Thursday, April 20, 2017

Top 3 drivers for MES in Industry 4.0

By Francisco Almada-Lobo, MESA Member and CEO of Critical Manufacturing

MESA’s 2017 Smart Story Awards is now taking submissions until May 31st.  

In an interview with the winners of the 2016 Smart Story Awards, the top winning story from Critical Manufacturing raised some questions about Industry 4.0. More specifically, attendees wanted to know what are the Industry 4.0 drivers for MES. Here's the full answer:

Doesn’t Industry 4.0 eliminate the need for MES? With the decentralization into a shop-floor marketplace connected by industrial internet of things (IIoT), some may argue that plant information can go directly into enterprise systems. Even I thought that at first, but now I see: the Industry 4.0 vision cannot be achieved at all without an MES.

What are some of the main drivers behind a need for MES in an Industry 4.0 environment? Here are 3 basic drivers: context, control and certainty.
  1. Context: IoT data needs contextual information to be useful. MES provides that.
  2. Control: Even with autonomous entities, the shop floor still needs to be monitored and controlled. MES does that.
  3. Certainty: Enterprise or manufacturing-wide processes still need to be followed. MES ensures that.
It’s not necessarily full control of the processes (that’s autonomously decided), but rather providing sufficient contextual information to support decision making. Simply putting data collection from IoT devices connected to Big data structures in the cloud will not yield a fraction of the potential benefits.

For example, let’s say a temperature sensor IoT is attached to a machine collecting data from the equipment every six seconds. It can send that raw data to the cloud for analysis, and there’s some potential benefit from comparing profiles of different machines or product models over long periods of time. However, if there’s additional context (i.e., frequency of maintenance; the material types and quantities that the machine has processed; the recipe used on those processes and machines; the other engineering data values), the company can make many more useful decisions with all of that in context.

Those using virtual or augmented reality (VR or AR) have even more obvious drivers for MES. The detailed information on the different elements/entities of the shop-floor need permanent, constantly updated digital information on the physical and business processes. This is the information that is used in simulation or other VR scenarios, but also superimposed on the images collected in AR scenarios and that truly enrich it for monitoring, controlling and optimizing the shop-floor activities.

Context, control and certainty are the basis for successful manufacturing operations. This is the path to quality of product and process. It’s also key to efficiency and the ability to validate or audit processes. And it’s certainly the foundation for continuous improvement. Anyone who has tried to conduct a Six Sigma project without context has discovered that. Every decision in the business relies on context, and plans on certainty that processes will be executed as expected.

MES is an essential element of any Industry 4.0 strategy, and it requires an especially evolved type of MES that considers the following aspects: Logical Decentralization, Cloud and Advanced Analytics, Connectivity and Mobile, Vertical Integration, and Horizontal Integration.


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