Thursday, July 7, 2016

How “Smart” Are We in Manufacturing Today?

By Conrad Leiva, MESA International Board Member and chair of MESA's Smart Manufacturing Working Group

In a prior blog post  we discussed that Smart Manufacturing is not very “smart” if we are not using communication standards to connect equipment, people and processes in the manufacturing enterprise. In this blog post we review the reality of adoption of integration standards in manufacturing based on a recent MESA and IDC Manufacturing Insights survey. The survey was sent to both manufacturers and vendors that provide equipment and software to manufacturing, and the results are shared below.

In early discussions within MESA’s Smart Manufacturing Working Group, we had general consensus based on anecdotal data, that manufacturing enterprises are falling short in some areas to achieve the desired levels of connectivity and orchestration for Smart Manufacturing goals. Do actual survey results validate our assumptions? Yes. But results also revealed a real increased interest in adoption moving forward.

Standards for manufacturing are primarily set by standards organizations and the consensus of the manufacturers, partners and vendors who will be using them. The adoption of such standards can open new market opportunities, especially to small and medium size manufacturers. They reduce the risks for enterprises implementing new technology solutions since they can rely on multiple vendors that support the standards for new smart equipment and connectivity methods.

There are four dimensions of connectivity in Smart Manufacturing explored in this survey:

#1. Machine Automation Connectivity - Adoption of machine-to-machine (M2M) and machine-to-application (M2A) communication standards that are evolving around the initiatives of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and include standards like OPC UA and MT Connect and the efforts of groups like the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC). These standards will enable multi-vendor hardware and software plug and play solutions.

#2. Production Systems Connectivity - These include application-to-application (A2A) messaging standards that link business applications dedicated to managing the shop floor and support functions including Production Control, Scheduling, Inventory, Quality, Tooling, Workforce Management, and Plant Maintenance. Standards in this layer include ISA95, MIMOSA, and OAGIS.

#3. Digital Thread Connectivity - Data messaging standards that create a digital thread of communications from product definition in engineering systems to manufacturing and inspection processes. Standards that not only distribute the product 3D definition but also communicate changes and record production history for traceability and archival purposes.  These include linking engineering to manufacturing and inspection systems. Standards in this layer include ISO 10303 STEP, ISO 14306 JT 3D visualization, and ISO 32000 for PDF archival of product history.

# 4. Value Chain Connectivity – Adoption of business-to-business (B2B) integration standards with open integration platforms to the internet for value chain collaboration. The goal is to move business transactions to structured B2B communications and not rely on unstructured phone and email communications which are longer to process, can fall through the cracks, and are subject to misinterpretation. OAGIS standards are widely used for B2B communications.
Figure 1. Overall standards adoption results
The overall results in Figure 1 show that the current use of standards for integration is low in all four areas. However, the good news is that going forward there is a clear desire for more standards-based integration in all areas. Lower targets in the supply chain integration area are expected since most companies want to get their internal systems connected before moving into initiatives to connect the value chain.

Figure 2. Manufacturers’ standards adoption results

Over 60% of manufacturers are planning to enhance the adoption of standards-based integration in the next five years in the areas of machine integration, digital thread, and enterprise systems integration. However, the survey confirms that when it comes to the supply chain, standards-based communications are minimal. This is an area that needs improvement to deliver on the vision of the connected value chain for Smart Manufacturing.

Figure 3. Vendors’ standards adoption results
The survey shows that vendors of hardware and software are slightly ahead of manufacturers’ adoption plans in enabling standards-based integration in most areas. The area of most mature standards-based integration support is for the integration among production systems where standards like ISA95 and OAGIS are currently supported by 28% of vendors. However, vendors seem to be lagging in the area of supply-chain integration behind the plans of manufacturers. Figure 4 shows some results from a recent MESA-Gartner survey indicating that there is a lot of interest in supply chain collaboration.

Figure 4. Manufacturers show deep interest for supply chain collaboration in this MESA-Gartner survey
To make the Smart Manufacturing vision a reality, manufacturers, equipment vendors and software vendors must all embrace standards-based messaging for connecting the resources, applications and partner ecosystem. This survey confirms that there is a desire to move forward in that direction and much work ahead to realize the vision. Achieving these goals will translate to measureable improvements in these areas:

  • Acceleration time to market for innovative products
  • Future-proofing the IT investment with flexibility to easily switch best-in-class functional modules
  • Reducing total cost of ownership with simplified management across the platform by leveraging plug and play integration
  • Ensuring tight integration between enterprise applications and operational systems at the shop floor
  • Increasing speed and accuracy throughout the extended value chain
  • Gaining insight you can act on with metrics acquired directly from transacting the business process model

The full MESA/Gartner Business Value of MES 2015 Survey can be found here:

About the Author

Conrad Leiva is VP Product Strategy and Alliances at iBASEt. Conrad consults many Aerospace & Defense companies on how to streamline the paperwork and information flow among Planning, Inventory, Quality, Production and Supply Chain disciplines. Recently, his work has focused on manufacturing intelligence and the digital thread between engineering, business, and manufacturing systems working with PLM and ERP partners. Conrad is on the International Board of Directors at MESA International and is Chairman of the MESA Smart Manufacturing Working Group.


“Smart Manufacturing Isn’t So Smart Without Standards”, Frechette, Morris, and Lu from NIST, at, 2016

 “IDC Game Changing Tech on the Shop Floor 2015 Survey Overview”, IDC Manufacturing Insights at, 2016

“2015 MESA/Gartner Business Value of MES Survey”, Gartner at, 2016

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