM in Kaiserslautern. “The question is how you can minimize the risk of supply shortfalls without incurring significant additional costs.” The dilemma is similar to that of buying a house: Is it best to opt for the lowest possible interest rates, even though there is a risk that follow-up financing will offer much worse rates? Or is it best to play safe and pay slightly higher interest rates from the start if that means having the reassurance of reasonably priced financing for the entire term?
 
Companies also have to get the right balance between risk and costs. If a company chooses to rely solely on the cheapest supplier, they are taking a major risk. But if they procure a raw material from multiple suppliers at the same time, that risk drops significantly. “And in this case the difference in cost is much lower than the difference in risk,” says Ackermann. In other words, the risks fall dramatically even when a company increases its costs by just a few percent – so it is possible to eliminate much of the risk by accepting just a slight rise in costs. Companies can use the algorithm to discover what would work best in their particular situation. “This method lets companies optimize their supply chains based on multiple criteria, helping them to find the optimal balance between costs and risks,” says Ackermann. “The underlying algorithms work equally well whether you are dealing with supply shortages caused by an earthquake or a virus. So, unlike existing software solutions, we don’t try to make assumptions as to the likelihood of any particular scenario.” With this new method, a company starts by entering various parameters – for example areas in which they think disruption could be likely and how long that disruption might last. The algorithms then calculate various cost/risk trade-offs for this exact raw material, including the possible allocations of suppliers that would correspond to each point on the scale. They even take into account options such as storing critical products in order to cushion any temporary supply shortfalls.
 
Substituting raw materials during supply shortages      
Another option the algorithms take into account is whether a raw material could potentially be replaced by different materials in the event of a supply bottleneck. If so, this can be taken into consideration from the start. Essentially, the method calculates the costs and risks of different courses that a company can follow in regard to their suppliers. Procter & Gamble is already using a software-based variant of this methodology which has been specially tailored to its needs.

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM

Photo: Pixabay
28.04.2020

Meltblown Productive: Fraunhofer ITWM vs. Corona - With Mathematics Against the Crisis

  • Meltblown Productive – ITWM Software Supports Nonwoven Production for Infection Protection

Simulations by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM make processes in the manufacturing of nonwovens more efficient. Within the anti-corona program of Fraunhofer the production of infection protection is optimized.
 
Nonwovens production is currently attracting more attention than ever before from the general public, because in times of the corona pandemic, nonwovens are vital for infection protection in the medical sector and also for the protection of the entire population. Disposable bed linen in hospitals, surgical gowns, mouthguards, wound protection pads and compresses are some examples of nonwoven products.

  • Meltblown Productive – ITWM Software Supports Nonwoven Production for Infection Protection

Simulations by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM make processes in the manufacturing of nonwovens more efficient. Within the anti-corona program of Fraunhofer the production of infection protection is optimized.
 
Nonwovens production is currently attracting more attention than ever before from the general public, because in times of the corona pandemic, nonwovens are vital for infection protection in the medical sector and also for the protection of the entire population. Disposable bed linen in hospitals, surgical gowns, mouthguards, wound protection pads and compresses are some examples of nonwoven products.

IEspecially in intensive care and geriatric care, disposable products made of nonwovens are used due to the special hygiene requirements. At the moment there are clear bottlenecks in the production of these materials. For the meltblown nonwovens class, however, it is difficult to increase production efficiency because meltblown processes are highly sensitive to process fluctuations and material impurities.
 
Although nonwovens are not all the same, the rough principle of their production is relatively similar to all industrially manufactured nonwovens: molten polymer is pressed through many fine nozzles, stretched and cooled down in an air stream and thus deposited into the typical white webs. "Meltblown" stands for the submicron fiber process whose nonwovens are responsible for the decisive filter function in face masks.
 
With meltblown technology, nonwoven fabrics are produced directly from granules. A special spinning process in combination with high-speed hot air is used to produce fine-fibered nonwovens with different structures. The fibers are highly stretched by the turbulent air flow. During this process they swirl in the air, become entangled and fall more or less randomly onto a conveyor belt where they are further consolidated - a very complex process. Nonwovens manufacturers around the world are striving to massively increase their production capacities.
 
Digital Twin Optimizes Meltblown Process    
This is where the software of the ITWM comes into play. "Our Fiber Dynamics Simulation Tool FIDYST is used to predict the movement of the fibers, their falling and the orientation with which they are laid down on the conveyor belt. Depending on the process settings, turbulence characteristics are generated and thus nonwoven qualities are created that differ in structure, fiber density and strength," explains Dr. Walter Arne from the Fraunhofer ITWM. He has been working at the institute for years on the simulation of various processes involving fibers and filaments.

The methodology is well transferable to meltblown processes. In these processes, one of the specific features is the simulation of filament stretching in a turbulent air flow - how the stretching takes place, the dynamics of the filaments and the diameter distribution. These are all complex aspects that have to be taken into account, but also the flow field or the temperature distribution. The simulations of the scientists at the Fraunhofer ITWM then provide a qualitative and quantitative insight into the fiber formation in such meltblown processes - unique in the world in this form when it comes to simulate a turbulent spinning process (meltblown).

Nonwoven Manufacturers benefit from Simulation
What does this mean for the industry? The production of technical textiles becomes more efficient, but the nonwovens can also be developed without having intensive productions tests in a real facility. This is because the simulations help to forecast and then optimize the processes using a digital twin. In this way, production capacities can be increased while maintaining the same product quality. Simulations save experiments, allow new insights, enable systematic parameter variations and solve up-scaling problems that can lead to misinvestments during the transition from laboratory to industrial plant.

Making a Contribution to Overcome the Crisis With Many Years of Expertise
"We want to demonstrate this in the project using a typical meltblown line as an example - for this we are in contact with partner companies," says Dr. Dietmar Hietel, head of the department "Transport Processes" at the Fraunhofer ITWM. "Within the framework of Fraunhofer's anti-corona program, we want to use our developed expertise and our network to contribute to overcome the crisis", reports Hietel. His department at the Fraunhofer ITWM has been pursuing research in the field of technical textiles for around 20 years. Due to its current relevance, the project not only got off to a quick start, but the implementation and results should now also be implemented quickly: The project is scheduled to run from April 15th 2020 to August 14th 2020. The kick-off meeting took place on April 17th 2020 via video conference.
 
The project "Meltblown productive" and the results are certainly interesting for nonwoven producers. The production of many mass products has often been outsourced to Asia in the past decades; the nonwovens manufacturers remaining in Germany and Europe tend to focus more on high-quality technical textiles. In the medium and longer term, this will also be a scientific preliminary work when production capacities in Germany and Europe are expanded by new plants. One lesson to be learned from the crisis will also be to reduce the dependence on producers in Asia, especially as a precautionary measure for crisis scenarios.

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics, ITWM