By Michael Ford, Aegis Software
MES solutions represent a manufacturing conundrum. The most complex of operations need to be prepared and executed in the simplest ways. Aegis’ FactoryLogix breaks the mold on Smart MES technology, using composable interfaces to easily invoke sophisticated operational logic, based on our built-in, robust data model. The shortest time to the greatest value.
Differentiation in manufacturing is brought about by how things are done, specifically, how things are done better than your peers. Since the third industrial revolution, we have enjoyed automation, in the form of machines, where everyone has the same opportunity to select and buy whatever hardware they feel is best. Differentiation then comes in how the machines are used, for example, configurations, changeovers, work allocation, and many other things that are left by the machine vendor for the customer to decide, but all based on the machine specification that all customers share.
In the Industry 4.0 software world, the situation is the same, but less mature, simply because software automation is a far newer technology as compared to machine automation. We learned some time ago that bespoke or customized machines, whilst appearing more effective when dedicated to a narrowly defined specific task, soon became obsolete as requirements changed. The MES software industry has grown up in an accelerated way, learning from the experience of the machine industry. There is a sweet-spot where the benefits of using “out of the box” software, balances with the ability to support differing needs and situations.
The drive towards simplicity in MES is misleading, as most of the benefits around MES represent automated decision-making across a wide variety of areas of manufacturing, all running in real-time. What is needed is the ability to rise above the level where seemingly thousands of options are continuously offered, and thousands more seem to pop-up as events happen, and instead, be able to simply describe what is wanted. This is, after all, not the first time that a circuit board will have been assembled, following some plan, a design and BOM, and selected production configuration, for the needed information to be created for assembly operators and programs for machines. MES solutions typically either appear to be way too complicated, as all of the options, even those never needed, distract the user, creating a complex and protracted work-flow, requiring Ph.D. level attention span, or are too simple, providing only the most basic of choices, leaving significant work to be sorted out and resolved on the shop-floor, often with compromise. Neither of these approaches is good, and for many, should not be acceptable. Having too many steps and options results in mistakes being made, but being too simplistic, that is without an underlying data model and ontology logic, creates the potential for mistakes and turbulence on the shop-floor and also creates the opportunity for mistakes and lost productivity.
The sweet-spot in the equation is found with FactoryLogix, which automates routine decision-making, taking care of the details whilst engineers and operators focus on their daily tasks, knowing that their decisions are supported, through the robust, built-in data-model and underlying Smart logic, based on production conditions.
An example of being simple on the outside, and Smart on the inside, can be seen in FactoryLogix when preparing data for assembly. Creation of both paperless work-instructions and machine instructions, is product design-driven, with a merged bill of materials. FactoryLogix has the “digital twin” of the product, and knows the details about each production configuration that may be used, automated or manual. The workflow is simply to decide which configuration is to be used for each product. Even this is supported through FactoryLogix Adaptive Planning, that shows opportunities, dependencies, and results from the range of choices available. Interactive, multi-media work-instructions are then generated automatically, based on the composed interface, design detail, and operational profile, so that operators can focus on the most easy, efficient, and mistake-resistant way to execute their tasks. There is no need to get stuck into manually manipulating and processing data, to provide user interfaces with hundreds of choices that only distract from the operation, making it seem complex and difficult. Making theses tasks easy to perform, promotes flexibility and agility in manufacturing, in that key production allocations decisions need not be made so far in advance, and may be changed at any time should that be better for factory optimization. Easier use of MES, with Smarter built-in decision-making support, has a significant impact on the factory as a whole.
The same is true in another example related to materials. Knowing that materials need to be prepared and replenished from time to time is a task as old as manufacturing itself. There is no excuse to be taken by surprise when something needs to be done. FactoryLogix knows the material stocks in use on the machine. The rate of consumption and spoilage is being measured, based on the BOM and continuously measured cycle-time of each product. FactoryLogix knows the precise location of materials needed in the near-term, and knows how much time is required for optimized material logistics solutions, again, whether manual or automated, to get the selected material, bring it to the machine, set it up and verify it, such that the machine does not stop due to material exhaust conditions. All of this data does not need to be pushed to and processed by the logistics operator, who only needs to get the trigger, to know where to go, and what to do. Making it easy to follow the work requirement, knowing that what they are doing is exactly what is needed, relieves operator stress, and enables flexibility for operators to fulfill a variety of roles. Another example of how simple MES, with built-in automated Smart decision-making, creates a benefit to the whole factory operation.
Many other examples exist, where composability of simple operations works together with the Smart data-model within FactoryLogix. Quality and performance, on-time delivery are always priorities of the Smart, IIoT-based manufacturing engine, continuously collecting data, contextualizing it with product, configuration, planning and progress information. Software automation works continuously, with shop-floor control-orientated analytics there to inform and alert to opportunities for improvement and correction based on contextualized events, without the need to manually hunt through data, or create software coding, to find the root causes of issues. Composed analytics reports are there to focus on KPIs of interest, to provide knowledge of good operation, and draw attention to potential future problems.
Aegis FactoryLogix is unique in the industry to offer such composability, that simplifies routine engineering, operation, and logistics tasks, and yet also provides the built-in assurance of contextualization of events and automated decision-making, based on real-world conditions of the product, production configuration, and live information from all machines and processes.
FactoryLogix is an MES solution, quite unlike others in the industry. Simple on the outside, and Smart on the inside.