Going Beyond MES/MOM to Smart Manufacturing

April 17, 2015
Smart Manufacturing combines agility and responsiveness, the digital factory and knowledge workers to optimize processes.

Set your sights on Smart Manufacturing. I know what you might be thinking… “Great, yet another term for the space” or “How does this fit with MES/MOM?”

Before sharing my thoughts on Smart Manufacturing, let’s start with a quick review of MES/MOM functionality. MESA provides a wealth of information related to MES/MOM definition, one of which is the MESA Model. While implementations vary, typically these systems involve one or more of the following functions: product tracking and genealogy, resource allocation and status, performance analysis, process management, data collection acquisition, quality management, labor management, dispatching production units, and logistics.

Notice the one thing these functions have in common is they’re transactional in nature. While it’s critical these systems talk to plant systems (and ERP too), users of MES/MOM systems are most concerned with definition and state. For example, what is the consumption of a particular material or lot? Or what is the BOM or specification for a given material?

By its very nature, the overarching goal of an MES/MOM system is to improve productivity and reduce cycle time (the total time to produce an order). Are these systems achieving that goal? Yes. Gartner and MESA conducted a webcast back in December (“Has MES Come of Age?”) that discusses the benefits and adoption of these systems.

Smart Manufacturing

Though I chose the heading “Smart Manufacturing,” overlapping terms include Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Industry 4.0 and the Model-Based Enterprise. At the core, these have three major components: agility and responsiveness, digital factory, and knowledge workers.

Agility and responsiveness moves past normal continuous improvement principles to ensure manufacturers are proactive in responding to the market. This could be decreasing the time to market (NPI) or understanding the entire supply chain itself to determine causal relationships.

Digital factory is the embodiment of technology and IT systems. It is moving beyond traditional automation system connectivity within the plant to information contained in other backend systems, such as ERP, WMS, PLM and QMS. Also included are concepts such as cloud systems, connectivity to systems outside the four walls of a manufacturing site.

Knowledge workers are the critical base upon which manufacturers of the future will quickly learn, adapt and leverage new technologies. “Worker” isn’t a reference to the old-style thinking of low-wage, low-skilled labor and mass production, but rather an educated worker empowered with decision-making capability no matter the volume produced. Knowledge workers could be design engineers, management or data scientists. Their goal is to support agility and responsiveness with data supplied via the digital factory.

As opposed to MES/MOM systems, Smart Manufacturing data is not largely transactional, but rather the use of process data to effect a change or improvement on the process itself—for example, understanding the correlation between a given SKU or batch performance based on data that comes from both the control system and the supply chain. Ultimately, Smart Manufacturing systems will close the loop and automatically adjust the process in near real time based on inputs from data originating in a variety of systems.

Smart Manufacturing is coming to both large and small manufacturers. It is not a replacement for MES/MOM systems, but rather the natural extension to optimize the processes used within manufacturing.

Just as it did with MES/MOM, MESA will play a critical role providing a venue for collaboration and shaping the definition of Smart Manufacturing. Additionally, MESA is a valuable resource to learn more on these topics via its Resource Library and education programs. I encourage you to join MESA and help us shape the future of manufacturing. For greater participation, there are roles available within either the Education Committee and/or the Smart Manufacturing Working Group.

>>Jimmy Asher, [email protected], is director of product strategy for Savigent Software, which provides a software platform for workflow automation, manufacturing intelligence and systems integration. He also serves on the MESA International Board as treasurer and various MESA committees.

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