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Webinar: The Reality of the Early Journey to Industry 4.0 Q&A

July 20, 2017

Webinar: The Reality of the Early Journey to Industry 4.0 Q&A

Thank you for attending our webinar on July 11th, 2017. We are happy to announce that the recording is now available free, on-demand. Just go to the registration link and complete the short sign-up to receive a link to the webinar.

We received many interesting questions during the webinar and, due to time, we were not able to answer them all. As promised, you will find the answers from our two presenters, Julie Fraser and Alois Schacherl in the post below. We hope you find them valuable in your journey to Industrie 4.0.

Chris Parsons, Critical Manufacturing


Q: Do you think that you are doing things differently because of Industrie 4.0? What are the MES system differences now and pre-Industrie 4.0?

Julie: The MES system differences for Industrie 4.0 center around the ability to handle the decentralized shop floor marketplace. Traditionally, the MES has created a model and detailed routings and schedules based on those routings. The MES needs to be able to either push out a routing or take in the routing that CPS and CPPS have negotiated. To create a traceability record, it must bind the product to the equipment that actually processed it, and it must have special dispatching for these intelligent products. It also needs workflow and context resolution. The paper you will receive soon The New MES: Backbone of Industry 4.0 will give you more detail.

Q: What about better visibility / improvements - is that a driver for MES?

Alois: The visualization is, for sure, very important, especially if people must work with, use or setup tools and need some information - there it’s key. But in general, I would say the main focus at the beginning should not be on visualization. It’s on getting this mindset to focus on working with data, getting the right people working with data and then learn from that. Then, in the second step use it with visualization, to also show the people the improvement of the processes and so on. Both of those are very important, but I would work first with the data, which is the hardest part.

Julie: As for better visibility to make improvements, that is a very common driver for MES. As Alois mentioned, it may not be the first element you want to implement, but it’s typically a foundation for making the business case. Budget-holders want better plant floor visibility, and MES can provide it!

Q: How can Industry 4.0 help Top Management?

Julie: Germany created the Industry 4.0 initiative to keep its manufacturers competitive with lower-cost countries. The same can work for any manufacturer – by better leveraging the embedded intelligence in the equipment and products, a company can be more competitive. Customers want personalized and customized products, and they expect the quality to be perfect, the delivery to be fast and reliable, and the cost to go down. This is exactly what investing in Industrie 4.0 can deliver in the long term. Those who do so will be more competitive in every aspect. I recommend the MESA International ROI Guidebook on this topic.

Q: On first polling question, if you ask our enterprise IT team, I think they would answer as early projects under way. However, from the process control space, there is little connectivity and awareness. How do you do this as a collaboration vs. siloing IT and automation/process control?

Alois: From corporate IT, it’s very hard to stay close to the operation level. You know what’s going on, but you are still far away. In our case our main plant is in Shanghai. So what we decided was: we’ll start the project and make our own team in Choquing, dedicated to the MES implementation. So, talking with the stakeholders on the operations side, but also checking what is needed on the IT side. Here we had a great partner in Critical Manufacturing, which is supporting us not only on the MES side, but also on the IT side, so I think we can do it.

The only way is to talk with each other, which is very hard in a big company. You must stay close. You can’t say “ok, it’s implemented, I can go away, use the system like you should ”. We have “IT Manufacturing Services”. It’s not only MES, it’s a lot more, and we try to keep close contact with our Operations Department and with our Engineering and Quality Departments, because this is a key to a successful project.

Julie: You heard that AT&S has a Manufacturing IT team. This is often an area where the automation engineering and IT teams either work under one structure in the organization or craft joint projects. There may be some cross-functional understanding and team building that you will need to do to break down the siloes and begin to appreciate one another. There will almost certainly be friction. Some companies don’t change reporting structure, but do have employees move from automation into IT and IT into automation to really fully understand the other group’s approach and rationale.

Q: Is any framework/strategy to measure the benefit of always updating the system according to new requirements and the effort of developing "in-house solutions" that are not yet standardized in Industry 4.0?

Julie: Companies pioneering in Industry 4.0 may need to develop some of their own software until standards and commercial products appear. However, in-house solutions always have the downside that they do go out of date, and the people who built them will eventually leave their post. The ideal scenario is to find commercial applications software that is flexible and configurable enough to allow you to update it to match new requirements as they arise. Working with the software provider, pioneering users can also help drive the roadmap to the future.

Q: What is the real world use case for Industry 4.0 in MES space?

Julie: Today, as we mentioned, companies are adding sensors and “IIoT” throughout their operations to equipment, products, and product carriers. Learning how to set up the MES to handle that additional data is an important step (or discovering whether the current MES can handle that data). Companies are also linking their MES into data warehouses and data lakes for some of the automated big data and machine learning analytics that will allow Industry 4.0 to be more reliably autonomous.

Q: Is MES mandatory when we are going to Industrie 4.0?

Julie: I believe so. Companies that attempt to implement a shop floor marketplace with intelligent products and equipment must link all of that data into a coherent system that can deliver context in real-time and can record what happens for traceability and genealogy. Today there is no other type of system but MES designed to do that, and even some of the MES systems cannot do that. Even today, ERP systems cannot manage the barrage of plant floor data – with the IIoT, that would potentially overwhelm the entire system.

Other structures with no MES seem less feasible than ever. Companies working with paper on the plant floor today really must not attempt to leapfrog to Industrie 4.0. They need not only the common plant floor end-to-end information system, but also the discipline and understanding that people gain from an MES implementation to have a chance at success with Industrie 4.0.

Alois: You need some system where you control how the production and operation is ongoing. If you talk about traceability for example, you need to know exactly where the product was, who was operating it, and so on. And this is an MES system, providing you as a base information. I think it depends also on your needs.

So, if you find out you have a need to collect all data, only in a big pot, then maybe you don’t need MES. But I guess most of the requirements are going in the direction of full traceability– and this is one main factor why you need it. And another one could be, if you say “I must get a better throughput of our tools” – this, I think, will be very hard, without an MES system giving you this data, as a base for making decisions, calculations and managing operations.

It is hard to say what Industrie 4.0 is. In general, if you are talking about operations and production companies, I think it’s about controlling the shop floor, and finding out where each product is and how it’s produced.

Q: Still need an MES for the final vision of industry 4.0?

Julie: I believe so. Companies that attempt to implement a shop floor marketplace with intelligent products and equipment must link all of that data into a coherent system that can deliver context in real-time and can record what happens for traceability and genealogy, as well as continuous improvement. The New MES is designed to do that. Even today, ERP systems cannot manage the barrage of plant floor data – with the IIoT and Industry 4.0 decentralized information flows, this amount of real-time data would almost certainly overwhelm the entire system. Other structures with no MES seem less feasible than ever.

Q: What were the costs vs the benefits?

Julie: This looks like a question for Alois, but I’d re-direct it somewhat. Each company’s costs and benefits will be specific to them, so it may not help as much as you expect to know someone else’s costs and benefits. In my experience, many companies will not share that even with non-competitors.

I would recommend that you read the MESA International Guidebook ROI and Justification for MES. This explains how to consider a business case for MES. Even in the Industry 4.0 environment, the case for MES can be very strong. As Alois said, they actually cannot make what they make without it. So that’s a far stronger business case than cost vs. benefit.

To get the benefits a company needs, it must outline its goals and expectations very clearly and have the solution provider help prioritize the project to ensure you get those benefits. The company must also commit to regular reviews, upgrades, and expansions over time. This is not a one-time project. More important, the company must commit the resources to define, educate, and train all employees about the system. If people do not fully understand why they are using it and how it delivers benefits they simply cannot expect to gain those benefits.

Alois: I cannot talk about detailed costs. I think you see the benefits later on. So if you already have requirements for it, there are benefits, but sometimes you can’t calculate them. It’s also not about saving this amount of headcount. The headcount may shift from being a working force to knowledge force, we call it. We even have more headcount than before.

So, what you see on the cost side is better quality, and better throughputs. This you can calculate. Maybe you need to buy fewer tools. It’s simply a must that we have it, because otherwise we could not produce these products. Saving cost is always a topic, and I can tell you it’s a positive calculation on our side. But it’s not like with this you will save your company the costs, it’s with the process optimization.


ALOIS SCHACHERL, Group Manager IT Manufacturing Services, AT&S.

Alois holds an Energy Technology and Power Electronics Engineering Degree from HTL Kapfenberg. In January 2000 he joined AT&S, a world leading high-tech PCB company, as IT specialist and took over the Management responsibility for AT&S's Group IT infrastructure in December 2009. Since April 2014, Alois has been the MES Manager responsible to build up AT&S's first completely integrated production automation at their newest facility AT&S Chongqing Co. Ltd., China.


JULIE FRASER, Principal, Iyno Advisors

Julie is passionate about manufacturing using technology for better outcomes. She has researched manufacturing software and systems for more than 25 years, holding senior industry analyst positions at Cambashi, Industry Directions, and AMR Research, as well as writing the CIM Strategies newsletter at Cutter Information. She is also a lifetime member and active volunteer with MESA International.


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