The Internet of Things and Manufacturing Operations Management

Manufacturing operations management systems are not going away. In fact, many experts expect them to evolve into key components of Internet of Things applications.

Tom Muth, Epicor Software
Tom Muth, Epicor Software

More than 40 percent of organizations expect the Internet of Things (IoT) to transform their business or offer significant new revenue or cost-savings opportunities over the next three years, according to industry analyst firm Gartner. Though IoT is still in the early adoption stage, manufacturers have been integrating data from sensors and instrumentation on the shop floor via manufacturing operations management (MOM) systems for many years. This makes it all the more important that manufacturers have a solid understanding of the differences between MOM systems and industrial IoT platforms. Both have their strengths and play a role in delivering key insights to improve real-time performance and operational visibility to enable the smart, connected manufacturing enterprise.

At first glance, robust MOM solutions provide some of the key functionalities associated with IoT platforms. However, most MOM systems fall short on four components: connectivity, cloud, Big Data analytics and application development. And it is these capabilities that define an industry IoT platform, according to research firm LNS Research in its report, “The Impact of the IoT on MOM Solutions” (this research was sponsored by Epicor Software).

Manufacturers have traditionally procured production devices that have then been gradually integrated via controllers and/or MOM systems. As IoT platforms and enabled devices are implemented, however, manufacturers will experience faster integration and application development. Access to all the device’s data and functionality from the IoT platform will allow uses that cannot yet be imagined.

What is vital is that these device functions and information will be available to apps at the IoT platform level rather than just in the plant. Of course, this does not mean that plant controllers and MOM systems will give up control authority, but it will open up a different approach to the functionality that today runs almost exclusively on MOM systems.

The general consensus today is that MOM systems are not going away anytime soon. It is expected that they will continue to act as components of a hybrid traditional/IoT solution. To this end, manufacturers should consider IoT strategies alongside continued MOM investment. This approach allows manufacturers more flexibility, better performance and reduced cost in running their plants. And it is also safe to assume that changes will continue to be made to legacy platforms, leading to ever-increasing agility and integration, thereby providing manufacturers direct access to data to make better and more informed decisions.

“Some typical plant functionality, such as manufacturing intelligence and quality, will be some of the first to move onto the IoT platform as they will then be able to integrate with their enterprise counterparts and provide a far higher level of functionality and business benefit,” LNS Research says. As the need to apply traditional control hierarchies to the flow of non-control-related information erodes, the IoT platform will increasingly provide direct access to information on the shop floor. However, control and other time-critical applications will remain firmly in the plant for the foreseeable future.

This understanding of how MOM and IoT complement one another can benefit manufacturers greatly. Manufacturers that support their MOM solution with an industrial IoT platform will gain a key competitive advantage—improved operational efficiency, productivity and the agility to support current and future manufacturing needs.

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