Integrating Machines With Your MES

Screen Shot 2019-06-04 at 12.57.05 PMOne of the main ways manufacturers are moving toward Industry 4.0 is through the constant improvement of their processes. Understanding the minute details of complex production procedures is not an easy task. It requires that you continuously collect data and provide two-way communication between production machines and the Manufacturing Execution System (MES) you are using.

Your goals in production management are to increase throughput and quality while you decrease waste and cost. Automatically gathering data directly from your equipment and using the information in real time to drive decision-making is the primary way companies meet these objectives.

You can accomplish different levels of machine integration with MES, depending on the specific needs of your product. Understanding the various functions of machine integration also enables you to evaluate the usefulness of the different MES products available on the market. Taking critical steps now to leverage technology and automation to meet your current needs starts the process of preparing your operation for future in the rapidly advancing world of manufacturing technology.

Here you will learn about the five primary functions of machine integration with MES. You will also walk away with a better comprehension of how communication between your machines and MES works. And, you will see that collecting data from your machines helps you to form a better picture of how things are functioning on your shop floor.


5 Critical Functions of Machine/MES Integration

The level of machine integration you will need depends on the specifics of your operation. To achieve Industry 4.0, you want your plant floor activity to move away from people having to manually enter information about processes and toward machines having the ability to report data to the MES automatically.

Having a clear concept of what you can feasibly automate in your factory will help you make effective decisions. Here is a description of the five functions that comprise machine integration with your MES.

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This function is simple in execution but extremely important to the efficient operation of your manufacturing plant. Detecting machine status as online or offline means your machines account for their time and report to the MES.

This method is more accurate and efficient than having operators enter downtime by hand. Usually, the first reaction of your workers when a machine goes offline unexpectedly is to get it back up and running. Only after someone has fixed the device do they usually enter the time it went down and for how long.

Machine status detection also collects data on when machines are down for regular maintenance or just idle because they are not involved in the current process. Continuous reporting on this data helps you to get a better picture of how your plant is functioning and where you can make improvements.

Manual entry is error-prone and dependent on the memory and possibly the agenda of operators who may want to minimize the hours shown for a machine being down. When you have the MES track when devices are "down," it helps you obtain accurate information that factors heavily into calculating the actual Overall Operational Efficiency (OEE) of your equipment.

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Whether your particular manufacturing job is simple or extremely complex, getting your processes to work together in harmony is the key to success. Recording every time an individual part moves into or out of a process helps to increase accuracy and reduce errors.

Assigning each part a serial number allows machine scanning to keep up with the location and stage of completion of each component as it moves through the building process. This part tracking enables the MES to know if an individual part has completed previous steps before potentially beginning a new phase out of sequence.

You are also able to gather a catalog of valuable process data on each transaction that allows you to determine the cause of bottlenecks in your operation. As your system automatically collects information on each action performed during your production run and monitors the effect it has on all subsequent transactions, you can begin to spot trouble before it happens and take corrective measures proactively.

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Capturing hard measurements from your production process is also possible with machine integration. Parametric data such as length, weight and the total count of pieces coming off of your line can be communicated to the MES and factored into your OEE.

Tracking the cycle time or rate of production is also an important metric for you to consider to evaluate your overall performance. Machine integration that pulls parametric data allows you to maintain a real-time view of the quality of the products you are producing and the efficiency of your processes.

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The chance for human error increases as the ballet of moving parts on your production line becomes increasingly complex. As different pieces requiring unique settings or recipes enter and leave machines in varying sequences depending on the most efficient order of events, the more likely a worker will make a mistake and ruin a batch of product.

Providing the exact recipe or settings for each part is another area where machine integration helps increase quality and reduce waste. A digital process that checks a part's serial number and provides the correct information to the machine it is entering for processing eliminates the possibility of performing the wrong or out-of-sequence process on a piece.

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The next phase of Industry 4.0 will include using AI to adjust machine settings on the fly. Intelligent machines capable of examining all present factors will make changes to machine settings and configure the most efficient methods of production.

This functionality is still very rare in the production automation world, but it is starting to emerge at the highest levels.


How Communication Between Machine and MES Works

Imagine for a moment the various stages of data and the route it takes from the process to the MES system.

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Your machines can "talk" to your MES through some form of software. The physical processes of the shop floor are converted to digital signals and then to data that can be understood first by computers and ultimately by humans. This communication takes place using various existing protocols for converting signals and data.

The MES is an application layer that interprets the raw data collected from the machines. Another layer sometimes referred to as middleware is often used to "step up" the signal data into a more easily digestible form for the MES to process.

The flexibility of the MES you select is crucial primarily because in all likelihood you will be using a hybrid model. Typically in this situation, existing machine and software interfaces are used to full advantage by feeding data into an MES. The MES is also capable of collecting previously unrecorded information directly from the machine process stage.

This level of support allows you to leverage existing systems while increasing current capabilities exponentially. The result is the creation of an Industry 4.0 compliant model with a minimum amount of overhaul of the structures already in place, which leads to a higher eventual ROI.

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Machine Monitoring 

Once you have integrated your machines with your MES, the resulting system must have the capability of communicating with you. Management and floor operators require an easy way to visualize how well the current processes are working and to highlight problem areas that need correction.

The industry standard is Operational Equipment Efficiency or OEE. An oversimplified definition of OEE is the time an ideally functioning process takes divided by the time your actual process takes.

Getting an accurate OEE figure is a little more complicated than that in real life. That is the reason using the data collected from a machine integrated MES is crucial to obtaining a reading on this critical value that communicates how well your operation is running.


Calculating OEE

By taking a quick look at the preferred method of calculating an accurate OEE, you will begin to appreciate the value of collecting as much specific data about your manufacturing processes directly from your machines as possible.

You can obtain an accurate OEE figure by multiplying three factors together.

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Conclusion

The level on which you decide to integrate your machines with MES can have a significant impact on your operation. When you and your team have access to a real-time overview of everything happening on the floor, your decision-making process jumps to a whole new level.

You will notice a smoothing effect on your daily operation as automation helps you gain insights into the intricacies of your processes. Instant notification of any quality issues heads off problems long before the crisis stage. Predictive maintenance data helps you to design your workflow around any scheduled downtime strategically. Waste is reduced by catching supplier problems early in the process instead of after you have manufactured faulty goods.

Real-time access to data that flows across your organization to inform decisions on every level helps gives your organization the power to rise above the level of the majority of the time fighting to resolve crises and begin to focus on improving efficiency, output numbers and quality.

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Finding Guidance for the Right MES Solution

Getting your organization to the level of machine/MES integration that is suitable for your particular needs can be challenging. Intraratio has the experience and knowledge to help you find a suitable solution that will help you achieve the benefits of Industry 4.0 without spending on capabilities that you do not need.

By making it a point to understand your unique business requirements, we will help you determine what level of machine integration you need for your MES. We will take into account your existing setup, software and machine interfaces and work with as much of your existing infrastructure as possible. Once we identify the missing pieces of data that you need to become more productive, we will design a cost-effective solution to help you reach your goals.

Our MES solutions can work with your existing middleware to communicate with your machines and capture the data you need to orchestrate your production processes more effectively. When a software layer is not present, we can pull data directly from sensors on your machines to provide you with the critical data you need.

Get in touch with one of our representatives today, and let's start working together to design a solution that is custom fitted to your needs. We gladly serve organizations that are seeking answers to using advanced technology to meet the demands of the competitive manufacturing environment of the 21st Century.

 


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