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Software Update: Managing Big Data Improves Factory Processes with OEE, Other Key Metrics

Mohamed Abuali  







Mohamed Abuali is chief operating officer of Forcam USA Inc. (Cincinnati), developer of manufacturing execution systems (MES) and shop-floor management tools.


Manufacturing Engineering: Describe your company’s manufacturing execution system (MES) offering.

Mohamed Abuali: Forcam’s MES, Factory Framework, has been called disruptive by Frost & Sullivan and recognized with the 2014 Global New Product Innovation Leadership Award. Factory Framework Release 5 is a tool that employs all the technological advancements of Industry 4.0—data collection using sensors, digital connections and communication between machines using device connection engines. The technology is the first of its kind to support Big Data by using an in-memory-based complex event processing [CEP] technology, which enables end users to consume volumes of big data and process them in real time. The solution is completely Web-based and accessible through all standard browsers and smart devices. The machine connection engine allows for interfacing of any PLC and machine controller.

Factory Framework can run on a single instance, while allowing for global OEE [Overall Equipment Effectiveness] benchmarking across multiple plants over various time zones and languages. At one glance, you can view your plant productivity [with OEE] for your manufacturing site in the USA versus Europe or China. Frost & Sullivan certifies: ‘Forcam is a plant production software solution provider that understands and supports Industry 4.0 needs.’

ME: How is the MTConnect standard helping manufacturers improve factory data management?

Abuali: MTConnect has great potential to standardize the communication between machines. Presently, manufacturers have heterogeneous CNC and PLC control types [Mazak, Okuma, Siemens, Heidenhain, Fanuc, etc.] that create many obstacles in factory data management and can be very cumbersome. With a machine connectivity standard like MTConnect, data can be acquired quickly and managed effectively with minimal configuration and no additional hardware resulting in a cost-effective solution. Forcam’s technology supports an arsenal of machine connection types, including MTConnect, as well as other proprietary machine-specific connections, such as FOCAS [FANUC Open CNC API Specifications] for FANUC, MCIS RPC [Motion Control Information System Remote Procedure Calls] and OPC [Open Platform Communications] for Siemens, THINC for Okuma, and others. Factory Framework’s machine connection engine can also communicate with legacy controls in a real-time manner using a hardware fieldbus controller, which can also be MTConnect-compliant if required.

ME: How is Big Data affecting the shop floor?

Abuali: Big Data is having a large and positive affect on the shop floor. The volume, velocity, variety, and veracity of data [the so-called 4Vs of Big Data] captured from the shop floor today has never been more important. Now that this large array of information is being collected from production processes, the focus is on transitioning from methods for capturing this data to establishing methods for processing, analyzing and leveraging this data to improve operational processes [the fifth V of Big Data—VALUE, meaning Visibility and Meaning]. When Big Data is properly utilized, this information allows companies to manufacture at more competitive and efficient levels than ever seen before in the past.

Forcam’s Shop Floor Management technology provides sophisticated compression and events processing capability using CEP—a technology adopted from Wall Street stock-crunching—in order to meet the needs of Big Data in manufacturing.

ME: What new solutions are helping manufacturers deal with this issue?

Abuali: As we continue to see manufacturers work towards collecting more production data, we also see that this amount of data can be considered useless to an organization if not managed proactively. Cutting-edge solutions are enabling manufacturers to collect this information automatically, freeing up valuable resources on the front end, but are also starting to handle the processing and distribution of this data, providing the best and most useful information to the right role within the organization at the right time to make jobs easier.

ME: How can data management improve productivity on the shop floor?

Abuali: Factory-floor systems can greatly benefit from managing data in the right way. Data is collected from many sources on the shop floor such as the machines, ERP systems and operators. Effective management by data aggregation, and by delivering the right data to the right person at the right time, can assist in building a strong continuous improvement culture. By training an organization to utilize the data, each person or team in production is empowered with a set of tools and visual data. The real-time production performance data can be made to support all roles on the production floor, allowing them to optimize processes and thus continuously improving productivity. For example, a plant manager needs access to OEE reporting, maintenance needs access to pareto analysis of faults, and industrial engineers need reporting for planned versus actual performance. Each role also needs to access reporting on a different hierarchical level—some for the machine, others for a group or cell, for a division or a department, and for the VP of operations, who needs access on a plant level or location.

ME: Can leveraging OEE and other key data metrics help users dramatically improve machining productivity?

Abuali: OEE is the metric for improving machine productivity. OEE comprises of three elements—utilization, performance, and quality of machines. Each element can be improved individually to collectively increase the OEE. Utilization or availability is a metric to that represents machine up-time versus the available time. Performance is a metric that represents the speed at which a machine runs at its planned or designed speed. Quality is a metric that represents the good units produced versus the total number of planned units to be produced. Forcam’s ‘Lead by TRUE OEE’ initiative uses the OEE metric as a productivity KPI [key performance indicator] to assist manufacturers to use objectively-measured data from the shop floor to calculate a real-time OEE metric, through direct connectivity to the shop floor machines and connectivity to the top floor (through ERP systems such as SAP, JD Edwards, BaaN, Oracle, QAD). Only with objectively-measured data can you compute an accurate true global OEE number for performance measurement and optimization.

ME: How are cloud-based systems affecting factory-floor data management?

Abuali: Cloud-based systems affect multi-site/global companies by providing them with an instance-based solution to serve factories in different locations across multiple time zones. This enables users to collect large volumes of data and process them in real time. Cloud-based systems also affect small companies with minimal IT infrastructure, allowing them to invest in MES technologies to collect and report real-time production data. At Forcam, the award-winning Release 5 technology supports cloud-based architectures, both local and private, to assist manufacturers of all sizes [small, mid, and large] to utilize the technology at its best to drive productivity. Any Web browser or smart device can access the system via the cloud to view any plant performance at any time zone with any language. ME

PLM Growth Slows

After starting off strong, the PLM software market’s growth slowed considerably in the latter half of 2013, according to a report released on May 30 by CIMdata Inc. (Ann Arbor, MI). Growth for all segments slowed significantly as the overall PLM market rose 4.5% in 2013 to $35 million. “The PLM market started strongly in 2013, and then growth tailed off in the second half of the year, replicating the performance of 2012,” said Stan Przybylinski, CIMdata vice president of research. “The segment growth rates were much lower in 2013 than in recent years.”

MCAD revenues were mostly flat in both sub-segments that CIMdata tracks, according to Przybylinski, and even simulation and analysis, the fastest growing segment over the last few years, grew at a slower rate of 7.1%.

Digital Lab Moving Forward

UI Labs (Chicago) announced the signing of a lease for the new Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII) that will be headquartered on Goose Island. Part of the Obama Administration’s push to develop digital manufacturing, the DMDII will receive a $70 million federal grant, and it will occupy a 94,000 ft2 (8742-m2) facility located on the northern end of Goose Island.

The announcement was made June 4 by UI Labs, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and World Business Chicago. Scheduled to open in first quarter 2015, the Digital Lab will be housed in a building adjacent to the Mars Goose Island facility. The lab will include a working manufacturing floor plus instruction space for students. “As we tackle specific technology projects, our new Goose Island headquarters will become a magnet for the best manufacturing brains in the country,” said Dean Bartles, the executive director of DMDII.

The city of Chicago has committed $10 million towards facility design and construction, and the state of Illinois has committed $16 million, of which $6.5 million will support the initial build-out and equipment. For more information on the Digital Lab for Manufacturing, visit  

New Releases

Autodesk Inc. (San Rafael, CA) on May 21 announced new CAM capabilities are now available in Autodesk Fusion 360. The cloud-based Fusion 360 CAM is available by subscription. It offers users an integrated design environment with 2.5 and three-axis CAM functionality. Users can design, test and fabricate designs in one package that connects to the cloud anytime and from mobile devices or desktop PCs or Macs.

CAM developer DP Technology Corp. (Camarillo, CA) also announced its cloud-enabled CAM software with its new Esprit 2014 CAM. The new software includes Esprit’s MachiningCloud Connection that allows programmers to easily find the ideal tooling for any job. The updated software also includes complete anti-collision models of tool assemblies that ensure the accuracy of toolpath generation, simulation and verification.

Software Update is edited by Patrick Waurzyniak;


This article was first published in the July 2014 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF

Published Date : 7/1/2014

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