Leveraging Production Information

June 1, 2004
Manufacturers operate in an environment that requires an exchange of information across all domains of the manufacturing enterprise.

As manufacturers move into a global business climate that demands the integration of manufacturing operations and business systems, collaboration must move beyond hype and buzzwords to become a commonplace reality. This path transcends applications and systems. Manufacturers recognize that each and every process provides a vital link to real-time data for the enterprise as a whole, which is especially critical with the move toward Real-time Performance Management (RPM) that uses dynamic performance targets to drive an enterprise to its optimum potential and competitive advantage. This is driving manufacturers toward real-time-based solutions at the manufacturing and enterprise level, a space served by Manufacturing Performance Services (MPS) software.

Manufacturing Performance Services software is an indispensable component of Collaborative Production Management systems. It provides a common basis for using manufacturing information, from the plant floor to enterprise systems and business partners. Supporting the enterprise’s information and visualization requirements places new demands on manufacturing, and typically requires the coordination of disparate sources and platforms. Fact-based analysis drives consensus and improvement, which is impossible without the real-time connection of both enterprise systems and the plant floor.

Manufacturing information is provided to people, processes, and applications through this software, delivering new performance capability to users at the plant level and throughout the distributed manufacturing enterprise and supply network. Real-time data collection and connectivity at the plant floor, establishing operational context, and exposing manufacturing information to the rest of the enterprise are benefits of implementing manufacturing performance services software.

Tapping all operational areas, including production, planning, quality, engineering, inventory/materials management, and maintenance and asset management applications, these solutions typically scale to work across multiple plants and locations. Benefits can include higher levels of production, better asset utilization, reduced production cost, improved local decision-making and improved service to customers.

Scalability, management and deployment, and common context of data across multiple facilities are proving to be very important for large manufacturers. Some manufacturers look for a standardized data model to support this kind of functionality. Another approach is to integrate elements of synchronized business processes, manufacturing-initiated supply chain alerts or events, and new business processes to support operations/manufacturing based on existing sources of data.

Until a few years ago, the only place where plant floor information from a multitude of sources could be found in a single location was in the production management system. Many collaborative production management/manufacturing execution system (CPM/MES) suppliers even positioned themselves as a solution to the “spaghetti integration” problems manufacturers faced when trying to pull together information from many sources. Often, this was based more on the idea that CPM products provided a centralizing application, rather than any specific integration or information management functionality. Today, however, CPM products are quite likely to have these functionalities.

More recently, a small number of suppliers took a narrowly focused approach, initially concentrating on the data, its manufacturing context, and serving it up to people and applications. Over time, these pioneers were able to establish a new approach to dealing with manufacturing information, based on the use of new technologies. They are now adding even more value for their customers by supplying additional modules to allow users throughout the plant or extended enterprise to enhance manufacturing performance using decision support, analysis, quality or other packaged functionality that leverages the newly available information. In the meantime, many startups are targeting the niche.

Another group of suppliers has also targeted this niche, and they are sure to have an impact. Traditional human-machine interface and supervisory control and data acquisition (HMI/SCADA) companies have awakened to the realization that they are well positioned to create and offer manufacturing performance services software solutions to their existing channel and customers. Most, if not all, of these suppliers now have an active MPS software program underway.

Greg Gorbach, [email protected], is director of Collaborative Manufacturing Research, and Craig Resnick, [email protected], is Director of Research, at ARC Advisory Group.

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