Many companies have started thinking, at the highest level, on their future positioning. They were motivated by many initiatives supported by governments—Industry 4.0 in Germany, Smart Manufacturing in the United States, “Usine du futur” in France.
The objective of these discussions is to rethink the customer-supplier relationships in order to sustain and re-energize the activities of companies in a context of ultra-competitive globalization. It means that production processes need to be agile enough to enable fast introduction of new products or flexibility in production planning changes. Therefore, it is a question of making maximum use out of the right digital technologies that are essential for the implementation of these new concepts.
The answers, given by those who succeeded in their approach, are made visible by a significant business transformation. From selling a product, the business is moving to selling a service (product-as-a-service). Michelin, which sells travelled kilometers or a number of landings, is an often-cited example of this transformation of the customer-supplier relationship.
This rethinking activity can also help in relocating production activities next to the customers, solving at the same time some environmental issues or reducing the time to market delay.
Impacts on production
The change in the relationship between customers and suppliers obviously has a direct impact on the production shop floor. In any case, the transformation of the company will be a success but only if the production becomes sufficiently agile. In other words, it is able to make smaller series (especially in Europe to cover multiple languages and regulations) and customize mass products while keeping competitive production costs.
Therefore, the solution involves reviewing operations within the company, underpinned by a high level of standardization of the production processes and of the performance indicators that have been defined in line with the company's strategy.
The use of the ISA-95 standard in support of the modeling/standardization exercise of the company's activities is more than ever meaningful!
Important parts of the information system
Manufacturing execution system (MES) and manufacturing operations management (MOM) are both central and key elements of the information system.
The implementation of redesigned processes in the field necessarily involves digitization and a revision of the architecture of industrial information systems. MES/MOM software has a central location in architecture as it is the orchestrator of production activities, supporting operators in collaboration with supply chain, quality, and maintenance teams. The implementation of a MES/MOM software, enhanced by new technologies such as Internet of Things connectivity, augmented reality (Human-Machine Interface), artificial intelligence, opens the door to a pro-active supervision. MES software is no longer just a reporting tool. Through a real-time view of the planning, it gives visibility on what will be the short term. In particular, the system is highlighting predictable hazards such as conflict in resource allocation and giving plant supervisors the time to think and take the best decision from a unified environment.
In this context, the MES/MOM software is the main element that will allow the transformation of customer-supplier relationships. It becomes an essential element while conducting production activities, just like programmable logic controllers!
In addition, MES/MOM is building the lake of production data, on which scientists can run AI algorithms and discover correlation between unexpected process signals. This aspect is the basis of the continuous improvement initiative and allows permanent improvements on the performance indicators.
The approach presented here is often crucial to the survival of the company in a very competitive world. Treating it in the right order is the key to success.
Even though MES/MOM software is now mature and ready to quickly support flexible processes, digital transformation is a process that takes time (minimum 2 years from first decision) and requires the mobilization of all departments of the company!
>>Michel Devos, email@example.com, is MESA EMEA Board vice president at MESA.