Manufacturing Software for Industry 4.0. - The Story Behind the Story

"I decided to write this Manufacturing Software for Industry 4.0 paper upon an advice from our Advisory Board at Critical Manufacturing (...)"

(PresseBox) ( Porto(Portugal), )
MESA (Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association) International launched 'Smart Story Awards' in May 2016 to promote the people and Information Technologies that are making manufacturing smarter: agile, sustainable, efficient.

The winning story, Manufacturing Software for Industry 4.0 - Embracing Change and Decentralization by Critical Manufacturing, was determined by the most downloads over a 3 month period and it proved there is a big gap in understanding how technology can help manufacturers advance to the next industrial revolution.

MESA held a webcast with the authors of the three winning stories, who got in an interview with MESA’s President, Mike Yost, and Marketing Committee Chair, John Clemons. The following post is a transcript of the presentation that Francisco Almada Lobo, CEO of Critical Manufacturing, gave during the webcast. In the next post we will present the Questions that were asked during the webcast, with comments from Francisco.

Read more and have a look at the corresponding images at our homepage.

Industry 4.0 / Smart Manufacturing

I decided to write this Manufacturing Software for Industry 4.0 paper upon an advice from our Advisory Board at Critical Manufacturing. Our advisors, MES experts with significant experience, recommended me to look into Industry 4.0 and seize the momentum the topic was having, especially as we had in our solution several Industry 4.0 elements.

I must confess I was quite skeptical about the topic, as it seemed to me not more but a set of buzzwords and a mixture of technologies at different maturity and adoption levels.

But then I went to look into the original reports of the Industrie 4.0 working group, the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition and reports from additional working groups and found out that there was a broad consensus about the vision for Industry 4.0.

Cyber Physical Systems

It was a vision with decentralized, autonomous networks of smart products and automated equipment collaborating in smart supply chains.

On one side the evolution of electronics is allowing smaller devices with sensors, actuators, communication and computing power – and these are becoming so affordable that can be attached to any product or equipment, giving it intelligence, capacity to communicate with each other and essentially autonomy and decision making capability.

One the other hand, customers are requesting each time more customized products, which create small lots at shop-floor level, and which at the limit are really unique products.

The future Shop-Floor Marketplace

So at the shop-floor level, operations will no longer be centrally controlled, but instead organized according to what is called a shop-floor market place. It is essentially a marketplace with demand, represented by the smart products who need transformational operations, and supply, represented by equipment which can provide this operations at a given price.
The future shop-floor marketplace

This drawing shows a simple example of how this works, and how the smart product selects the equipment for each processing step.

Of course, this is more complicated than what is shown here, but the message for me was: MES being a centralized solution, with Industry 4.0, MES as we know it would simply die. You can understand how big of a problem this would be for an MES provider.

But then my thinking process evolved. In fact, the Industry 4.0 vision cannot be achieved at all without an MES. IoT data need the contextual information so that it is useful; the shop-floor, although having autonomous entities, still needs to be monitored and controlled; the enterprise or manufacturing wide processes, still need to be followed.
MES/MOM for Industry 4.0

So we still need an MES, but just an evolved MES. An MES on steroids.

MES/MOM for Industry 4.0

First, it needs to support several different connectivity and mobile scenarios. It must seamlessly integrate IoT devices with different capabilities and make them part of the shop-floor infrastruture. Operators will have supervision tasks with mobile apps fully adapted to each role and station.

Second, it needs to provide cloud services for different functions and be the basis for Advanced Analytics, both for real-time decision making, or offline analytics based on Big Data and Machine Learning to identify problems and solutions.

Third, it must support the decentralization I mentioned before. The MES can still a physically centralized solution, but will act decentralized, with autonomous agents, products and tools, operating in a marketplace like environment. But very importantly, it must support the transition from a centralized into a decentralized shop floor, because Industry 4.0 will not happen overnight.

Fourth, it must support the integration with the enterprise processes. Although products and machines will talk to each other, we’ll still need to have quality processes, logistics processes, engineering, R&D, maintenance processes, etc., so there must a direct link between the shop-floor physical operations and the business processes

Last, but not least, Industry 4.0 shall operate at the supply chain level, not just the shop-floor level. So the MES must ensure the visibility, transparency, predictability of their operations for the entire supply chain.

The MES path to Industry 4.0

Ok, once we understood what type of MES is required for Industry 4.0, we must also help our customers understand where to start and how to build a solution that allows them to move towards the Industry 4.0 vision.

This has been briefly touched on the paper which will now have a sequel – a more detailed follow-up paper on the path to Industry 4.0 using MES.

And these are main milestones, starting with the basics:
a complete digital mapping of all physical and business processes;
once done, we can apply the subsequent tools and functional modules to achieve traceability, real-time visibility, process control, etc.;
only then, we get to the optimization phase, which includes the optimization itself, but that is also a very strong basis for simulation, for application of virtual and augmented reality scenarios, given the mixture of the physical and virtual worlds;
and then finally at the last stage, all collected information is critical to describe, diagnose and predict problems, and also to prescribe solutions to these problems.

So the final message is that this is a journey It’s like building a house, and the work must start with the foundations, and then the pillars, the walls and only then the ceiling. And the work here, which we started with this paper, is to demystify the complexity of Industry 4.0 while explaining the critical importance that a modern MES has to enable an Industry 4.0 journey.

About the Author

Francisco Almada Lobo holds an MBA and an Electrical Engineering Degree from University of Porto. He started his career in a CIM R&D institute, and joined Siemens Semiconductor in 1997. Throughout Siemens, Infineon and Qimonda, he gained experience in several manufacturing areas having led, in 2004, the first migration of an MES system in a running high-volume facility. He has been Critical Manufacturing's CEO since 2010.
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