In the context of Industry 4.0, rapid access to and sharing of data — regardless of source, format, or location — is essential. Manufacturers need to consolidate heterogeneous data into actionable intelligence for resilient operational decision-making. This knowledge provides more consistent processes, a better-informed staff, and more open lines of communication along the value chain that leads to improved productivity, greater output, and higher customer satisfaction.
Companies need to provide their employees with a real-time, collaborative decision-making environment that puts in-context, timely information in the hands of everyone who might need it, at that time. This need, which has driven much investment in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), drives faster and better decision-making that supports changes in markets like increased service requirements, connected products, and mass customization.
Data Must be Trusted
Creating a data-driven decision-making environment isn’t accomplished by just creating a data lake. It requires more, including an understanding of a fundamental point: People need not only to receive data and information, not only to understand it, but they must trust it. So many times, when talking with decision-makers in the line of business, the IDC team has heard complaints about the fact that clients must rely on data coming from too many disparate silos and systems, resulting in inconsistencies and poor decision support.
When you do not trust your report 100%, you must double-check and verify the data every single time. As such, it is critical to be able to share information, that is typically distributed and scattered across several systems and data warehouses, with the organization’s decision-makers to enable them to achieve real-time monitoring of business performance.
This is of utmost importance because when it comes to IT / OT integration, companies are gradually moving their organizational structures from segregated to coordinated to integrated. According to the most recent WW IDC research on this topic, in 85% of global organizations, IT oversees the operational processes as well. And more than 60% of companies are now in the process or have already set up an integrated organizational structure between IT and OT, where control systems and execution systems investment decisions are made through a shared services organization, a centre of excellence, or a corporate function.
In this vision, ongoing business as usual collaboration exists between IT and operational technology and decision making about investment and priorities for operations – IT and OT are managed as a single unit.
Implementing an MES is More than Just Getting Rid of Paper
Modern Manufacturing Execution Systems provide obvious value beyond the elimination of paper and streamlining of production processes. Further value can be attained from systems and data integration – MES can bring context to the information. MES fills the data gap with adapters and the capability to collect, add context, analyse, and immediately provide the derived insights.
In other words, the MES brings value to the whole process – standardizing data, unifying semantics, defining metadata, and creating meaningful insights by associating the raw data to product, process and resource dimensions.
Among the key business challenges and opportunities that a modern MES can address – where the value of the data that is provided is truly recognized – we identified:
- Harmonization of global manufacturing operations: creating a uniform environment for all plants to globally automate decision making.
- Manufacturing intelligence: gaining higher visibility of global manufacturing operations to have more centrally managed control over manufacturing capabilities across multiple sites. This allows the launching of value-added initiatives (e.g., “virtual” centers of excellence to reconcile manufacturing performance across the plant floor network and distribute best practices).
- Seamless integration with corporate business applications: integrating manufacturing operations processes and data with corporate-wide ERP system and other applications to drive greater consistency with process execution – as a foundation to becoming a digital enterprise.
- Connecting design and manufacturing operations: lowering documentation costs and empowering R&D efficiency through analysis of data associated to product structure.
- Improved fixed assets utilization: advancing maintenance management intelligence that is available to increase plant availability, reduce operational costs, and minimize capital expenditures.
- Compliance and environmental footprint reduction: reinforcing regulations and lessening manufacturing operations environmental footprint.
- Enabling rapidly changing, highly complex product lines: producing products either in markets where mass customization is replacing large production batches and limited product configurations or in industries with high complexity and low production volumes with better management and governance of production and process changes.
Going forward, MES implementations will have to be considered key enablers of gathering and sharing data – including through the use of the IIoT – in order to drive new value. It is not possible to benefit from the plant automation without considering how this is information is going to be handed over to the MES layer
At the same time, manufacturers need to realize that while there is certainly a massive value to the integration, at the same time Lean principles must not be forgotten. In other words, keep it simple and focus on the business benefits without losing track by trying to integrate “everything with everything else.” Instead, focus on high-value integrations, for example, from machines that do automated inspection and automated parts placement.
It is now clear, that an MES project is not just a technology project. It is an operational improvement project enabled by technology that can become a key component of business transformation. New technology applied to old processes simply creates expensive “paper-on-glass” old processes. The increasing interdependencies and collaboration between IIoT and MES provides an opportunity to re-engineer and optimize processes for a data-rich factory ready for an Industry 4.0 future.