Maturity of IT in manufacturing
July 20, 2015
Recently we explored how the maturity level of an organization can be evaluated as a whole and then improved using a Manufacturing Maturity Model and following the Manufacturing Transformation Strategy.
We saw how manufacturing organizations can be ranked at a particular level of maturity, based on the evaluation of their processes, structure, personnel and most importantly their IT. We also saw how approaching improvement in all four critical aspects in a well-defined project based manner can help organizations become more mature and lean.
Today we will concentrate on the maturity of enterprise IT and define how IT needs to mature along with the organization’s other three pillars (people, processes & structure) to ensure that the end-goal of being a continually improving organization can be achieved.
As in the case of organizations, enterprise IT at the very first level of maturity is ad hoc at best and almost non-existential, where data is collected and reported purely in paper based formats and analysis of the data is practically zero. At this level the operation is highly reactive in nature with no insight into the data collected, where improvements are triggered not by thorough analysis, but rather based on management impetus.
In this stage corporate IT - if it exists - is not even remotely connected to the plant’s operation and the process owners depend solely on their experience and past data to perform operation and tackle contingencies. Optimizing the operation and initiating any CI initiative seems far-fetched.
The second level of IT maturity is when there is some sort of system for reporting and capturing data in place, which generally is achieved by the use of spread sheets. At this stage too, the organization and its operation are still very disconnected, as data being captured in the sheets needs further analysis and refining. With millions of transactions happening in every plant in a given day, there is only so much a spread sheet can capture, explore and analyze.
Even at the second stage of maturity, corporate IT is not truly contributing towards process optimization. Management decision making at this stage is still not perfectly analytical in nature, but the information captured through spreadsheets might help the process owners and top management realize the trends developing in their plants and key improvement areas can then be located.
The third level of IT maturity is said to be achieved when IT applications exist for various functional areas in the organization right from plant equipment to resource management. Here applications at the first level like the PLC/SCADA coexist, along with a third/enterprise level application like an ERP and maybe a LIMS application. At this stage, although there are different IT applications for different areas of the operation, they are still very disconnected and can only help maintain standards in the relevant functional area.
These IT applications exist as separate or isolated islands, where the lack of integration between them impedes an overall CI effort, as the data collected by the individual applications is not available to all the decision makers as a whole. It only contributes to improvements in a particular functional area, rather than the entire organization.
However this stage paves the way for the fourth level of maturity.
Systems like the MES play a crucial role in the fourth level of manufacturing IT maturity, as they bridge the gap between different applications and for the first time allow process owners and decision makers to look at the so called big picture. At this stage the data collected from the shop-floor becomes available to the top-floor almost instantaneously and allows for goals to be defined based on analysis of plant’s.
The overall process and operation becomes more flexible, where activities can be orchestrated and management especially in production units can be event based. At this stage real-time data is captured from the plant and is analyzed within the integrated IT infrastructure.
Applications like the MES allow for processes to become fully automated and information to be shared with all relevant stakeholders, which in turn makes the decision making faster and the operation leaner and waste can easily be recognized and removed.
The fifth level of manufacturing IT maturity, can be considered achieved when the entire MOM in place is well and truly connected with corporate IT and applications as a whole are controlled by process owners. Here the process owners not only define how the applications work but also have the capability to modify them in order to adapt to changes triggered by any event.
At this level of IT maturity there is a unique combination of standardization and agility, where there is strong standardization in the way processes execute at various sites and yet there is agility in the operation which allows for plants, procedures and personnel to incorporate changes. Data analysis is given top priority and CAPA is strong & proactive with fully defined strategies in place. The IT infrastructure of the organizations is geared towards leaner operation, and there is a constant drive towards CI.
Even at the highest level of maturity it is important to realize that IT and other critical aspects of the organization, which are the people, the processes and the structure, need to be ready to constantly improve
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