iBase-t Listed as a Notable Vendor in Gartner’s “Aerospace & Defense Context: ‘Magic Quadrant for Manufacturing Execution Systems'”

Evaluation Based on Completeness of Vision and Ability to Execute

iBase-t today announced that it has been listed as a Notable Vendor in the Gartner report, “Aerospace and Defense Context: Magic Quadrant for Manufacturing Execution Systems.”*

The report indicates that, “The aerospace and defense (A&D) industry is, from a manufacturing perspective, unlike any other vertical. The end products of A&D resemble automotive, aircraft, watercraft, weaponry and others, and can involve process and discrete manufacturing styles in the production of these end products.”

“We believe that our recognition by Gartner is a confirmation of our goal to provide a streamlined Digital Manufacturing solution for the complex manufacturing of the Aerospace and Defense industry,” said Naveen Poonian, Chief Operating Officer at iBase-t. “The Aerospace and Defense industry faces the challenge of complicated supply chains and demanding regulatory compliance in addition to a tough competitive environment. With iBase-t, companies are creating a digital thread in the product life cycle that connects both engineering and business systems into a streamlined data management chain.”

iBase-t’s software is implemented by organizations and agencies in the Aerospace and Defense industry. Across the manufacturing value chain, iBase-t streamlines and integrates their solutions for Manufacturing Execution Systems and Operations Management (MES/MOM), Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO), Enterprise Quality Management Systems (EQMS) and Supplier Quality Management (SQM).

*Source: Gartner, “Aerospace and Defense Context: ‘Magic Quadrant for Manufacturing Execution Systems'” Rick Franzosa4 December 2017.

Disclaimer: Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

About iBase-t
iBase-t is a leading provider of software solutions for complex, highly regulated industries, like Aerospace and Defense, Medical Devices, Nuclear, Industrial Equipment, Electronics, and Shipbuilding. iBase-t’s Digital Manufacturing software streamlines and integrates Manufacturing Execution System and Operations Management (MES/MOM)Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) and Enterprise Quality Management Systems (EQMS) for operations and Supplier Quality Management. iBase-t’s software is implemented by many industry leaders in the Aerospace and Defense sector as part of their enterprise Digital Thread initiatives. For more information, visit www.iBase-t.com.

Marketing Contact
Tom Hennessey, Vice President of Marketing
[email protected]

All MES Are Not Created Equal: Unique Solutions Are Required for Complex Discrete Applications

In industries that rely on complex manufacturing, there is a common misperception that all manufacturing execution systems (MES) have a common intent, purpose, and function. Gartner defines MES as systems that do the following:

“Manage, monitor and synchronize the execution of real-time, physical processes involved in transforming raw materials into intermediate and/or finished goods. They coordinate this execution of work orders with production scheduling and enterprise-level systems. MES applications also provide feedback on process performance, and support component-level and material-level traceability, genealogy, and integration with process history, where required.”

While this is a very good general definition, the fact is that MES is not a general solution, but rather one very specific to the industry in which it is being applied. Contrary to those vendors that present MES as a “one size fits all” tool that can be applied to any market, MES solutions are industry-specific tools. Selling one into a market it wasn’t designed for is an expensive gambit for the company that buys it, because it will require time- and capital-intensive customization to make the round peg fit into the square hole.

Five Main Types of MES

Five principal types of MES have been developed to serve different industrial markets: continuous process (e.g., oil and gas), pharmaceutical; automotive, consumer electronics, and complex discrete (e.g., aerospace, defense, nuclear, medical devices, industrial equipment). Consider the key functionalities they deliver in each instance, and how they differ from one another in core functionality:

  • Multiple monitoring tools that track on a per-second basis
  • Intimate linkage to machines; importance of the SCADA layer
  • Lot traceability only
  • Minimal instructions
  • Highly controlled software development, testing, and validation processes
  • Built-in oversight functionality
  • Built-in quality tools (receiving and in process)
  • Lot and sub-lot traceability
  • Designed around the circuit card assembly process
  • Close integration to machine inputs and outputs
  • A highly efficient debug and repair process
  • Little process deviation allowance
  • Emphasis on front-end simulation and validation of processes and tools
  • Closely scripted routing and materials control paths
  • Built-in line balancing technology
  • Automated lot and serial traceability
  • Engineering around a repeatable and predictable process

In light of the remarkable degree of differences among these MES tools, it sounds impossible that an MES designed for one market would be sold into another. Yet it happens often. Unscrupulous or opportunistic vendors are at fault, but so, too, are MES users who have fallen prey to generalization – the belief that MES is MES is MES – and who fail to understand that their MES tool must be focused on the intricacies of the shop floor they operate.

A Closer Look at MES for Complex Discrete Manufacturing

In complex discrete manufacturing, technicians are involved in 30 to 60 percent of the assembly, and that assembly is a quantity of one. That one unit, through its build, may go through 30, 40, or 50 engineering changes from the time it is started to when it gets released. That doesn’t happen in any other industry.

One example is in building aircraft carriers for the U.S. military. When any aircraft carrier is built, it has already been completely redesigned by the time it gets delivered to the Navy. On average, one ship has gone through seven complete rebuilds. It takes three years to deliver one of these assets, and technology grows faster than the build process, so things can get completely re-engineered.

One might ask, “Why don’t you just design the command and control at the end and do it once?” The reality is it takes so long to figure out how all the electronics and devices interact with command and control that there is no choice but to do it up front, even though it will evolve enormously throughout the build process. It’s understood that these rebuilds and evolutions will have to happen.

Re-Routing in Complex Discrete Manufacturing

Re-routing has to be extremely flexible, because it is being written on a part-by-part basis, and not on a part-number-by-part-number basis, but on a unit-by-unit basis. So, for example, every satellite will have multiple iterations of a work instruction. Even though 26 satellites will be built in the next two years, each one may have work instructions written four and five times individually. No other environment has that kind of rewrite.

Non-Conformance and Deviation in Complex Discrete Manufacturing

The non-conformance and deviation process must be ironclad and completely linked to the unit, because that unit history shows a lot more about what went wrong than about what went right. All the details about what went wrong – how it was dealt with and how it was fixed, as well as the process through which the customer agreed to accept the new specifications – must be included in the delivery of that unit.

Serial Tracking and Delivering the Digital Twin

Every unit has to be delivered with its digital twin, but very few MES systems can actually deliver the digital packet. In fact, the earlier paper-based documentation often weighed more than the actual unit itself, be it a helicopter or tank!

Finally, serial tracking must go all the way into the supply chain, pre-assigning serial numbers into the unit and pre-testing those units before they even get to receive the instructions. No other industry requires this level of involvement. Complex discrete does this as a matter of course.

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Investing in Digital Manufacturing Technology

Manufacturing is in the midst of digital transformation. An article in Supply Chain Management Review by a trio of A.T. Kearney executives described the developing situation in and beyond the sector:

Digital manufacturing is drawing a lot of interest from manufacturers, universities, and governments alike. Leading global companies and universities have combined forces in a number of Internet of Things (IoT) consortia, and several governments have recently funded initiatives to encourage the next industrial revolution. But underneath the hype and noise, many manufacturers are struggling to figure out just what digital manufacturing means to their organizations. They aren’t sure where to start their digital transformation or how to engage their executive team and customers in developing a winning formula.  

A recent article by McKinsey underscores this perspective, noting that while “manufacturers see the potential of digital, few have a clear strategy to capture its value.”

How, then, should manufacturers approach investing in this important – and inevitable – technological transformation to their operations? While a number of approaches have been recommended, all of them point to the importance of active and educated support from the highest levels of the organization.

Strategies for Successful Digital Transformation: McKinsey’s Three Principles

In the McKinsey article, three principles are cited as essential for ensuring a successful digital manufacturing transformation, with success factors cited for each of the principles.

The first principal is diagnosis to design, which supports a focus on the company perspective to identify use cases to boost operations and design a target digital ecosystem. The success factors for this principle are having a clear perspective on how and where digital will create bottom-line value, and having a multi-horizon roadmap.

The second principle is data/technology to impact, which promotes capturing value from digital manufacturing use cases. There are three success factors here: have an ecosystem of technology partners that are sensitive to cybersecurity; take an agile approach to developing, piloting and refining digital solutions; and do rigorous change management.

The third principle is capabilities to transformation: create impact by transforming the entire organization and building institutional capabilities. The success factors here are; have an active C-suite sponsorship, adapt business processes for the digital world, and plan for how to access capabilities needed to develop and implement use cases.

Strategies for Successful Digital Transformation: AT Kearney’s Four-Step Approach

In their Supply Chain Management Review article, the AT Kearney executives posit a four-step approach to digital manufacturing transformation; the first step involves “going wide” while the final three are about “going deep.”

Step one is starting small. This means manufacturers must use several small ideas to test quickly in “digital sprints,” have inexpensive proof of concepts, and operate outside the existing IT structure.

Step two is failing fast. This calls for refining the set of ideas explored, engaging in distributed trials and sharing learning across all involved, and conducting exploration outside of existing IT infrastructure.

Step three is iterating and pivoting. Start by selecting pilot areas, then begin soft integration with existing IT.

Step four is scaling fast. Take the proven business case, have a detailed rollout plan, then perform full IT integration as necessary.

Strategies for Successful Digital Transformation: Ensono’s Five Aspects of Justification

Hybrid cloud provider Ensono looks at how to justify an investment like digital transformation where IT is an integral part of the project. They offer five key aspects of project justification:

  1. Ensure business leader buy-in.
  2. Work with the CFO and his or her team on financials.
  3. Create a credible business case by including key challenges and how they will be solved.
  4. Provide a concise summary of the evaluated options with pros and cons.
  5. Communicate the business challenges and goals with IT and work to ensure the recommended solution delivers.

Gartner’s Four Recommendations for ROI and Long-Term Value from MES

Since manufacturing execution systems (MES) play a critical role in linking IT and OT in creating the digital thread that spans the digitally transformed manufacturer, having a sound perspective on how MES delivers value for digital transformation is important. Gartner notes in an analyst report, “The shortest path to a solid, defensible ROI from a manufacturing execution system comes from cutting the costs of local production operations. But companies that stop here run the risk of not achieving significant benefits over time that result from cumulative effects of near real-time visibility into production processes, impacting customer and market-facing processes.” Their recommendations:

  • Don’t stop at local cost reductions and efficiency gains. Leverage the value of product and process information that MES provides to identify process risk, decrease cycle times, and increase cross-functional collaboration across the manufacturing network.
  • Use communication and education, not spreadsheets, to sell leadership on the larger benefits of an MES as a platform that supports standard manufacturing processes and enhances compliance, flexibility, and time to market.
  • Improved flexibility and responsiveness are difficult to qualify, but are often desirable to executives who control the budget and funding. Include both strategic and tangible benefits in your business case.
  • Partner with your vendor. MES vendors have decades of combined experience and bring sizeable domain knowledge to broaden the perspective on potential benefits.

Driving to Tangible Outcomes with Digital Manufacturing Technology

Taking a considered approach towards digital manufacturing transformation is essential to the realization of tangible outcomes. Yet, according to AT Kearney, this has been far from the path most taken:

We see two predominant approaches to digitization in the marketplace. Some manufacturers “boil the ocean.” They try to track and translate the most recent trends into potential opportunities. Still others are waiting on their IT departments to “connect everything” first before they take action. Neither of these approaches is very effective in successfully digitizing manufacturing operations or products.

Digital Thread Guide

Civil Nuclear Energy: Challenges and Opportunities

A recent report by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Commission says civil nuclear energy is expected to remain a growing market in 2018. The report estimates the global civil nuclear market to be valued between $500 and $740 billion over the next 10 years and to have the potential to generate more than $100 billion in U.S. exports and thousands of new jobs.

Among some of the key developments fueling civil nuclear energy growth internationally:

  • The Paris Climate Conference’s recognition of the importance of nuclear energy to meet global carbon reduction goals
  • The Convention for Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC) nuclear liability regime entering into force
  • The emergence of China as the fastest-growing market for nuclear energy, and China’s plans to export its reactor technology
  • Breakthroughs in bilateral civil nuclear cooperation

A Snapshot of U.S. and Global Landscapes for Civil Nuclear Energy

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) supports the domestic development of the U.S. civil nuclear industry through initiatives such as the DOE loan guarantee programs, 50-50 cost share with the federal government for small, modular reactor development and deployment, and the recent launch of the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation (GAIN) to support advanced reactor development and deployment.

Despite the DOE’s support, challenges to nuclear deployment in the United States remain, including the high capital cost to build a plant, long and uncertain construction lead time, record low natural gas prices, preferential grid access for renewable energy-based generation, and the lack of growth in electricity demand since 2004.

Globally, 444 nuclear reactors with a combined 386 GWe capacity operate in 30 countries and 65 reactors are under construction in 15 countries. The OECD International Energy Agency 2015 Global Energy Outlook Report projects that nuclear power will have to double by 2050 for the world to meet international climate change goals and the energy needs of an expanding global population, which is expected to grow to 10 billion by 2050. Many countries continue to express interest in developing or expanding their nuclear programs, although low oil and gas prices could make it harder for governments to favor policies that encourage the use of nuclear energy and other clean energy sources.

Nuclear markets are shifting from the United States and Western Europe to East Asia, the Middle East, South America, and Eastern and Central Europe. This trend has important implications for the global nuclear landscape after 2030.

Civil Nuclear Energy: Challenges and Opportunities

Despite the strength of the U.S. civil nuclear industry, it continues to lose significant market share to an everincreasing number of foreign government-owned or led competitors, including Russia, Japan, France, China, and the Republic of Korea. Unlike its foreign competitors, the U.S. government does not own any part of U.S. reactor design companies. Further, the U.S. government does not provide sovereign backing for its companies, which places them at a competitive disadvantage in the areas of financing, commercial incentives, and liability insurance.

According to IEA, Challenges for the U.S. civil nuclear energy industry include:

  • The need for additional bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreements (Section 123 Agreements), which are required under U.S. law for U.S. companies to export significant reactor equipment and components
  • A vital but complicated export control process, including export controls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. NRC, DOE, the State Department, and the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS)
  • An inadequate global nuclear liability regime, although the April 2015 entry into force of the CSC—and its expansion—will mitigate liability risks for U.S. civil nuclear companies doing business internationally
  • Erosion of U.S. manufacturing capacity: U.S. companies no longer manufacture reactor vessels and steam generators

IEA says Challenges faced by all global participants in the sector include:

  • Financing nuclear power plants, which require long construction periods and high upfront capital costs that are not recouped until the plant begins generating electricity
  • Infrastructure research, development, and demonstration (RD&D), which requires training a skilled workforce, a nuclear manufacturing supply chain, an effective, independent and transparent regulatory infrastructure, and adequate RD&D resources
  • A need for spent fuel disposal pathways, particularly for emerging and small fleet markets
  • A need for better recognition of nuclear energy’s role in addressing climate change
  • Public acceptance of nuclear energy

Despite these challenges, U.S. civil nuclear companies are leading innovators in global nuclear energy technology and have more than five decades of experience designing, constructing, upgrading, managing, and decommissioning nuclear power plants. The American industry has many competitive strengths, including its history as a pioneer of civil nuclear energy, and its status as the home for top-performing companies across the supply chain. In addition, the U.S. has a reputation for supporting the development of local industry and helping to deepen long-term bilateral relationships, as well as a regulatory system that is recognized as the global “gold standard” for nuclear safety. These factors should continue to serve the domestic civil nuclear industry well as the global market for nuclear energy continues to grow.