The CEO’s key requirements from the IT department are innovation, collaboration, compliance. IT projects in manufacturing have the potential to realize these and much more. Consider the words of the Quality Guru Edward Deming who said, “you cannot improve what you cannot see.”
IT Projects in Manufacturing should similarly help you see what you need to improve and help you systematize your improvements.
Solutions for automating of processes will be the difference between manufacturers who will prosper in the near future, and those who won’t.
As market dynamics continue shifting toward shorter product lifecycles, smaller production runs, greater emphasis on quality and more complicated regulatory requirements, only automated data collection and processing in a proactively managed continuously available environment offers the agility, manufacturers need to survive.
Minimum Manufacturing Expectations
What should be the minimum expectations for manufacturing companies thinking about automation on the shop floor? I can list at least four of them:
- Improve productivity and yields
- Reduce errors leading to losses & scrap
- Shorten cycle times
- Streamline regulatory reporting
Other Push Factors
In an EMS (Electronic Manufacturing Services) company where I worked a few years back, the internal and customer push factors for hi-tech companies apart from those mentioned above were:
- Improve inventory accuracy
- Increase visibility of work-in-process (WIP)
- Eliminate spreadsheets and redundant documents
- Engineering Change Note (ECN) Control
- Incoming material quality
- Enforcing Approved Vendor List (AVL) and routing
- Machine set up
Ideal Results, and Benefits
According to MESA International, industry averages show that for high-volume manufacturing, any MES project if executed successfully will yield the following results:
- Reduce work in process by 20%
- Reduce plant efficiency/downtime by 30%
- Reduce manual data entry time by 75%
- Reduce waste by 15%
These projects include OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness), WIP and genealogy tracking, batch management, reporting & analytics, and integration with business systems.
MES and ERP Integration
Today, it’s completely possible to integrate MES with ERP where systems are complementary and don’t overlap. MES manage workflow at the plant level of an enterprise, working with PLCs, distributed control systems, and batch control systems while ERP systems can also provide supply chain and customer relationship management, as well as some elements of the product lifecycle management. Manufacturers absolutely need to integrate these systems if they have both in-house.
One product working at the plant level which recently caught my eye during a visit to Bengaluru for Unpluggd8 was from Magnetworks. RedBox is the hardware component of the Magnet Works platform. RedBox pairs with a wide variety of sensors, meters, and PLCs and transports machine data to the Magnet Cloud platform.
Access your data securely on any device through the Magnet Cloud platform. With the Magnet Cloud platform, you or your equipment supplier will be remotely able to connect to your PLC in case of a breakdown and diagnose the problem online. The RedBox is compatible with most industry standard output interfaces such as RS485, RS232, Ethernet/IP, Modbus, and Profibus.
In conclusion, manufacturers in India have just scratched the surface in their use of IT, where possibilities such as with Magnetworks include everything from real-time tracking to (off-site) self-monitoring to smart processes and products that detect trouble before plant operators (and consumers) do.