Shop floor data today is being integrated into all facets of the enterprise, from equipment maintenance to quality assurance to improved decision making. And tomorrow’s productivity gains may come from driving plant/enterprise information down to the manufacturing floor, where operators can use it to make on-the-fly decisions.
The life and death of shop floor data no longer begins and ends on the shop floor, as AberdeenGroup recently opined. Yet while shop floor data is now being integrated into all facets of the enterprise, from equipment maintenance to quality assurance to improved decision-making, competitiveness starts on the factory floor.
Plant-level processes and systems must be integrated with the processes and systems of the extended enterprise so that manufacturing operators and business managers alike have better, up-to-date visibility into not only how well a machine or production line is operating in isolation, but how well it is contributing overall to profitability, return on assets and, of course, production goals.
Managing Automation recently surmised:
But manufacturers should not limit their plant/enterprise integration efforts to pushing plant information up the organizational structure for management consumption and decision-making, experts say. Tomorrow’s productivity gains will come as a result of driving consolidated plant/enterprise information down to the manufacturing floor level, where operators can use it to make on-the-fly decisions.
In recent years, several small software vendors introduced solutions that use Internet technologies to gather data from disparate plant-floor systems. Aggregation and analysis of the resulting information, delivered in near-real time as key performance indicators (KPI), allows for quick reactions in dynamic environments, including changes in demand coming down from ERP systems.
Moreover, over the past few years, automation and ERP vendors have taken notice of this. Vendors have offered their own manufacturing solutions, many focused on a particular mode of industry or manufacturing. For instance, Rockwell Software, Invensys Wonderware and Invensys Process Systems are among the major automation vendors to introduce production and performance suites.
Yet, Frank O. Smith in the January issue of Manufacturing Business Technology noted:
A more expansive view of manufacturing intelligence includes other means to the same end, with data integration achieved by plant operations software suites that integrate with third-party systems in a manner similar to solutions from narrowly focused manufacturing intelligence vendors.
Research groups see increasing investment in information technology by manufacturers in 2007. In fact, AMR Research‘s 2006 IT spending survey reveals investments in manufacturing operations capturing the top spot — ahead of ERP— for 2007.
Based on this, as well as productivity issues and the challenges of globalization, a range of technology providers are augmenting their capabilities for manufacturing intelligence in the hopes that manufacturers come a knockin’.
The need for better manufacturing intelligence is a key driver in the emergence of production and performance management suites that have their own common service-oriented architecture (SOA)-based infrastructure, giving manufacturers opportunity to manage data comprehensively while rolling out applications incrementally. Further, this approach is well suited to multi-plant engagements common in an age of globalization.
When speaking of manufacturing intelligence, says AMR Research analyst Alison Smith, generally the following base set of capabilities is expected:
• Aggregate: consolidates information from a variety of real-time and diverse back-end data sources;
• Contextualize: creates and maintains persistent functional/operational relationships between data elements from disparate sources, based on business rules;
• Analyze: transforms raw, aggregated data into real-time performance intelligence through the application of business rules, such as calculating the range of KPIs;
• Visualize: provides intuitive graphical representation of intelligence supporting context-based navigation of information for drill-down amplification from multi-plant representations to individual facilities, and to individual systems of record as required; and
• Propagate: automates the transfer of relevant operations performance information to the business-level systems, including ERP and Enterprise Asset Management (EAM), on an as-needed basis.
Now, although integrating the plant floor and extended enterprise will offer manufacturers promising ways to continue to drive productivity gains, cashing in on the potential is not easy. For one, technology to support such integration — in the form of standards-based SOA and composite applications — is maturing rapidly.
Yet the true challenge will grow out of the cultural changes required to increase collaboration among functional areas of the enterprise. “Managers will need to learn to cede more control to plant operators,” Peter Martin, VP of strategic ventures at Invensys Process Systems, told Managing Automation, “and plant operators and engineers will need to become comfortable being measured and rewarded for their contributions to bottom-line financial results.”
In the end, however, it is as Manufacturing Business Tech‘s Smith wrote: “Integration and collaboration technologies applied to manufacturing systems put emphasis on getting the right information, right now.”
Redefining Manufacturing Productivity
by Jeff Moad
Managing Automation, Nov. 20, 2006
The four things that must be known
by Frank O. Smith
Manufacturing Business Technology, January 2007
MI Roll Call
by Alison Smith, AMR Research
Managing Automation, May 15, 2006