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Tom Cutler

Editor's Ramblings
Home Grown MES - OUT and Large Vendor's MES - IN

by Naeem Ismat (Guest Contributor)  |   October, 2006

Welcome back to another issue of AutomationMedia's Ramblings. As you may have noticed, we here are not producing content at the brisk pace we once enjoyed in past. The weather was warm here, out-of-doors activities were IN. I hope it will be better in winter. Also, for some unknown reasons, my day-job has become increasingly over demanding and taking most of my free time. I hope it will be better soon. This time some useful information about Manufacturing Execution Systems. As Manufacturing Execution Systems is mouthful to say, standard short form - MES - from now on.

MES is the layer of software between the plant floor and the enterprise applications systems that companies can use to “measure” and “control” production activities with the aim of increasing productivity and improving quality.

The ISA has defined standards regarding the structuring of MES and its integration in a larger company-wide IT architecture. ISA-95 addresses Enterprise and Control System Integration which defines a layer model looking at the integration aspects between ERP, MES and the production control level. It is supported by leading vendors in the MES area. Similarly ISA-S88 "General and Site Recipe Models and Representation" defines a process state model for the batch industry.

ANSI/ISA-95, or S95 as it is more commonly referred, is an international standard for developing an automated interface between enterprise and control systems. This standard has been developed for global manufacturers. It was developed to be applied in all industries, and in all sorts of processes, like batch processes, continuous and repetitive processes.

Now as the infrastructure of MMI-Scada widely exists, MES applications are easier to implement, and can easily relay data and information up and down the enterprise. MES can also be used for tracking purposes, as it can produce reports detailing the raw materials that went into an item, as well as each process it went through. MES is changing the industrial game for process manufacturers. A good MES solution should be designed to be independent of the Scada, DCS or PLC systems being used. It should not be any Scada or DCS or PLC vendor or version dependent.

One of the reasons that homegrown systems are no more popular, they cannot scale or expand easily. Open and layered architecture allows connecting to all products including competitors’ products easily and allows separating the opportunity to focus only on the products’ strengths/weaknesses. Manufacturers can add true value by selecting and using right MES for their system. Identification of performance areas plays an important role and alleviates variety of pains in manufacturing environment. Typically those pains are unique to each plant. An effective Gap Analysis is very important and then correct product selection can fill the gap between ERP & Plant Floor. Accurate and consistent reporting standards all across plants, divisions, or enterprise are important for baseline for any accountability. Monitoring of accurate waste, scrap, defect counts and accurately identification of biggest sources of downtime that impact production are very important to remain competitive in market and for data-driven decisions on capital expenditures.

In past, available solutions were pain for customers due to lack of configuration options and mostly need to use “tool kits” that requires customization and the writing of custom programming code. Now most of the top MES solutions come with templates/industry specific models, which are easily configurable and specifically address the needs of continuous, batch and discrete process manufacturing industries and also provide the tools necessary to improve production efficiency, quality management, production execution and product genealogy and traceability.

Data repositories are another key factor for analysis. You should have a stable historian in your system to collect, archive and distribute plant floor information. Connectors for the existing data repositories are an important factor in sales of MES software. That’s why the all leading MES solutions supports and provides interfaces for the leading historians like GE’s iHistorian, OSISoft’s PI System, AspenTech’s IP.21, Honeywell’s PHD and Wonderware’s InSQL, Rockwell’s RSBizware RSHistorian and other generic SQL based historians.

GE’s latest Proficy Plant Applications v4.3 has been released. This Plant Apps is offering Quality, Batch Execution, Batch Analysis, Efficiency, Production, Tracker, Machine Tool Efficiency modules. I think Efficiency Module is a much stronger offering in both capabilities and performance, backed up by powerful and most efficient historian, known as Proficy Historian. A historian which is not another SQL Server based Historian, specially developed for industrial needs with SQL query options. Based on feed back from plant floor during my recent site visits, this one is hot in market now.

Rockwell’s RSBizware consists of three solutions Scheduler, Efficiency, and a Data Historian. Again, Rockwell’s MES strategy is based on his large market share of PLC’s and standard controls still allows their sales team to get a look at many MES software opportunities. This means they are still dependant on PLC software and their operator interface family of products to win this MES war. No dout, acquisition of Datasweep in 2005 and integration with FactoryTalk suite, strengthened the Rockwell bundle of MES.

As per GE’s media, Plant Apps is installed in 17 distinct industries in 34 countries globally, which is a claim no competitor can back up. Most vendors are stuck in one specific market.

GE, Siemens or Rockwell still has benefit of being LARGE, with global capabilities, which eliminates many smaller competitors, even with good products.

Reference Links:
  • GE Fanuc Automation
  • Rockwell Automation
  • Until next time,

    Naeem Ismat

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