Collaborative Operations Management

Managing manufacturing operations based on knowledge about real-time processes and information from a variety of sources allows manufacturers to effectively react to changes in demand and the “ecosystem,” to compete at high levels, and to enhance profitability.

Doing so across complex or distributed operations is the heart of Collaborative Manufacturing. In practice, it requires integration based on interoperability and standards, as well as appropriate production management software and plant-level information technology (IT) platforms. This must extend broadly to design and engineering, the supply network, logistics and transportation systems, asset management, other operational systems, and multiple plants and applications. It must also extend to manufacturing equipment, radio-frequency identification (RFID), mobile devices, and all other real-time, real-world information sources.

To improve performance, manufacturers need a software approach that is consistent with their distributed operational activities. They need a way to drive specific process improvements at each plant, while monitoring activities and facilitating appropriate operating decisions among complex hierarchies, regions, business units and operating structures. Spending for maintenance of systems and applications must be rationalized.

Holistic view

A holistic view of manufacturing, Collaborative Manufacturing Management (CMM), provides a means for thinking about all of the complex interactions, applications and processes that manufacturing entails. It is the practice of managing for best performance by controlling the key boundary-crossing business and manufacturing processes of a manufacturing enterprise. CMM leverages new technologies to build robust relationships with trading partners. CMM knits together internal manufacturing and business processes, and connects them seamlessly and in synchrony with external business processes of customers and strategic partners.

Collaborative Production Management (CPM) refers to the application of collaborative manufacturing principles to the management of manufacturing processes. Production management solutions are typically comprised of a suite of applications that provides planning, execution, tracking, reporting, compliance assurance and optimizing of manufacturing processes.

Production management systems are not standalone. They must integrate with plant-floor control systems and other plant applications, business systems, engineering systems, and maintenance systems. Increasingly, CPM also plays a platform or infrastructure role.

Most manufacturers recognize that their enterprise-level IT systems will need to migrate to new technologies over the next few years, but many haven’t yet considered the plant floor implications. A new trend, the plant-level platform, is emerging. Termed operations management platform (OMP), it complements the new enterprise platforms.

In order to better respond to customer needs and market forces, manufacturers are striving to become more “adaptive” or “collaborative.” This requires better connectivity and seamless interactions between business and production systems. Achieving better connectivity has meant custom integration, often done without much thought about business processes. These custom integrations tend to be expensive to create and maintain, time consuming to build, and inflexible.

Interoperability is defined as “the ability of plant-level production applications and business systems to share information and exchange services with each other based on standards, and to cooperate in processes using the information and services.” Supply chain performance, regulatory compliance, quality and traceability are among the forces driving the need for increased integration and interoperability between business and production manufacturing software applications.

Greg Gorbach, ggorbach@arcweb.com, is vice president of Collaborative Manufacturing at ARC Advisory Group.

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