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Justifying Automation in the Era of the Connected Enterprise

The post Justifying Automation in the Era of the Connected Enterprise first appeared on the ISA Interchange blog site.

This excerpt from InTech magazine was written by John Nesi, vice president of market development for the global sales and marketing segment of Rockwell Automation.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the global middle class will surge from 1.8 billion in 2009 to 3.2 billion in 2020. This ballooning middle class will translate to greater consumer spending, placing an increased demand on manufacturing, resources, and infrastructure.globally-connected-enterprise

Meeting this demand requires automation investments to help operations be more productive, sustainable, and flexible. As global pressures for improved productivity and competitiveness continue to increase, companies need to invest in new, innovative ways to optimize plants and supply networks.

Fortunately, the next industrial revolution is happening right now, and the connected enterprise is the reason for this shift. It is converging information technologies (IT) and operational technologies (OT) and holds the promise for improving global production, sustainability efforts, and overall business agility. If companies are not on board with this industrial shift, they will fall behind. It is easy to understand the implications of this shift, but it is more challenging to justify the automation and cultural investment to leverage it.

A case in point

At automation manufacturer Rockwell Automation, about a third of the 22,000 employees work within 17 global manufacturing plants, which manage nearly 400,000 stock-keeping units and produce thousands of build-to-stock, configure-to-order, and engineer-to-order products. As an evolution of its decades-long commitment to capturing enterprise data to make better decisions, the company implemented an enterprise-wide strategy and automation investment several years ago to better connect its global manufacturing facilities and accelerate the business value of those connections.

The automation investment included a new approach to its manufacturing, focused on the following outcomes:

  • A standardized, global information system and processes to enable accurate measurements across multiple site locations, including Asia, Latin America, Europe, and North America
  • Contextualized, working data capital that employees and partners can use to make better decisions
  • Enhanced collaboration of both systems and talent
  • An information network optimized for the enterprise
  • Security designed-in from the onset

Change motivators

Many manufacturers have a diverse product portfolio with plants spread across the globe executing a variety of manufacturing processes. That diversity creates added complexities and underscores the importance of standardization.

In the case of Rockwell Automation, each plant was running on its own enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and had its own custom applications that captured and analyzed data in different ways. It needed to implement a standardized approach across its global plants to gain consistent points of reference and processes for quality control, purchasing, and manufacturing engineering—regardless of location.

It also needed to decrease the hundreds of applications that were registered through its business process mapping. This large amount was due to the variety of products and parts manufactured by the company globally. Variation in data and input/output points collected throughout the system increased the chance of error and the amount of time needed to read and understand the collected information—a challenge not uncommon for large, global manufacturers.

In addition, having a connected system across the globe would allow the company to quickly respond to issues anywhere. For example, if there was a big surge in demand in China, its facility in Ohio would have visibility into its Singapore plant to respond and address production needs, and vice versa.

Planning for the connected enterprise

The company developed a five-year plan to entirely restructure its facilities and supplier network. To address and improve the plan’s technology component, the company focused on updating the different manufacturing execution system (MES) solutions throughout its plants—each customized with little to no integration across the enterprise. By integrating applications into one system, overall production would improve and support the company’s transition toward standardization.

Reducing variation and increasing information visibility at each site would enable managers and operators to measure production efficiencies and inefficiencies. It also would provide an all-encompassing view into the company’s operations and a company-wide benchmark to measure success.

Justifying the automation investment included understanding the shortcomings of the current MES solution at each site and how the company could make improvements to gain the best solution possible in tandem with its ERP system.

The company used an MES application that could be implemented throughout the enterprise. This solution was a cost-effective development platform with an extensible workflow engine and operational model that could grow with operations. The flexible solution also catered to the company’s various product manufacturing styles.

The MES solution and enterprise manufacturing intelligence software now track and record data and pinpoint production trends. They fit the needs of individual sites but also have enterprise-wide capabilities. The solution acts as a funnel for multiple data sources, feeding out understandable, actionable working data capital to make improvements. It pulls information from hundreds of applications, streamlines it into one centralized location, and feeds it into the ERP system.

The scalable solution also analyzes key performance indicators (KPIs) in real time to measure quality, consistency, and process efficiency. More specifically, the solution has the following production-related capabilities:

  • Production dispatching: Tracks work order management, confirms ERP orders, and provides back-up assistance for ERP system outages
  • Production quality: Monitors out-of-bounds conditions in real time, managing rework and defects
  • Production workflow management: Monitors verification points on each product during production, delivering compliance and regulatory reporting
  • Production performance: Collects test and measure data, providing an enterprise benchmark

Click here to continue reading John Nesi’s article on the connected enterprise at InTech magazine.

About the Author
John NesiJohn Nesi is the vice president of market development for the global sales and marketing segment of Rockwell Automation. Nesi has more than 33 years of experience in sales, marketing, systems, services, operations, and engineering across various businesses with the company. He is responsible for the strategic and commercial development of growth initiatives, including connected enterprise, sustainability, power and energy, working with customer segments in the industrial sector to promote energy efficiencies, process optimization, and production intelligence to improve demand-driven production in a safe, sustainable environment. Nesi holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Cleveland State University and is an executive scholar of Kellogg School of Management.
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Source: ISA News