The manufacturing environment is changing at a continuously increasing speed. In addition to well-identified trends, we are facing rapid transformations caused by the climate, pandemics and other unforeseen events that can change the way we see the world overnight.
People are slowly but steadily changing their consumption habits. For example, consumer individualism is driving the change of mass personalization towards one-piece flow, causing a lot of product changes and variation in the high-volume processes. Another good example of the impacts of changing consumer habits is the growing importance of quality: with social media, the importance of high quality is highlighted, as any negative news will spread instantly. According to the World Manufacturing Forum 2018 Report, the Cost of Poor Quality (COPQ) can cost manufacturers a staggering 5% to 40% of sales.
World Manufacturing Forum Report:
Cost of Poor Quality (COPQ) can cost manufacturers a staggering 5% to 40% of sales.
The climate change is creating many new challenges, and the current global pandemic has caused even further sudden and unexpected situations of resource scarcity: on top of the savings done to fight climate change, even the required raw materials have not been available as planned. Also, consumer awareness and the taxation benefits of carbon neutral choices push manufactures to reduce all consumption.
Yet another trend is created by the digitally native youngsters working on the shop floor who expect seamless user experience and thus drive human centricity in the design of any industrial IT systems.
These trends and quick changes call for a revolution in how we manage our manufacturing operations. The Revolution of Manufacturing Operations is strongly dependent on the digitalization that has become the differentiator and game changer in determining the winners and losers in this continuous change. The foundation and starting point of a successful Manufacturing Digitalization journey is a carefully designed, efficiently implemented, continuously developed, and well-supported MES System.
Industrial Digitalization is often described with terms like Industrial Internet of Things (IIot) and Industry 4.0. The foundation and starting point for these initiatives is a connected shop floor, where the information is integrated and can flow seamlessly between management, workers, assets, and other IT systems. Only seamless integrations enable the visualization, reporting and analytics of the data, leading to better decisions and thus also to improvements in our process execution. The connectivity of the shop floor is, at its mature state, based on a standardized Manufacturing Execution System (MES) located on the Factory Level (Level 3) of the ISA-95 standard.
ANSI/ISA-95 Standard classifies the manufacturing hierarchy into five categories or levels. These levels represent the purpose, connectivity and other characteristics of the systems located on each level.
The Levels 0-2 include the actual manufacturing process, equipment, the equipment’s own control and automation, and possibly a centralized factory-level monitoring and control system (SCADA).
The Level 3 typically consists of Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and a Warehouse Management System (WMS) that together execute the production, maintenance, quality, and inventory operations on the shop floor. Those systems also integrate all the information flows from management, Cloud (IoT) and corporate IT systems to workers, equipment, and automation.
The Level 4 includes corporate IT systems, like a Customer Relationship Management System (CRM), Integrated Business Planning Systems (IBP) or Enterprise Resource Planning Systems (ERPs). The strong trend related especially to ERPs is towards standard SaaS and Cloud models. A standardized Cloud ERP on Level 4 requires the adaptation of business processes to the ERP standard. In some operations, that is easy to do, but in the manufacturing and on the shop floor, the situation is quite the contrary.
The maturity of manufacturing operations is the key to competitive advantage for any manufacturing company. High maturity manufacturing operations require full support from digital tools. Full support means that the system is able to guide, measure and visualize all operations at any given time to drive excellence. This support is needed for driving improvements in key performance indicators (KPIs) like asset performance, quality, and throughput. Generic reporting or guidance is not enough. In practice, this means that the MES system needs to be tuned to fully support all the processes to bring the real business benefits.
Based on Gartner, Forbes, IDC, and some other sources, the requirements for adaptable and flexible shop floor systems, like MES, lead to multiple technology trends related to Industrial Digitalization. These trends can also be identified in the MES and IoT technology benchmarks like Magic Quadrant or Critical Capabilities Studies. Some of the trends impacting the MES technology selection are presented here in more detail.
The flexibility and adaptation of the Level 3 MES System is strongly based on integration. Agile integration of people, equipment, automation and IT systems require API Economy, open interfaces (APIs). These enable easy integration of information between the MES/MOM and other Level 3-4 business systems. Open and well-documented APIs are a compulsory requirement for a MES system to be able to manage shop floor integration as defined in the fundamental role of MES.
Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are rising trends that require valid data from manufacturing. The natural place to use the power of ML/AI is together with MES that receives, stores and is able to provide the full set of manufacturing operations data. One key factor for a future-proof MES is to enable easy access to data and predefined AI/ML capabilities. If you are interested in learning more, take a look at this web page about Roima AI and ML capabilities.
“Democratization would enable developers to generate data models without having the skills”.
In MES systems, this means low-code implementation – in practice, easy and visual configurability of business processes. The requirement for easy adaptation is especially important when the standardized MES template is deployed in a multi-site manufacturing environment. For a more detailed elaboration on this topic, I recommend watching Roima’s webinar on Multi-Site MES Best Practices or how to extend your SCADA to Multi-Site MES.
Last but not least, IoT connectivity enables all the shop floor MES functionality to be extended by Cloud IoT solutions. This combination creates the best value, as it not only both collects and analyzes data on centralized cloud, but also manages, controls and executes the actual processes on the shop floor based on the analytics results from the cloud. For more information, take a look at Roima’s webinars about seamless connectivity, infrastructure and contextualization of data with AVEVA OSIsoft between shop floor and cloud and about how to best combine MES and IoT approaches with AVEVA and Azure IoT.
Enabling competitiveness and differentiation in the market by meeting previous global business trends requires addressing these technology trends together. This is done by standardizing the manufacturing IT architecture, selecting a few standard technologies, and integrating them together.
These together address all the trends with an easily deployable package, providing the pros of both on-site and cloud IoT functionality. The combination should enable a standard but flexible, user-centric solution with full execution and analytics capabilities and user-enabled, low-code design of the processes.
Based on MESA International’s Maturity Model, gaining the business benefits with digitalization requires changes to structure, people and processes in addition to implementing new IT solutions. In other words, the digitalization journey is not just about IT. It is all about structure, people, processes, and IT working well together. Aligning all four is possible for as long as the project is not set up as an IT project but instead as an operations improvement program.
The best results can be gained with a three-step approach:
- Appointing organization and structure (project & run) and ensuring the commitment of all the key people from shop floor to top floor and change management. The ability and power to make difficult decisions is important, especially when standardizing the processes across multiple operations, lines and sites. Commitment of people from various functions is essential to create enough knowledge about the best practices suitable for most of the locations.
- Definition of the standardized processes and best practices based on the experiences from all operations/sites. Enforcing the process maturity improvement on all sites towards these best practices. This means that the highest maturity level processes on any line/site must be identified, recognized as the new standard way of working, and then deployed to other operations. A suitable piece of process for standardization can be, for example, a material receiving process or work order starting procedure.
- Deployment of the high maturity processes and ways of working to all sites based on a flexible digitalization platform with seamless integration between shop floor and top floor. The final step is the actual digitalization, where the enhanced processes are deployed with a new, human-centric way of working. The system should enforce the new processes with as less variation possibilities as possible.
These steps should be a joint effort of the manufacturing company and the MES services provider. Both are equally needed and responsible for execution. However, the benefit of an experienced service provider is their ability to bring long experience and standard project methodologies to enforce these steps. The picture below presents an example of the Roima Standard Approach for MES Project, including full support for all the aforementioned steps.
This process also has a strong link to the previously defined technology trends. The standardization and visual configuration (democratization, low-code) of the business processes go hand in hand. The following picture illustrates one example of easy visual configuration of business processes in AVEVA MES.
With a visual process configuration tool, what you see is what you get; the discussion about the standardized process is much easier between the process owner and IT when everyone can see and understand how the system is actually working in relation to real life. That is not possible with traditional code-based system functionality. Moreover, the visual configuration also enables efficient changes in multi-site deployments, as well as more customer involvement and a better understanding of the solution.
The multi-site approach requires template management capabilities. This means that the standardized process templates must be centrally managed with the ability to do adaptation for each site. The central template management with site adaptation is visualized in the following figure.
Typically, the standard template can only cover 80% of the process, while 20% is enhanced in the site deployment phase on a site-by-site basis. This requires that the technology enables central configuration combined with inheritance and enhancements on site level, still retaining the corporate level configurability.
In addition to background business processes, a collective way of building user experience is required to meet the requirements for human centricity. The design of the user interface typically widely involves the end users. Modern MES systems enable the visual configuration of a modern user interface that can be used independently with any end point device. Examples of modern AVEVA and Roima user interfaces are presented in the following image.
If you think that your business could benefit from meeting the business trends, taking advantage of technology trends or just enabling continuous improvement in manufacturing, a MES initiative might be interesting to look into. If your processes are already running a monitoring and control system (SCADA), you might want to consider the possibilities for extending your existing SCADA to a full-blown MES. If, in turn, you are interested in a fresh start, I recommend watching Roima’s Multi-Site MES and Discrete MES webinars to learn about the Multi-Site MES approach, high-end user interface, and low-code visual configuration.
To be able to increase Competitive Advantage while manufacturing is continuously evolving in accordance with business trends and while we simultaneously continue to face rapid and unforeseen deviations caused by global pandemics and climate change, we need Continuous Improvement. The foundation of continuous improvement is accurate real-time information that can drive immediate actions on shop floor and management, enabled only by sufficient digitalization in manufacturing.
The first step in the manufacturing digitalization is the connected shop floor enabled by the Manufacturing Execution System (MES) that is responsible for connecting people, equipment and IT systems together, executing the production, and providing feedback to all the other systems and to the Internet of Things. A well-selected MES can be easily deployed to multiple sites or extended with other solutions, such as Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) cloud solutions like Microsoft Azure IoT.
A well-tested combination, for example in Process Industries, is the full stack of AVEVA Software described in the following figure.
AVEVA MES and OSIsoft together with Microsoft Azure IoT constitute the Industry Best Practice for Manufacturing Digitalization, trusted by many leading process (CPG, Forest, Pulp, Paper, Metals, Mining) manufacturers worldwide. For more information about the benchmark architecture, take a look at Roima’s webinars on AVEVA MES, Azure IoT and AVEVA OSIsoft.
The right combination of Gartner Leader software ensures that all the future development according to technology trends is guaranteed. It also proves that the low-code configurability and template approach are enabled by the technology. These benefits together enable you to increase your competitive advantage. The method and the benefits of the AVEVA MES approach are presented in the following figure, which also summarizes the content of this post.