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How Tulip Leverages AWS to Bring No-Code Manufacturing Apps to the Shop Floor

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By Saul Lustgarten, Head of Product Marketing at Tulip

No-code manufacturing app platforms such as Tulip are a critical tool for manufacturers undergoing a digital transformation. These platforms allow frontline engineers to easily build, on their own, shop-floor applications to increase the productivity, quality, and efficiency of their operations.

By leveraging Amazon Web Services (AWS) to deliver our manufacturing app platform, Tulip lets manufacturers of all sizes access the benefits of the cloud. Namely, they can de-risk their digital transformation by starting small, with the confidence in knowing they can scale as they find positive return on investment (ROI).

Tulip Interfaces is an AWS Partner Network (APN) Advanced Technology Partner with the AWS Industrial Software Competency. If you want to be successful in today’s complex IT environment, and remain that way tomorrow and into the future, teaming up with an AWS Competency Partner like Tulip is The Next Smart.

In this post, we’ll see how Dentsply Sirona, the world’s largest manufacturer of professional dental solutions, is using Tulip’s cloud-based manufacturing apps to empower frontline engineers to augment the skills of their team and drive the organization’s digital transformation from the bottom-up.

What is a Manufacturing App Platform?

Manufacturing apps turn shop floor processes into instrumented, data collecting, digital processes that enable faster process optimization.

Users build applications in manufacturing app platforms to turn their shop floor processes into digital ones. No-code manufacturing app platforms like Tulip are quick to build, test, and deploy, allowing creators to iterate and improve upon them quickly while making updates in real-time.

Manufacturing apps are visual and interactive, providing an intuitive user-friendly interface. They can connect with machines, tools, and sensors to leverage the Internet of Things (IoT). Manufacturing apps are data-driven, collecting real-time data as people use them, and they are smart, guiding workflows with dynamic logic.

No-code platforms like Tulip empower manufacturers to do this without having to write any software, thus letting frontline engineers create apps to address their own shop floor needs. Tulip’s manufacturing app platform lets customers build manufacturing apps to improve the way you run your factory.

Without writing any code, you can create apps to increase the productivity of your team, reduce mistakes, and collect real-time data to continuously improve. Launched out of MIT, Tulip is used by some of the world’s leading manufacturers and has been recognized by the World Economic Forum, Gartner, IDC, and Frost and Sullivan for their innovative solution.

Manufacturing Apps at Dentsply Sirona

Dentsply Sirona makes all kinds of dental products, from abutments and crowns to surgical guides for dental implants and devices for dental surgery. The company has trusted brands and operations around the globe, and for more than 100 years their products have empowered dental professionals to provide better, safer, and faster care.

The kitting operation at Dentsply Sirona’s implants division groups items into “kits” and then packages and ships them to customers. Since each order is custom to the patient; no two orders are alike. The process is complex and operators process thousands of orders per day. There are billions of combinations of what can be kitted, and the high volume/high variability nature of the kitting process makes it error-prone.

Before deploying manufacturing apps, associates at Dentsply Sirona needed to complete six months of training and shadowing before they were qualified to enter production. Process engineers lacked visibility into production, such as which components were shipped. This made it hard to maintain quality control and enable process improvement.

Tulip’s IoT-enabled manufacturing apps augment operators at Dentsply Sirona and guide them through complex processes.

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Figure 1 – Manufacturing apps turn shop floor processes into instrumented, data collecting, digital processes that enable faster process optimization.

Augmenting Operator Skills with Manufacturing Apps

A senior process engineer at Dentsply Sirona used Tulip to develop a kitting app to guide operators through the process. His Tulip app turned antiquated paper-based work instructions into an interactive digital process that presented operators with just-in-time information about their work order.

Leveraging Tulip’s connectors, the app integrates with Dentsply Sirona’s home-grown backend systems to pull the right work order information from their database and push completion data that comes from the associate’s input. This information dynamically changes from order to order, displaying all the parts that need to be kitted and shipped with the order.

“Operators are excited with this new technology,” says Dentsply Sirona’s senior process engineer. “With Tulip, I was able to design a pretty easy interface to reduce the amount of clicks to input the data on our traditional material handling system.”

Error-Proofing Kitting Operations with Tulip’s Shop Floor IoT

Dentsply Sirona leveraged Tulip’s IoT capabilities to further improve the kitting app and error-proof the process.

The app controls Tulip’s Light Kit, a pick-to-light solution, so that the bin with the correct parts illuminates to guide the operator, ensuring he or she picks the right part for each kit. The app then connects with a printer that prints a label with the order’s information, further preventing mistakes.

Finally, the app integrates with a camera to take a photo of the package contents before shipping. This increased the traceability of orders and the accountability of workers involved.

Better Training and Reskilling with Interactive Apps

Turning paper-based work instructions into interactive digital apps not only helped Dentsply Sirona with execution of the work, but also allowed them to streamline new operator training. By following the apps, new operators can self-train and learn new skills much faster than before.

Furthermore, using Tulip for training facilitates cross-training with existing workers. This helps them continuously gain new skills and be re-assigned to areas of the operation where they are needed, when they are needed.

“The system allows us to control a highly complex process with hundreds of thousands of variations while leveraging the investment we made in our existing backend systems,” says Dentsply Sirona’s senior process engineer.

Increasing Process Visibility with Real-Time Data

By using Tulip apps to guide operators through their kitting processes, Dentsply Sirona was able to start collecting real-time data, such as cycle time and other valuable information. Based on this data, they built powerful visualizations around these KPIs.

From the apps, Dentsply Sirona’s senior process engineer put together live dashboards that provide stakeholders an up-to-date view of their kitting operation. A live view of the shop floor lets process engineers identify improvement areas, and they use this information to react and re-allocate resources much faster than before.

With Tulip, Dentsply Sirona also has standardized process cycle times for all operators that help them clearly establish production targets for experienced and inexperienced associates.

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Figure 2 – Tulip’s IoT-enabled manufacturing apps augment operators at Dentsply Sirona and guide them through complex processes.

Leveraging AWS to Bring Manufacturing Apps to the Shop Floor

Tulip is hosted on AWS and leverages the platform’s infrastructure and capabilities to support Dentsply Sirona’s mission-critical apps.

AWS offers nearly unlimited horizontal resource scaling, meaning we can support manufacturing app workloads when their requirements and complexity increase. There’s no need to explicitly provision or increase resources as Tulip, powered by AWS, automatically scales for you.

Traffic arrives at Tulip instances by way of AWS Elastic Load Balancing (ELB), a layer 4 routing and ingress service. Tulip uses Kubernetes for application container orchestration, and the Kubernetes ingress service terminates SSL traffic from the ELB and routes requests to the correct Tulip application instance. Access to the Kubernetes cluster is strictly limited using Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) features such as security groups and network Access Control Lists.

Tulip has a robust event monitoring infrastructure, powered by Prometheus. Its alert manager alerts on-call engineers in the case defined event threshold limits (request latency, network errors, etc.) are triggered. Amazon Elasticsearch Service is used for log aggregation, and the open-source Elastalert tool is used to define alert thresholds, analogous to the Prometheus event thresholds.

Assets such as images, videos, PDF documents, and other files are often used to provide a rich user experience when building manufacturing apps. Tulip stores all customer file uploads in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) buckets, with strict and audited access control.

Security is a concern for all manufacturers, and Tulip leverages AWS to deliver a secure hosting environment for manufacturing apps. We isolate customer environments so that data is securely stored and integrity-protected.

Data is encrypted when stored on AWS, as well as in-transit between AWS and a customer’s environment. Specifically, Tulip uses Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) for persistent storage, and the Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) volume uses AWS Key Management Service (KMS) to encrypt data at rest.

Database snapshots are encrypted as well, and copied to a separate AWS Region for disaster recovery by serverless AWS Lambda functions.

Starting Small and Scaling with ROI

Using Tulip to develop cloud-based, IoT-enabled apps, Dentsply Sirona, the world’s largest manufacturer of professional dental solutions, was able to augment the skills of their workforce.

Building the app on AWS allowed Dentsply Sirona’s senior process engineer to start small and scale as he showed value. The apps he built helped reduce training times by 75 percent while supporting over a billion different kitting combinations in his operation.

Since implementing Tulip, the process engineer now has real-time visibility into his process, and there is traceability for every order with fewer human errors. Having the ability to build apps on his own helped Dentsply Sirona to drive the digital transformation of their shop floor.

The content and opinions in this blog are those of the third party author and AWS is not responsible for the content or accuracy of this post.

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Tulip Interfaces – APN Partner Spotlight

Tulip is an AWS Industrial Software Competency Partner. Their Manufacturing App Platform lets customers build manufacturing apps to improve the way you run your factory.

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