MES Enablement: The Universal Translator

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MES Enablement: The Universal Translator

MES is a critical component of the Operational Technology stack. It provides the ability to optimize the manufacturing process through applications such as OEE, SPC and Track and Trace that leverage real time data from the factory floor and puts it in context for the business of running a plant. Accurate and consistent plant floor data is the key to make it all hum. That’s where MES Enablement comes in.

MES Enablement is essentially the middleman for the data translation. All occurring data that takes place on the factory floor is scooped up, standardized, processed, and structured in a concise format through the MES Enablement layer before it is sent to the MES applications. The purpose is to maintain a consistent look and feel for all gathered information from every piece of equipment, on every site, in each line that has MES functionality.

Computer Babble

As mentioned above, there are countless devices on the plant floor that perform various functions in the manufacturing process. By example, photo eyes and vison systems are two plant floor functions that are prime data sources for MES to mine for valuable context. Additionally, KPI (Key Performance Indicators) are gathered from weigh scales that measures each ingredient that goes into the product and captures it for a batch record. The control system compares the weight to the needed setpoint to distinguish when there’s been an error in the weighment. These three examples are only a fraction of what takes place on the plant floor. In reality there are hundreds of data interactions on the plant floor from a myriad of models, types, and styles of plant control systems. In other words, the plant floor data is a compounding multiplication of different PLC and control systems sources as seen in the image below.

With so many functions, it’s no wonder that all this disparate plant information must be standardized so that the MES application can easily interpret it and not have to adapt to the variety. After translation and organization the MES applications of OEE, downtime, track and trace (TnT), and quality among others provide the operators and supervisors information to optimize operations.

Without a structured MES Enablement approach the process of collecting valid data is onerous…. The information gathered for presentation to the MES Applications is not limited to a single line or even plant. Most MES programs are intended to implement the desired functions at numerous facilities. If the data isn’t standardized, funneled, and consistent from each line and piece of equipment the potential for inconsistency and errors expand.

A challenge for MES Enablement is obsolete PLCs. Obsolete PLCs are often unable to meet the ethernet communication requirements of the new MES system – the unit itself is too aged and cannot be modified to provide the necessary data. In this case is necessary to upgrade or replace the antiquated controller and allow reliable connection to the system.

Setting a Plan

The most important step to standardize and enable plant floor data for the MES application is setting a plan and strategy for the collection of the data that transcends across all the facilities that will receive the MES applications. The plan must address the physical connections, the software concentration strategy, the rules for measurement of KPI’s and a process for addressing outliers. This plan can be challenging and could benefit from working with a partner integration firm to leverage their experience. If you choose to work with a partner for the plan and eventual implementation, your partner should have a deep understanding of all the data devices and process equipment found on the plant floor and know how to extract the data. Additionally, the partner should have the scale to address the project as it rolls out to the multiple facilities. In the case of MES rollout, resource depth matters.

MES Enablement is the needed middleman that standardizes all incoming plant floor data so that the MES application can easily comprehend and deliver business value. If Enablement is done correctly, the OEE, SPC and Track and Trace MES application bring consistent value to the plant and manufacturing company.

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