Today, most businesses are leveraging cloud technology in some fashion, notably in sales and marketing functions, and enjoying the benefits of an architecture that reduces cost, complexity and risk. Increasing automation and a growing number of devices enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT) are also transforming the business landscape, especially in manufacturing. Yet there remains uncertainty for manufacturers in how they can leverage both cloud computing and automation in the developing IoT landscape.
The reality for manufacturers today is that they cannot gain all of the advantages envisioned by the cloud, automation and IoT if these technologies aren’t working together in an orchestrated, collaborative, intelligence-enabled manner across disciplines (operations, planning, design, quality, etc.). In addition, there is an increasing need for seamless communication across the layers of technology—from enterprise systems like enterprise resource planning (ERP), product lifecycle management (PLM) and manufacturing execution systems (MESs) to the automation layer, including equipment, controllers and sensors. When we talk about adding the complexity and Big Data introduced by the IoT, the need for an orchestration layer is critical.
The orchestration layer required for the manufacturing space to realize the benefits of both cloud and automation is provided through the solutions comprising manufacturing operations management (MOM). The solutions encompassed by MOM include MESs, quality management systems (QMSs), advanced planning and scheduling (APS), equipment maintenance and manufacturing intelligence.
Let’s explore what’s introduced by the IoT in an automation context—what’s commonly referred to as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Smart machines, smart products, smart materials, smart devices—these create a huge amount of data from the shop floor that can be shared via the cloud to inform other parts of the product lifecycle, such as design, sales and supply chain. The promise of this kind of intelligence includes significant cost savings from predictive maintenance, improved safety, resource optimization, proactive scheduling and other operational efficiencies, as well as product quality improvements. It is foundational to creating a smarter decision-making environment.
So how does all this data get to the cloud and inform those other manufacturing enterprise functions with the appropriate context and intelligence? MOM.
MOM translates the information from machines, products, people and processes to serve up relevant intelligence to the other functions of the manufacturing enterprise in a contextually meaningful way. While MOM orchestrates production, it is collecting data across every aspect of the production process. MOM understands the manufacturing context and interprets events and patterns for consumption by other systems. Simply put, MOM turns Big Data into smart data before it goes to the cloud.
The amount of IIoT-enabled data is tremendous and is created in various formats and structures that are not readily understood by other enterprise systems. Of course, protocols and standards are being developed to address the data transformation and enable devices to talk to each other. But MOM has done this for decades and will continue to serve this function well into the future.
MOM does a lot more than data translation, however. Let’s take a closer look at some of the MOM functions that will be critical in an IIoT environment with cloud connectivity. MOM will serve to:
- Store, aggregate, correlate and transmit production and IIoT data
- Share information for rapid order and new product cycles
- Assure and enforce quality processes and analysis
- Automate track, trace and genealogy for compliance
- Understand the intended design of a particular part as translated from design
- Monitor performance with manufacturing intelligence
- Keep plants agile in an environment of rapid change
- Act as a proxy for smart products and ensure data flow for devices and machines that are not smart
These types of capabilities are not yet part of generic IIoT platforms today. An IIoT platform usually does not generate real synergy in and of itself. It is connecting devices together—the connection itself does not create the synergy. The MOM translation and contextualization is what can deliver data in the right context and format to an IoT platform—as analytics and algorithms for artificial intelligence (AI).
How will MOM evolve over time? Depending on the evolution of technology and the understanding of benefits to specific industries, MOM is taking and will take different forms, some of which will inevitably be in the cloud. We are already seeing parts of MOM in the cloud, such as manufacturing intelligence with cutting-edge IoT operating systems. But MOM can’t be consumed by other applications. The functions it performs will remain fundamental to the manufacturing process. The role of MOM is and will continue to be the translation of information from the digital world to the physical world (design to manufacturing) and back again (feedback to design on manufacturing performance).
So, if you hear debates about whether MOM will go away as a result of IIoT, you now know the reality. Cloud-specific applications will not be able to handle the complexity of what MOM does for a long, long time. Meanwhile, MOM will be evolving to the IoT and the cloud. Your investment in MOM today will continue to pay off well into the future.
>>Raffaello Lepratti has been a member of the board of directors for MESA International since 2016. He is also vice president of MOM business development and marketing for Siemens PLM Software. He has a degree in electrical engineering and a Ph.D. in advanced human-machine collaboration.