Mar 29, 2019

To achieve plant transparency, manufacturers need to discuss and understand various requirements in detail. A ‘fully transparent plant’ can be achieved in a progressive manner.

First, one needs to know where they stand on the pathway to achieve full plant transparency and decide on the next essential steps and milestones that need to be realized to achieve the ultimate objective. Once a clear objective is set and the objective analysis is completed, one needs to establish a core team of relevant members from different stages of SCM, sales, manufacturing, technology, project team or consultants, plant maintenance, delivery logistics (whatever is applicable based on the prevailing manufacturing set-up).

Second, list down the critical information/data essential for analysis and generating appropriate BI (Business Intelligence). The generated BI needs to be offered on a dashboard and prompt people to start the actions to mitigate changes with respect to a schedule change, product change, downtimes and asset management or any process which may be relevant to the specific manufacturing set-up. Identify the possibilities of capturing this data from relevant nodes. One needs to think about what automation is required to be deployed to achieve the desired data capture.

Since many manufacturing processes are sequential and somehow interlinked with respect to their inputs and outputs, having various stages integrated through right ‘networks’ is also very important. This will enable easy information flow from one stage to the other.

Choosing the right platform for automation is also very critical as the PLC used therein needs to make the real-time data available to the upper layer in the easiest way. If the set-up has existing automation and no possibility of data pick-up from existing PLC, one needs to choose the right IOT gateway to enable the intended data pick-up rather than scrapping the existing PLC and replacing it with new technology devices. The essential point to remember is that for all the new equipment/machinery one is planning for, one should critically decide what PLC to choose to ensure the possibility of easy and direct data capture.

A scheme that people tend to use is that they collate the data in a Line SCADA or Plant SCADA and then connect to the upper layer where the software tools are incorporated to deduce the BI out of the captured data and provide the result/messages on a dashboard. This philosophy is neither right nor wrong. It purely depends upon the data type and the category that manufacturers want to pick and the extent of the data being critically real-time in your scheme of the data analysis process.

A thoughtful implementation of integrated MES can bring a great deal of success in achieving desired operational excellence. The goal is to leverage ERP data to drive plant production, pegging customer orders to work-in-process, providing visibility into operations, reporting on production and testing data relative to KPIs and providing the real-time information to decision makers so that they can respond rapidly to unexpected production issues and opportunities. To realize all this, having an integrated MES becomes essential.

  1. Begin with modelling of the production environment using the appropriate MES tool kit
  2. Consider business rules, capabilities and standard library components to create the basic structures for major processes
  3. Legacy systems and real-time control are also to be integrated into the solution. This can help manufacturing decision makers receive quite a large amount of data out of their information which typically would be zero prior to MES.
  4. Time-critical data, decision support tools, and most importantly, the ability to enact change are made available via dashboards to decision makers throughout manufacturing

To conclude, choosing the right degree of automation at each stage of manufacturing, choosing the right automation platform and intermediates, having complete standardization in terms of Automation Scheme and complete integration of various manufacturing stages are the essentials required to prepare your manufacturing plant for completely transparent operations.

Milind Kulkarni

Head of Business Development


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