With the push toward a fully digital factory, manufacturing execution systems (MES) software has never been more critical to manufacturers of all stripes. By employing the latest in fast-response manufacturing execution systems solutions in manufacturing operations, builders can get speedy updates on time-sensitive operational data that can help improve factory processes and inch the digital factory closer to reality.
As the convergence of manufacturing and business software systems advances, more and more manufacturers are realizing the gains that a digital factory offers, with real-time or near-real-time data performance offering much more manufacturing insight than has been available to them in the past. Manufacturers are getting more serious about implementing the infrastructure needed for smart manufacturing solutions and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and most often, cloud-based MES systems lie at the core of these technologies.
“The trend is toward convergence of business systems to gain in-depth analysis of equipment and systems operation. We’re seeing data providers joining forces,” said Pete Tecos, executive vice president, 5ME (Cincinnati), noting 5ME’s recent partnership with SmartWare that teams Freedom Smart Manufacturing solutions and Smartware’s Bigfoot CMMS (computerized maintenance management system) platforms. “The faster we collect data and share it between various systems, the better view we get of overall operations.”
As more companies begin adopting cloud-based manufacturing technology, the capabilities of MES solutions, enterprise resource management (ERP) and shop-floor data collection systems are melding more seamlessly, working in concert to make IIoT and Industry 4.0 efforts more effective on the shop floor.
“It enables pursuit of the ‘Holy Grail of Manufacturing:’ real-time, comprehensive system analytics through data sharing,” Tecos stated. “Adjustments and/or corrections are made faster, and with less disruption of manufacturing operations.”
Today’s manufacturing software solutions offer a wealth of tools for tracking key factory metrics, including Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and many others, to the manufacturing enterprise, and these enriched systems are meshing well together as developers of these solutions partner up to meet the demands of the IoT/IIoT.
“Basically, you start at the plant-floor level interfacing with assets and a variety of manufacturing systems, then provide a visualization layer [OEE cockpit] to view performance and KPIs,” Tecos said. “Finally, push real-time information upstream into the business system space [ERP, MES, CMMS, quality systems]. If all of these systems work symbiotically instead of in silos, you can drive operations toward achieving highly efficient adaptive manufacturing through the exchange of real-time operational intelligence—that’s the Holy Grail.”
Compatibility with other platforms is key, Tecos added. “Ease of use, data collection capabilities, and versatility with machine types are important as well. Our software presents data from multiple perspectives and puts it into three categories: frequency, duration and monetization. We look at the correlations between these, basically taking the frequency and duration data to create a monetized viewof operations.”
Results from some 5ME customers are impressive. After installing 5ME’s eLog systems, heavy-equipment builder Caterpillar’s East Peoria, IL, plant cut the average length of delays in half and improved machine in-cycle times by 30% across the machines where Freedom eLog was installed, which amounted to $1.2-million increase in value-add. The company reported that it found the electronic “fact-based” data was far better, more accurate, and less emotional than the paper system/manual process that was used previously.
MES systems are no longer standalone systems, noted Stephen Brown, vice president, manufacturing practice, Americas, Siemens PLM Software (Plano, TX). “MES is part of an interconnected enterprise IT infrastructure. The value of MES is now defined by how well the MES system integrates within the overall value chain, both upstream to product development and production engineering, and downstream to automation,” he said.
“Customers want to digitalize the entire value chain, spanning from product design, through production planning, production engineering, production execution, and then services. We call that the Digital Enterprise,” Brown said. “More specifically, we use the phrase Digital Twin. We help our customers create a Digital Twin of not only the product, but also the production process, and the plant and production equipment. Our customers then use the Digital Twin to completely simulate the product and its manufacturing process before committing to hard dollars for prototypes, tooling, and physical assets.”
These factors enable rapid innovation, he noted. “It’s not simply about managing manufacturing operations. It’s about creating a flexible, responsive and predictable manufacturing process able to respond to new product requirements.”
Once in production, and when linked to automation, Siemens’ customers can make decisions using real-time data from the shop floor, Brown said. “Examples include real-time machine availability or up-time that can be used by the production scheduling software to optimize schedules, and quality issues identified during production that can be communicated in near real time to engineering for part disposition, which is especially important in aerospace,” Brown said. “Finally, layer in IoT and data analytics with Mindsphere, and we close the loop across the Digital Enterprise.
Siemens manages the innovation and change process with its Teamcenter PLM, creating a Digital Twin of the product and manufacturing process, Brown said. “We then integrate with our MOM [manufacturing operations management] portfolio, sending the needed product, manufacturing and quality data to the shop floor, and then use Mindsphere for IoT and big data analytics to capture as-built data, feeding insight back into product and process design for continuous improvement.”
Manufacturers are looking more to leverage Big Data and the IoT/IIoT boom along with cloud mobility, said Eric Green, Dassault Systèmes-Delmia vice president. “Those are all affecting manufacturers today, but until there’s a definitive business case, they’re still in an exploratory stage,” he said.
“With some of the technologies specifically around IIoT and IoT, they’re still discovering and understanding what the opportunities are. If you think about IIoT, manufacturers have been doing the precursor for many years,” Green noted. “IIoT is providing a new generation, a new evolution. But we have customers that have pieces of equipment that are over 20 years old, and these new technologies must be able to support existing equipment investments.”
Key for manufacturers will be finding where and how they can apply innovation, he added. “As consumers, each one of us is creating an experience, with the automobiles that we drive, and the smartphones and smart appliances we have. What that’s doing is having an effect on how companies go to market. It’s forcing these manufacturers to be more efficient or to be more innovative.”
For developers like Dassault, the goal is to bring exciting new products to market quickly and efficiently, he noted. “If you look at bringing new products to market, from product design to manufacturing and to the consumer, the innovation platform requires being able to quickly collaborate to bring the design to market.” This goes beyond ERP, he added, into more of a business innovation platform. Applications like MOM, manufacturing operation management, that take the product from design through manufacturing through a collaborative model-based approach, can accelerate the delivery of product launches.
“To us as an organization, we see that as being a key priority,” Green said. “MOM is a broader set of capabilities than MES—involving multiple sites, a broader set and scope, and broader inventory control. What you’re seeing is different organizations have expanded their scope to include MOM, and this ties into the innovation that we offer.”
Giving the user near-real-time capability is a key advantage. “The value there is because we have global visibility, if there are changes, those changes can be propagated and errors are eliminated.”
The Delmia-Apriso software enables digital continuity, from engineering through all aspects of manufacturing, Green said. “It’s the ability to use a virtual world to optimize different scenarios, such as model mix,” he said. “By combining the real-world execution model and date with the virtual world of engineering, we use simulation or optimization to assess the impact of changes based on real factory data, before deploying changes to the factory. Delmia Apriso software helps users provide visibility and control of global operations to optimize execution across production, inventories, and quality.”
The Siemens MOM portfolio includes MES, Quality, Advanced Scheduling, and Manufacturing Intelligence. “Associated with those applications are solutions for manufacturing plant design and simulation, our Tecnomatix portfolio, and then of course IoT and data analytics with Mindsphere,” Brown added. “We take the engineering BOM, and transform that into the manufacturing BOM, then a bill of process. This is where MES takes over.
“We create work instructions for each step, including quality and inspection steps, and can then send those instructions to the operator when a specific part is presented to the operator at the workstation,” Brown said. Or we can send specific code to a robotic workcell based on the part presented to that workcell. In the world of mass customization, where lot sizes approach one, we are able to achieve cycle times and costs historically only seen with hard automation and very large runs.”
Siemens also has added a new Automation Gateway app for the Simatic IT MES UAF 2.1 that offers OPC connectivity and direct connectivity to Siemens S7 controllers, Brown said. The app configures automation node objects composed by properties connected to automation system tags. “Automation Gateway includes a service maintaining connection with automation systems, synchronizing automation data,” he said. “Automation data are exposed to UA app command for read and write, and the app can subscribe to automation data change events via signal management.”
As demand for analytics grows, more choices abound such as the new machine analytics solutions Rockwell Automation (Milwaukee) announced last fall at its Rockwell Automation Fair. These systems included Rockwell’s FactoryTalk Analytics for Devices and a FactoryTalk for Machines cloud-based application for equipment builders, plus system and enterprise analytics.
Analytics complement MES and ERP systems, and help manufacturers leverage the burgeoning data flowing from sensors connected via the IIoT. “People continue to talk about Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing,” said Todd Montpas, business manager, Information Software, Rockwell Automation. “What they’re really interested in is whether the technology has extensions to machine performance, and what they’re really asking for is all those capabilities at the execution level—we have to make sure they have processes that work.”
Many customers are interested in cloud-based systems, he added, noting that some major customers are taking an interest in Microsoft’s Azure cloud. “What we’re trying to do is to have a very scalable approach, with a scalable execution, but built into a scalable analytics strategy; by putting a sensor on it, you can get real-time analytics that you do at a machine level, and machine learning to predict failures.”
At Hannover Messe, GE Digital (Boston) in April unveiled its new Plant Applications MES solution aimed at enhancing its offerings for hybrid manufacturing industries for highly automated production processes. This new version offers customers a new user interface, using GE’s advanced UX design, to better enable operations staff to analyze equipment effectiveness and identify root causes of downtime.
“One of the interesting things I see today is a lot of customers are looking to ‘get ready’ for Industrial IoT,” said Matthew Wells, vice president, Digital Product Management, GE Digital. “It’s evolving but it’s settling into a concept of a hybrid cloud. It’s MES with a Big E [emphasizing execution]; they want to keep that running on premise. What the Industrial IoT and the cloud offer is a way to complement that.”
Response times, and the need for 99%-plus reliability for manufacturing operations, have kept manufacturers from flocking to the cloud, Wells noted. “Is 99% reliability enough? A lot of customers won’t accept that risk for their manufacturing plants,” he said. “What the cloud really provides is a way to dive deeper into the data. In the cloud you can store history and do machine learning. When you have the cloud, you can access large amounts of data, and it increases the effectiveness of your analytics.”
Accessing multiple terabytes of data at any time in the cloud enables manufacturers to fully leverage the Digital Twin, Wells added, which is the IIoT’s key attraction. “The Digital Twin is a set of analytics that basically models the behavior of machines that are constantly running in the background, tweaking the data,” Wells said. “That’s really where the value of the Industrial IoT begins. It’s an emerging market that’s growing rapidly.”
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