The phrase “smart manufacturing” has been heard everywhere this past year, and has become part of every discussion related to manufacturers’ need for a manufacturing execution system (MES) or manufacturing operations management (MOM). Some might be under the impression that smart manufacturing has done away with the need for MES to support the coordination of operations processes, but in my opinion that is not the case.
After discussing a few key words back and forth and explaining the importance for each word in the definition, we converged on a sentence that allowed us to encompass the different dimensions and differentiators. Not a catchy phrase but a short sentence that can be used to start the conversation and make some very important points to distinguish Smart Manufacturing efforts from automation efforts of the past two decades. Smart Manufacturing sets a new bar for connectivity and integration.
According to a recent white paper from MESA International, “Smart manufacturing is the endeavor to design, deploy, connect and manage enterprise manufacturing operations and systems that enable proactive management of the manufacturing enterprise through informed, timely (as close to real time as possible), in-depth decision execution.”
The focus of smart manufacturing, therefore, is about the availability of information allowing timely and correct decisions to optimize competitiveness. The scope of influence of the definition obviously goes beyond the simple production operations, and is interested instead in the company as a whole through the integration of strategic, commercial, organizational design, production and distribution processes.
The creation of a homogenous, harmonious and totally interconnected entity is the great challenge of smart manufacturing.
In this context, MES/MOM systems constitute a fundamental base for every smart production solution. The MES architecture is typically pretty standard. It is an application that depends on a transactional database. The system always has a strong integration with both the field (receiving huge amounts of real-time atomic data) and with the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system (which provides aggregated information).
On the path from the production lines to the ERP system, the collected data are correlated and aggregated for availability to all operators involved in the control chain, enabling them to better manage the production process. An MES does the following:
- Provides information on the efficiency of a machine line or department to allow operators to minimize downtime or waste
- Analyzes the need for raw material of production areas to ensure that it is available when needed while minimizing inventory in warehouses
- Collects and processes information related to the use of raw materials in the production cycle to allow the management system to update the stock availability and correctly the calculate product cost
- Guarantees traceability and tractability to minimize the impact of any recall actions
- Tracks the progress of production to optimize the use of the machines
About the Author
Luigi De Bernardini
After some years working as R&D manager in an industrial automation company, Luigi became CEO of Autoware in 1996 and has been working hands-on as a consultant implementing state of the art solutions for production management, control and MES with a range of companies, small to big multinationals. Autoware is a systems integration company focused on bringing business value and innovation through the implementation of manufacturing systems technology.