It is estimated that by 2020 more than 20 billion industrial smart devices will be on the plant floor. Such growth of connected and information-rich automation systems is already creating new opportunities for companies to encourage workflow adherence, and to expand their ability to pull, analyze, contextualize and share data.
Thanks to the advancements in computing technology, operational intelligence has become a reality. It taps into all the fast-changing data in the business, shows real-time information, analyzes problems and identifies solutions.
With operational intelligence, from the plant floor to management level, everyone will be given the visibility, insight, and support that they need to make decisions faster and manage the business better.
However, modern technologies deliver more data than operations managers can possibly handle at once. Even the short list of supporting technologies is long: distributed control systems (DCS), manufacturing execution systems (MES) and programmable logic controller (PLC), etc.
For example, there are different MES solutions that are available for companies to implement using outside vendors, while some solutions are customized to production processes. Since no system can be defined as “out-of-the-box,” manufacturers might find it challenging when choosing a system that works best for the company and its operations.
Pioneering New-Gen MES Platform
About a decade ago, Rockwell Automation was committed to a rollout of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that would normalize multiple systems that spanned the globe.
In order to make additional improvements within manufacturing operations, a five-year plan to restructure the facilities and supplier network was developed.
To address and improve the technology component in the plan, Rockwell Automation focused on updating the different manufacturing execution systems throughout its plants and facilities.
The primary goal was to gain a detailed view of the enterprise that would allow plant managers, supervisors and operators to read and respond to actionable information promptly.
After a long period of development, Rockwell Automation has pioneered a new generation of MES platform that includes both an execution system for the plant floor as well as the rich functionality of application software.
This new MES contains vertical industry-specific content designed to meet specific business and production needs of key industry segments, including automotive, pharmaceutical, and food and beverage.
It also allows companies to continuously upgrade their additional MES applications. Reducing variation and increasing information visibility at each operation site would let managers and operators measure production efficiencies and inefficiencies. Hence, it gives an all-encompassing view into operations and a companywide benchmark to measure success.
Improvements through MES
MES provides manufacturers an experience of The Connected Enterprise® by closing the information loop from execution through data management. It offers standard application library suites for common functions from a multitude of industries.
Moreover, the Rockwell Automation MES suite of applications is designed to help provide distinct functions such as quality and performance management. More specifically, an advanced and scalable MES can help companies:
- Achieve operational excellence: Optimize throughput and improve asset efficiency by leveraging fixed and variable manufacturing assets such as materials, machinery efficiency, manpower, and energy spend. Increase yield while reducing losses and improving first-pass quality, without affecting on-time delivery.
- Improve supply chain effectiveness: By collecting production data in context, operators can quickly and easily recognize deviations from performance targets to understand the root causes of operational issues – enabling manufacturers to reduce their impact and increase supply chain effectiveness. Maintain accurate inventory levels by controlling the scheduling and execution of plant assets and tracking material production and consumption.
- Comply with regulations and trading partner reporting requirements: Take control of vendor compliance, product safety, genealogy and traceability with better reporting and documentation via a proven Manufacturing Operation Management solution from Rockwell Automation.
- Meet sustainability goals: Gain a greater understanding of the effect of production on water, air, gas, electricity and steam use, so that manufacturers can gain control of resources, drive equipment improvements, and maximize company’s achievement of sustainability goals.
The Rockwell Automation MES solutions are configurable; therefore manufacturers can pick and choose the specific values or characteristics that fit their processes. This function allows companies to get a faster result since they can use a pull-down menu or type in values to design their system.
MES Lifecycle Best Practices
Sophisticated manufacturers have realized the value of good real-time data, yet few have found the ideal solution mix for their operations to achieve comprehensive and successful automated production.
When choosing an MES, companies should think about long-term system maintenance and prepare for solution upgrades. Customized systems may need extensive engineering to upgrade or replace altogether.
Software from Rockwell Automation works primarily through a basic platform but has the ability to incorporate add-ons. This way, companies are getting high quality manufacturing that matches their production targets while retaining the ability to easily upgrade their basic system.
A clearly defined user requirement specification (URS) is crucial to successful MES usage because it can provide a better understanding of MES possibilities. Thus, this will help a company leverage as much as they can from their investment.
Along with a well-defined URS, unmet goals, unreliability, or any complications with IT or data configuration should be recognized, so that production managers may determine the need for upgrades or overall replacement of the MES.
Many legacy systems will require engineering efforts, but at Rockwell Automation, companies will receive help with system upgrading by updating the basic software. This will save a company money and time by only upgrading or replacing the additional app suite attached to the software.
Each company will have its own set of implementation and upgrade criteria, but it is important to remember that outdated systems may not adhere to production compliance or data quality. For this and many reasons, it is important to have a plan in place in the event of an MES upgrade or replacement to quickly and compliantly resume production.
Gain Operational Intelligence
The right MES can streamline production processes and enable optimization that saves companies cost and time while standardizing product quality and data formation.
Besides taking control of the manufacturing process, more and more manufacturers are eager to leverage MES, to link business systems like ERP with real-time, operational, plant-control systems. In addition to vertical industry functionality, the Rockwell Automation MES integrates smoothly with ERP systems, as well as with automation devices on the plant floor.
Many new smart devices are added every day, but few enterprises leverage the full capabilities of those devices. Meanwhile, ERP is finally reaching maturity, exposing potential gaps in efficiency.
MES can be said as particularly essential to smart machines, ERP systems and production lines. The systems link up processes and are crucial for enabling operations to run without a break and for achieving operational excellence.
Acting as a powerful linkage and a single source of manufacturing information, an effective MES helps manufacturers optimize production quality by providing real-time information anywhere and anytime, as well as the process enforcement and plant floor control.
As the workplace and the workforce are changing, smart manufacturers should start addressing the presented challenges with dexterity, and realizing the value of operational intelligence to achieve improvements and efficiencies.