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A truly Industry 4.0-enabled MES needs to have certain key capabilities so as to be ready for the modern manufacturing challenges

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Supply Chain Management Industry 4.0: From concept to reality across the value chain

Dec 18, 2017

Industry 4.0 is increasingly becoming a priority for most high-tech and highly automated industries. The implementation of Industry 4.0 though remains a challenge. The article highlights how Industry 4.0 can be implemented in real time with the help of vertical and horizontal integration across the value chain.

Industry 4.0 ushers in a completely new kind of manufacturing operation, where production moves through a decentralised and dynamic marketplace, where process equipment bid to perform an operation. Everything which pertains to the manufacturing process and even beyond the physical boundaries of a plant is all connected through smart sensors, actuators, the internet, etc. There is a ton of information being generated every second, where decisions related to how a product will move does not depend so much on the traditionally defined workflow, rather on dynamically established most profitable routes through the entire process.

Complex manufacturing operations would become even more complex as lot sizes reduce and increase the pressures on cost and margins, also necessitating that customisation be performed while maintaining the highest quality and lowest possible lead times. Industry 4.0 also demands for smart innovation, where the R&D function needs to perform much faster and speed-to-market might just become the difference between being a market leader or losing out to a faster, leaner and more organised competitor.

New MES: Backbone of Industry 4.0

A truly Industry 4.0-enabled MES needs to have certain key capabilities so as to be ready for the modern manufacturing challenges. The Industry 4.0 MES would need to bring about vertical integration right from automation or individual CPPS to the enterprise level, so that there can be end-to-end connect across the entire organisation. Similarly, the MES would also need to ensure horizontal integration where smart equipment, tools, products, raw materials, carriers and supply chain partners are connected in such a way that an event triggered anywhere in the plant may then be visible through and across the value chain.

Vertical integration

Vertical integration is an enabler for the orchestration of business processes that may be simple or complex but nearly always require multiple layers and groups to be involved. MES has always been the application which integrates the shop-floor to the top-floor, meaning its primary role in an enterprise is to connect the events transpiring in the shop-floor to the enterprise IT applications like the ERP, CRM and SCM.

The MES for an Industry 4.0 fab is expected to communicate with multiple entities in a value chain and then relay actionable information to concerned stakeholders, while reverting back to the shop-floor with the action initiated from a given stakeholder. This is done while maintaining the set rules of authority, security, compliance and organisational policies all at the same time, and also keeping the dynamic production marketplace at the centre of all activities and communication at all times. To be able to do this, the modern MES needs to do a lot more than simply connect the shop-floor to other IT applications.

DEE: Dynamic Engine Execution

An Industry 4.0 ready MES would operate using what is termed as a DEE, which translates to a Dynamic Engine Execution. The MES offers other integrated applications various services both pre-and post-processing, as the decentralised production activities take place and transactions are relayed to multiple systems with relevant context for a particular stakeholder in a particular function of the value chain process. The MES via a DEE may be able to provide information based on pre-set rules to relevant personnel, applications and functionalities, thereby allowing each transaction to have relevance and prompt requisite action.

The MES, if vertically integrated, would immediately report the incident to the maintenance department, while sending an automated notification to the supplier to take requisite action about the faulty part along with the history of previous OOS incidents. Vertical integration results in tangible benefits right from improvement of overall product quality to reduced maintenance cycles, optimised production flow/uptime and clear status of the shop-floor and beyond, by mirroring the entire operation through its own and integrated functional capabilities. Keeping the dynamic production flow at the centre and being able to handle extremely complex data streams would be vital for the future Industry 4.0 MES.

Horizontal integration

As Industry 4.0 spreads across the value chain, all partners will communicate more specifically through digital twins of their operations, visible through the MES. The deployed MES must communicate beyond the enterprise to provide complete horizontal integration.

In a true Industry 4.0 environment, the shopfloor gets converted into a dynamic market place, where the CPPS bid to perform operations on the CPS, all connecting through the MES and the IIoT. The MES has always been a vehicle for integration, both horizontal and vertical. What changes now is the way in which supply chains can be made smarter and leaner through the implementation of the dynamic marketplace concept.

This change in manufacturing practices would demand supply chain partners to follow similar patterns and bid for jobs the same way as the CPPS in the shopfloor does. It would also require the MES to allow partners to access relevant information for them to bid on a job and execute it effectively.

For an MES to be able to provide this kind of transparency, while protecting intellectual property of the organisation and its partners, it needs to have a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). It would allow partners to have secure access to a virtual or digital twin of the plant in a secure and real-time manner, allowing them to run simulations, perform trials and make improvements to existing parts, assemblies and materials on the fly, thereby making the entire supply chain a smart supply chain. This kind of integration goes beyond an individual enterprise and impacts the entire value chain, where the IIoT provides connectivity from end-to-end.

Now, since the stakeholders have access to the CPS and CPPS of the supply chain partners, it allows them to run simulations and make changes to reach the desired level of modification, even without having to pick up the phone and call a supplier or partner. Depending on the capability and availability of machine time, a supplier may bid for the job, perform it and send the requisite part or assembly for further modification to the main manufacturer.

This is the future of manufacturing, where the MES through IIoT, cloud, mobile applications, VR and AR, better vertical and horizontal integration, creates a value chain, which is fully geared up to deal with customisation.

Bringing it all together

First and probably the foremost driver for Industry 4.0 is the requirement of mass customised products. In reality, not all products manufactured today will reduce to a production lot size of one, at least not in the very near future, but having an MES capable of accommodating the requirements placed by being able to mass manufacture goods, even with slight differences in specifications, should be a highly sought-after requirement.

Only an MES which allows for existence of a dynamic marketplace, where transactions happen based on communication between CPS and CPPS, can truly provide the capability of customising each product, while still drawing benefits derived from economies of scale production.

Manufacturing through the MES adapts almost instantaneously to changes, thereby allowing extremely lean supply chains to exist and even thrive. Since the CPS and CPPS of the main manufacturer work in a dynamic environment, once a change is triggered anywhere in the integrated value chain, it is possible for the MES to orchestrate these changes on the shop-floor, while passing information to supply chain partners so that they may adjust accordingly as well.

Without the right MES, connecting the individual players of the value chain and without real-time actionable information, even if a plant or supply chain has all the requisite Industry 4.0 components, it will never be able to leverage true benefits from the implementation of said components.

The article is reproduced with courtesy to Critical Manufacturing Deutschland GmbH

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