MES add-ons ignite end user operations

By Jim Montague

Jun 13, 2018

TechED 2018 LeadImage 2

If you're serious about making The Connected Enterprise happen in reality, you're likely going to need some serious manufacturing execution system (MES) software with scalable capabilities, such as FactoryTalk ProductionCentre, FactoryTalk Analytics, and industry-specific add-on modules from Rockwell Automation that already are making a difference in many end-user applications.

"Everything fits together. Smart devices on the plant floor send data to analytics and visualization functions, and these capabilities are being built into more software and devices," explained Todd Montpas, product manager for MES at Rockwell Automation. "This is why so many users are focused on MES and how to implement it."

MES for medicine and metals

For instance, a global pharmaceutical manufacturer with 18 global sites recently needed to replace multiple customized, legacy MESs for their active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) production, solid dosage and sterile packaging applications; make the new MES accessible to about 80 smaller sites; and harmonize these processes to allow global key performance indicators (KPIs), according to Martin Dittmer, head of MES product management at Rockwell Automation.

"The user participated in the global rollout of our PharmaSuite add-on to FactoryTalk ProductionCentre, which helped provide the electronic batch records (EBR) they must have to document each production step," said Dittmer. "In the past, they'd had a paper-based system. PharmaSuite enabled centralized recipe management for process harmonization, standardized and template-based deployment models – a phased approach to ramp up capabilities and "evergreening" of its MES with regular updates to PharmaSuite's latest versions."

Other add-ons include CPGSuite for consumer packaged goods manufacturers and AutoSuite for automotive applications.

Dittmer added that the drug maker deployed its new MES at 24 sites over four years. The company also:

  • Realized typical EBR benefits, such as reduced compliance costs
  • Accelerated batch releases
  • Ensured data integrity and reduced inventory
  • Cut costs of supporting its harmonized MES, which was aided by PharmaSuite’s new operating expenditure-based evergreen subscription model

Montpas and Dittmer presented "Achieve Your Connected Enterprise Vision with Scalable Operations Management" this week at Rockwell Automation TechED in San Diego.

Similarly, a global metals manufacturer had a paper-based legacy MES with limited reporting and tracking, but recently needed to ramp up quickly to supply the automotive market, which had increased quality and traceability requirements, increased penalties for missing delivery schedules, and an aggressive product schedule with a required global rollout. As a result, it adopted ProductionCentre with order management, track and trace, quality, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), and enterprise resource planning (ERP) functions.

"This metals manufacturer needed better visibility into their machine performance, and this solution provided it," added Dittmer.

In addition, fit-for-purpose applications allowed the metals firm to implement parts of the new MES solution ahead of schedule, while out-of-the-box reporting let its operators know immediately about required quality checks, and integrating with its existing ERP system enabled accurate and more real-time production changes.

Thanks to the new MES, results at the metals manufacturer included productivity increases in four plants that were more than two years ahead of schedule; better product quality due to real-time data collection and notification; and a better window into critical processes that let operators make immediate adjustments, which reduced scrap and further increased productivity.

Scalable, suitable sizes

Montpas added that typical MES functions include product tracing and genealogy, resource status and allocation, process management and workflows, performance analysis, labor management, inventory and logistics, quality management and dispatching.

As a result, MES allows better visibility into manufacturing, reduced cost-per-unit, increased production efficiency, reduced inventory, better quality and reduced compliance costs.

However, despite all the tasks it can perform and the benefits it can deliver, many traditional MES solutions haven't been flexible enough for users to employ them everywhere they need to use them. This is where the scalable execution functions of ProductionCentre and its add-on software modules come in. These scalable functions include:

  • Operational visibility of plant-floor operations and built-in analytics with more than 90 report types available
  • Operational flexibility, including graphical plant models and graphical configuration with Plant Model Editor, as well as wizard-based build planning and workflow building with Graphical Workflow Editor 
  • Deployment flexibility that provides scalable investment application and infrastructure, and increased deployment flexibility via software widgets

Montpas and Dittmer added that users are also taking advantage of other industry-specific, scalable FactoryTalk MES software packages, including:

  • FactoryTalk Production for discrete processes, which has 80 out-of-box software widgets to provide detailed process steps
  • FactoryTalk Warehouse for material, batch and tracking, movement, logistics, inventory, transaction logs, storage conditions and workflow configuration
  • FactoryTalk Performance, including plant models, line configuration, performance criteria per materials, defining OEE targets, tag browsing and manual reason codes 
  • FactoryTalk Quality, which has version-controlled recipe software, recipe items with a wide range of data inputs, sample forms by configurations, quality recipe plans that define execution conditions and notifications, and workflow enforcement with instructions
  • FactoryTalk Enterprise Integration Hub, which is a common method for getting data from PlantPAx distributed control systems, laboratory information management systems (LIMS) or other MESs.