Article :: Manufacturing Execution Systems: The Missing Link

Executing on your full manufacturing potential

Original Article via :: Manufacturing Engineering
Article by Kip Hanson

You’ve implemented a popular brand of ERP software. Your PLM system is humming like a well-tuned sports car. You have CAD/CAM and TMS and toolpath simulation software in place, and all your people have been trained on its use. You’ve spent boatloads of money on software and consultants, have all the correct systems in place, and yet you blew an important delivery date last week and you still walk out to the shop several times a day to check on jobs. What gives?

Chances are good that it’s time to take the next big step towards production nirvana by implementing a Manufacturing Execution System (MES). Think of it as the missing link between ERP, the shop floor, and all the other software systems used to manage a manufacturing business. MES provides a higher level of production visibility and job tracking than ERP. It makes real-time scheduling truly real-time. It offers previously unattainable access to performance and quality data, along with the analytical tools necessary to improve both.

Let Me Count the Ways

MES does all this and more, but what it doesn’t do is fall into any neat, easily-defined software category. In fact, a Google search for MES software returns a host of “Best MES Software” results, a few of which lead to suppliers who can probably spell MES but that’s about all. Searches will find long lists of MES features such as data collection, master production scheduling, labor tracking and so on, functions that any ERP system is probably already doing. Even to those who are knowledgeable about software systems, MES can be a little confusing.

Someone well-equipped to help navigate this murky territory is Andrew Robling, senior product manager at Epicor Software Corp., Austin, Texas. For him, there’s nothing confusing about MES, or the benefits it brings to companies large and small.

“MES admittedly means many things to many people, but at its heart it’s about collecting data directly from equipment and machine tools so that you can make better decisions,” he said. “That data might be as basic as machine status or how many parts it’s produced so far today, and from there extend to true process monitoring, capturing values like machine temperature and pressure, or part quality data for SPC [statistical process control] purposes.”

Data collection can be automatic, he noted, with integration to a machine-mounted PLC (programmable logic controller), for instance, or completely manual in the form of shop floor touch screens and mobile devices. This flexibility might help to explain why many in the industry struggle to offer a clear-cut definition of MES, and why its capabilities vary from vendor to vendor. Ambiguous or not, however, there’s one thing that everyone agrees on—if seeking to increase visibility to the inner workings of a production floor and thereby improve manufacturing efficiency, MES is an excellent way to get there.

Get Real (Time)

Consider one of the most important of all shop floor management activities, accurate job scheduling. According to Robling, MES makes it possible to keep the wheels on the production bus, rather than finding out it crashed sometime yesterday afternoon. “Shops need a mechanism to display job information in real time, to let people know that the equipment isn’t operating as it should, or that a cutting tool is about to fail,” he said.

With MES, this can be accomplished in a variety of ways. It might be a management-level dashboard that turns red if there’s a problem, or Andon-style displays (visual control devices) on the factory floor that provide information on current machine status, production levels and non-conformance warnings. Robling said some shops will even send alerts through the company’s public address system. “Whatever approach is used, these systems give people an opportunity to take corrective action immediately, possibly avoiding hours of inefficient machine operation.”

MES is not only for automotive production levels. Robling agreed that MES is more common with larger manufacturers, but noted that even small job shops can enjoy significant benefits—in fact, these are often the ones who gain the most.

“We worked with a shop in Pennsylvania recently that figured their OEE level [overall equipment effectiveness] was somewhere in the mid-60s,” he said. “After implementing MES, they found that the handful of machine downtime instances they were manually recording each day were in reality much higher—on the order of a couple hundred small interruptions per shift that the operator didn’t bother reporting. The result? Their OEE was roughly 15 percent lower than expected. MES not only provided visibility to this problem, but also the data needed to address it.”

What About MOM?

Investigations into MES often find a related term, Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM). Subba Rao, innovation officer for the manufacturing operations management group at Siemens Digital Industries Software, Plano, Texas, explained that MES can be thought of as a smaller, less comprehensive version of MOM, at least from a Siemens Digital Industries Software perspective.

“MOM is broader,” said Rao. “Where MES is focused more on real-time data collection, MOM leverages that data for quality management, maintenance activities, closed-loop collaboration on engineering information for the factory floor, and orchestration of the various processes needed to produce quality products. We like to call it the digital brain for production operations, one that delivers insight and transparency to all involved.”

He also explained that, compared to even five years ago, MES and its big sister MOM are easier than ever to implement, thanks in large part to Industry 4.0 and the IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things). That’s because today’s CNC machine tools as well as other types of industrial equipment are typically chock full of sensors that detect everything from axis loads to spindle vibration. These sensors are simple to connect and more than happy to share data with external software systems, allowing all manner of predictive maintenance, process monitoring, and improvements to occur.

Simplified connectivity is great, Rao noted, but it is what is done with the data that counts. “Operators, machine programmers, production control supervisors and everyone else involved wants to know what’s being worked on right now, how the shop is performing, and how processes could be improved for current and future product innovations,” he said. “But that’s just a small slice of what MOM brings to the table. Everybody in the company is looking for better ways to perform certain tasks, whether it’s the quality control team that wants to analyze statistical trends or the logistics manager who needs to stage material. MOM, and to a lesser extent MES, helps to facilitate the coordination and orchestration needed to achieve truly efficient manufacturing.”

Optimized Results

Hold on though—what if delivery and quality levels have been running at 98 percent or higher for the past two years? What if setup times are about as good as can be expected, especially, say, in an a low-volume, high-mix environment? And, say as well, that shop floor scheduling and “orchestration” are well in hand. Why upset the apple cart?

Good question. It’s entirely possible that in this example, a machine shop or a sheet metal fabrication business has no need for the advanced functionality discussed here, and that the data collection and job tracking that come standard with most ERP systems—what many in the industry actually label as MES—are all that’s needed to continue hitting at the current “home run” level.

But consider this information from ECI Software Solutions, Fort Worth, Texas, which suggests that MES takes production efficiency to an entirely new level.

Many ERP systems do a decent job in scheduling, at a macro level. But what about when a shop is bending 20-gauge stainless steel sheet, or cutting slots in titanium with a ½” [12.7-mm] end mill, and wants to know all the other available jobs that share those attributes so that it can leverage the same setup and tooling? MES provides an opportunity to optimize work centers based on whatever values the shop wants, and then communicate the updated schedule back to the ERP system, so that everything is working in a harmonious fashion, according to the company.

This is something that most ERP systems can’t do on their own, according to ECI, because they don’t have the necessary machine interfacing or access to engineering information. MES does, though, resulting in far greater machine utilization, less scrap, and shorter setup times. And because a properly-implemented MES captures in-process data such as equipment loads and inspection results, substantial process improvement opportunities exist that would otherwise have been unattainable. The bottom line? MES is a good place to start an Industry 4.0 initiative.

Goodbye Tribal Knowledge

Of course, machine optimization assumes the engineering data is actually available, and that it is clean, well-organized, and all in one place. For many shops, especially those without a formal engineering department, however, this information is scattered about on tooling sheets and programming systems, or resides in the heads of the veteran machinists and sheet metal fabricators who’ve been making shop floor magic happen for the past 30 years. The question then becomes, what happens when these valuable employees either retire or leave the company?

In many ways, this is MES’ true value. It acts as the central repository for all of the documents, drawings, and instructions needed to set up and operate manufacturing equipment. It then monitors the performance of that equipment, manages the production and quality-related data coming out of it, feeds that data back to the company’s other software systems, and gives humans the opportunity to identify ways to improve processes and machine utilization.

In short, MES does what people have been doing for as long as there have been buttons to push or levers to pull. It eliminates the intuition and gut feel that far too many shops rely on every day, turning what would otherwise be tribal knowledge into a corporate asset, according to ECI.

The Big Poka-Yoke

At its most basic, MES is about control and the ability to error-proof processes, and through that error-proofing avoid production problems, according to Mike Hart, director of product strategy for manufacturing and industrial IoT at Plex Systems Inc., Troy, Mich. “It’s about connecting the dots.”

Those dots might include a job’s tooling and raw material requirements, he said, as well as its planning and quality control expectations. There’s what’s running now, what’s running this afternoon, and what’s running next week to consider, and what impact these activities will have on inventory levels. MES ties these often disparate sources of information together to create a connected organization. It gives operators easy access to the tools needed to be effective at their jobs, while management obtains a more coherent view of their business systems, together with the information needed to make smart decisions.

Increased visibility is great, but how does MES help to make processes error proof? “Because if you know who’s performing a certain process or running a certain machine, you can then use that information to find out what training they’ve received, and whether they’re qualified to do the job,” Hart said. “But even more than that, MES makes certain that all the proper control plans are in place and that people are ‘checking the boxes’ at the correct times and places. If they don’t, red flags are immediately raised—not tomorrow, not when the job is done, but right now.”

Shifting Gears

If MES is so great, why haven’t more shops invested in it? For that matter, why is there so much industry focus on ERP, when it seems like the real benefits come with an MES implementation? At the risk of stating the obvious, ERP is a requirement for practically any manufacturing company, or at least any company with more than a handful of employees and an eye towards growth.

Simply put, ERP pays the bills. Literally. Accounting functions such as payables, receivables, tax reporting, and more would be exceedingly difficult without ERP software, as would inventory control, shipping and receiving, sales order management, purchasing, and the all-important MRP. ERP systems also boast some level of scheduling and shop floor control functionality, even though most fall short on managing its inner workings. Hence the need for MES.

“We’ve seen it go both ways, but yes, some shops choose to pursue an MES strategy first,” Hart said. “It really depends on what pain points they’re experiencing. If there are problems, for example, with material traceability, or the shop is facing quality challenges and they want to shine a light on what’s happening out there at any given moment, they’ll typically start with MES. That said, one of the key benefits of MES is the potential integration with ERP and other manufacturing systems, so it’s important to keep that in your sights as you move forward.”

Say Hello to the Emperor

Bear in mind that implementing MES raises many of the same considerations and potential pitfalls as ERP. “There’s no point in doing it unless your data’s correct,” said Jim Errington, executive vice president of sales and service for Fujitsu Glovia Inc., El Segundo, Calif. “I tell this to ERP and MES customers alike, that no matter how great the system or how super its tools, filling it with bad data will only provide bad answers.”

Errington shared a story of a customer he worked with recently. After spending months cleaning up its bills of material and routers, they flipped the switch on the factory planning side of their MES software, only to overload a critical work center. The problem? No one noticed the inaccurate move times. “Like many shops, they never had a real scheduling system, so these values were never looked at,” Errington said. “Everyone was aware that you can’t move a two-ton casting instantaneously, but in this case, that’s exactly what they told the system to do.”

The oversight ended up putting them behind schedule by several days, he added, and took them weeks to recover from a simple mistake. This is why it’s so important to get the engineers and planners and costing people involved in any implementation—MES or otherwise—so as to avoid situations like this. “A lot of people say that data is king; maybe so, but that makes data accuracy the emperor,” said Errington.

His scheduling example illustrates one more important point about MES. Unlike ERP, MES is an elephant that can be eaten in small bites. For instance, it’s quite possible to implement only the scheduling function, as Glovia’s customer did, or integrate MES with the shop’s maintenance software for OEE tracking, or use it to collect production data on the automated laser cutter you just installed, or provide better information to the assembly line … the list goes on. Yes, data integrity and good housekeeping are equally important, but the effort will almost certainly be smaller and the ROI much faster.

The message is obvious: low hanging fruit abounds in even the best-run companies, and MES is the stepladder needed to pick it. “This will become increasingly clear as we move into Industry 4.0 and more companies want to collect and analyze the data coming off their machine tools,” Errington said. “MES gives us the ability to connect the factory with the rest of the business, providing real-time data, more accurate scheduling, greater machine utilization, and improved control over every aspect of the production floor. To us, MES isn’t a nice-to-have—it’s a must-have, at least for any manufacturer that wants to remain competitive.”

This article was first published in the October 2019 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Read “Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES): The Missing Link.

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Article :: Cloud Connectivity Drive ERP Software

New technologies—including machine learning, mobile apps and advanced analytics—help manufacturers keep tabs on fast-paced factory-floor operations

Original Article via :: Manufacturing Engineering
Article by Patrick Waurzyniak

Manufacturing operations depend on getting the right information at precisely the right moment, ensuring that products get built on time, to quality specs. With the latest enterprise resource management (ERP) software, this critical data flow is often coming via the cloud, as more manufacturers become comfortable with it as a repository for key manufacturing information.

With ERP software delivered via the cloud, Big Data is also more easily leveraged for Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications. In this application, advanced analytics do the data crunching required for processing the flow of data, including operational metrics and inventory information.

Along with offering more mobile apps that funnel factory data directly to users’ fingertips, many ERP software developers are also testing newer technologies like artificial intelligence, augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) capabilities, and machine learning and advanced analytics that can handle the Big Data inherent with many IIoT/IoT manufacturing data scenarios.

IIoT and Manufacturing’s Big Data

With advances in Smart Manufacturing/Industry 4.0, the potential for growth in the IoT/IIoT is immense, noted Jerry Foster, cofounder and chief technical officer of ERP software supplier Plex Systems Inc. (Troy, MI), developer of the Plex Manufacturing Cloud ERP. “The IoT and the IIoT [concept] is just huge,” Foster said, noting that while many managers seem to think they’re falling behind, “this is stuff that they’ve been doing for years—it’s just a matter of scale. The enabler there is just the cloud and connectivity.”

Data collection is something many manufacturers are already doing, so they’re ahead of the game, Foster noted. “Big Data for you is just Bigger Data,” he said. “It’s more data than you have now. The problem with this is data deluge. It was a major concern, but it only takes machine learning and algorithms to handle it.”

Plex currently offers machine learning and advanced analytics through third-party applications. However, the company is working on its own applications for this process that Foster said will be available later this year. “What we do is partner with a machine learning service and utilize that to analyze the data. We’d take the ERP data that our customers have and put that in the Microsoft Azure cloud. You want actionable machine learning, and this is one of the things that we’re on the cusp of right now,” he said.

Many other ERP developers recognize the importance of Big Data in the IIoT age, and they are moving to incorporate advanced analytics and AI into their toolkits. “Big Data is already having an impact on the ERP software market, and many manufacturers understand this,” said Terri Hiskey, vice president, manufacturing product marketing, Epicor Software Corp. (Austin, TX). “The insights that can be revealed through the collection of all sorts of data—from the length of time it takes to process orders and respond to customer requests, to tracking materials and costs, tracking inventory, understanding customer patterns and behavior, and much more can be tracked through various algorithms and analytics.

“As manufacturers move into the IIoT, the amount of data increases because now companies can track machine performance out in the field,” she continued. “Depending on performance outcomes, those machines might be set up to course-correct themselves through artificial intelligence. In fact, a term that I hear being used more and more is ‘data fatigue’; that the vast amount of data being collected is often left untouched because there aren’t enough resources or knowledge to make that data actionable. The advantages that companies will get out of leveraging Big Data is the insight into overall ERP processes and the recommended actions to take due to those insights.”

Managing the Workflow

For discrete manufacturers, ERP software helps streamline the process, ensuring workflow is optimized to meet production goals. “Just by creating the workflow in ERP, the business captures the experience, expertise and best practices for the varying workflows,” Hiskey said. “The workflow can be automated in ERP, resulting in less human error and a faster process. Guesswork can be reduced with greater visibility and insights into the business. ERP workflow can cross cross-functional boundaries and allow for easier communications up and down and across the organization and functional areas.”

Businesses can also track the total execution time for any given workflow, she added. “ERP workflows can also help track costs and time related to the completion of a production job, such as whether or not the time falls within an agreed upon timeline; whether all materials were consumed and charged correctly; are there any orders outstanding waiting for the completion of this job; do labor or material costs need to be updated for future production; and are there any corrections to costs before completing the job?” This can help accounting teams close their books, Hiskey said, with information on invoices that need to be completed and posted to accounts receivable; suppliers that need to be paid and costs captured; and making sure that depreciation and accruals are calculated. “All of these steps can be managed through an ERP workflow,” she added.

Users of Epicor’s latest ERP get a personalized, active home page that “provides dashboard views of role-based analytics with quick access to role-based functionality, made possible through Epicor Data Discovery, which supports rich, on-demand data exploration to surface real-time operational and business performance insights to guide decision-making,” Hiskey said. “This results in users being able to access critical insights at a glance for better, faster analysis and execution.”

New customer relationship management (CRM) functionality in Epicor ERP empowers sales and service personnel in the field with the added convenience of mobile access, she added. Epicor Field Service Automation (FSA) features integrated mapping to support optimized scheduling and dispatch and robust workflows to automate processes for asset management, contract, warranty and service level agreements (SLAs), and management of service inventory. Hiskey said the Epicor FSA is available in a cloud or on-premises delivery model and can be used with smartphones, tablets and laptops for both online and off-line communications with the back office for enhanced productivity and efficiency across all service workforce facets, for improved response, reduced costs and improved customer satisfaction.

“Most ERP systems today are very mature and are designed around industrial best practices,” noted Jim Errington, executive vice president, sales and service for ERP software developer Fujitsu Glovia Inc. (El Segundo, CA). “So if instead of customizing the software to fit what the customer has always done, the customer has to change and actually review what the software is really offering.

“A lot of ERP systems are now using software such as SharePoint to assist in documenting and defining the processes,” he added. “So when using the solution, users don’t need to access the ERP solution directly but can be steered by the process to use the necessary screens to complete the process,” he said.

The latest Fujitsu GLOVIA G2 ERP software includes a new call center capability and CRM functionality in new modules that allow monitoring activity by cell or machine in real time on the factory floor (seen above).The Fujitsu Glovia ERP includes a new Call Center capability, he added, as well as a CRM solution suitable for discrete manufacturing customers. “In the next release there will be a couple of new modules. The first, Shop Floor Dispatch, allows manufacturing to monitor activity by cell or machine on the factory floor in real-time, giving them the ability to react to problems,” Errington said. “The second, Contract Billing, allows customers to create billing contracts to cover things such as machine rentals and service contracts without the need to start with a sales order or sales contract.”

Banking on the Cloud

Moving to the cloud is an important consideration for many manufacturers today. With the latest M1 ERP solutions from ECi Software Solutions Inc. (Fort Worth, TX), manufacturers can leverage the cloud in multiple ways, noted David Christiansen, ECi Solutions vice president of sales.

Moving to the cloud to take the stress and costs of managing hardware from the customer is key, he said. “The main trend is moving towards the cloud and especially mobility. … ERP packages provide the data to make informed business decisions on the floor. This could be utilizing machines on the floor or improving material handling,” Christiansen said.

“The cloud is important today due to the increase in ransomware attacks and the need to have a solid redundancy plan,” added Christiansen. “We will still have manufacturers with on-premise [data storage] due to location and limited Internet access.”

Leaders of growing manufacturers know that innovation is not only critical but imperative, said Epicor’s Hiskey. “Faced with rapid change, they are choosing to invest in business initiatives that accelerate innovation as a competitive advantage, like a range of cloud-based business applications. The cloud has rapidly established itself as the preferred and default deployment environment for companies of all sizes, particularly small to mid-size,” she added.

Customers typically select the cloud for a host of economic reasons. It is less-capital intensive than on-premises deployment and offers better and more immediate scalability; ease of upgrades; the ability to cut direct and indirect costs from infrastructure; and reduced deployment times and corresponding ROI, noted Hiskey. “However, the reasons aren’t all about technology, nor economics,” she said. “Selecting cloud means retiring the status-quo approach to business management applications that could not keep pace with current business needs. Moving to the cloud frees companies from the need to procure, install, maintain and manage their own IT systems, while also gaining the opportunity to digitally transform business processes to achieve far greater results.”

Many manufacturers are still working with on-premises solutions for a number of reasons, Hiskey said, including security concerns, aversion to shaking up the status quo, lack of expertise or knowledge of how to start process improvements, and fear of the cost or downtime during a transition period. “There could be any number of reasons why manufacturers might decide to stay on-premises.” Epicor offers the same solution as either cloud or on-premises, so companies can choose the model that works best for their businesses, she added.

Whether the system is in the cloud or on premise, manufacturers still have to implement the solution, Errington noted. “With cloud, this is difficult for manufacturing companies as they often want to change things in the standard software, so unless it is a single-tenant solution then there are difficulties,” he said.

In addition, manufacturing execution systems (MES) and advanced planning and scheduling require a lot of bandwidth, and connections to the cloud solution can be difficult, Errington said. “Just about all of our customers still want an on-premise solution so that they have control and the ability to modify it when required,” he added.

Visualizing Shop Processes

New wearable technologies such as Google Glass and others that employ augmented reality (AR) are being tested and implemented on the shop, noted Foster. “This is one more interesting thing,” he said. “The hype has cooled a bit, but we’re working on some proof of concept.”

Plex customer Fisher Dynamics (St. Clair Shores, MI), an automotive seating supplier, has tested a system using Google Glass with a barcode system featuring iBeacon and Plex ERP for improving its inventory control and meeting traceability requirements.

Aside from Google Glass, there are other options, including the Realwear HMT1 or the Vuzix Blade AR glasses recently announced by Vuzix Corp. (Rochester, NY) at the CES 2018 show, Foster noted. “The cool thing about them is they utilize voice activated commands,” he said. “At the CES, voice was everywhere.”

Using this type of technology, combined with Plex ERP’s ability to focus users on one single repository of information, is a winning combination for discrete manufacturers, he said. “You get one version of the truth,” Foster added. “You hear a lot about the connected enterprise; ERP connects the whole enterprise, it’s cohesive and it provides one source of the truth.

“When we take Plex into a new customer, we’re often replacing several applications,” Foster continued. “You don’t have a situation where accounting has one software, and inventory has another, and you have arguments like ‘my software says this.’”

Mobile access also is key, offering managers immediacy in getting key performance indicators right on the shop floor. “Our software, since it’s HTML, can run on smartphones or tablets, but obviously the bigger the screen the better. We do have an app, SmartPlex, that runs on Android and iOS devices.” Plex is currently overhauling SmartPlex, he said, with a new version of the app due in the second half of this year.

This article was first published in the December 2016 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Read “Cloud Connectivity, Advanced Analytics Drive ERP Software.

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Smart Manufacturing Article :: How to Begin Thinking About a Flexible System

Read the Original Article Here.
Article by Kristen Golembiewski

As manufacturers figure out how to meet ever-changing demands with an ever-shrinking workforce, automation is being hailed as an answer. And flexible manufacturing systems (FMS) can serve as a backbone for automation. An FMS enables quick changes in production and can run untended, helping shops maximize their output and time. And although a company looking to invest in a large FMS setup can easily expect to spend more than $1 million, the benefits are undeniable.

An FMS may include CNC machines, robots, material handling systems or palletizing systems and is controlled by ERP software. Smaller setups start under $500K, with a smaller, two-machine system from Fastems averaging $380K and reaching $1M or more depending on machine size and the size of the system as a whole.

“Your FMS could be very highly productive. In fact, it could be so productive that it can overwhelm the manufacturing operation,” said Walter Towner, assistant teaching professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Foisie School of Business and director of the WPI Center for Innovative Manufacturing Solutions.

He advises shops considering such a costly solution to consider their local and global efficiencies. On the local level, work to understand how the FMS will impact back-end operations like finishing and assembly, as well as other jobs. On the global level, consider the impact on competitiveness: For example, can the system produce parts while maintaining profitability and the quality customers expect?

Firms that do not understand their business model before adopting an FMS may fail, he cautioned. It makes sense for some shops. But the investment may do other shops in if demand changes.

“The question becomes, do we understand enough about our business to do the ROI calculation? That’s really the key,” he said. “Anybody can make a million of something. What’s hard is to make small groups of dissimilar parts where you won’t go broke doing it.”

There are many reasons to automate. Customers David Ward of Makino has met were looking to eliminate repetitive setups, work with decreasing lot sizes, reduce overall piece cost and do away with the inefficiencies of having to set up and tear down these operations hurting productivity.

The most common reason shops buy a Makino Machining Center (MMC) is to deal with the skills gap and shortage of skilled workers, which make it difficult to execute production during extended off-shifts and on weekends and holidays.

“Unfortunately, our industry is not making any more machinists,” Ward said. “It’s becoming a lost art.”

While some believe automation is about cutting labor costs, Ward sees firms struggling to grow despite a lack of qualified operators.

The constant drive toward greater efficiency complicates this situation. Because it is run by a computer and not a person, an FMS will force the operation to become more efficient, Ward said. It forces the globalization of all the data, forces tooling standards and programming methodologies and implements predictive maintenance.

Look at Costs Over Period of Time

However, the decision to implement an FMS can be difficult to justify. There’s a large upfront cost, for one—and it’s not just about the money. Makino spends about 100 hours per installed system training shops on their recently purchased MMCs.

Most of the training customers get revolves around the philosophy behind FMS, James Gorham of Fujitsu Glovia said. A typical question: How do you identify scrap and locate redundant inventory, even before it becomes redundant?

Down the road, tooling requirements will add costs and many firms can’t see beyond the fact that a single machine can be bought for far less than the initial FMS investment.

“Automation is the only way in which we can stay competitive in this global market, says Robert Humphreys of Fastems.

The idea is reflected in Fastems’ logo: a red dot with “8760” written on it. There are 8760 hours in a year, and the maker of automation systems wants customers to get the most out of each.

Some Fastems customers can achieve spindle productivity for more than 7000 hours per year—more than twice the 2000 hours per year that stand-alone machines typically run, Humphreys said. Because of this, an investment in FMS can be paid back faster than a comparable investment in a stand-alone machine, he said.

Returns Not Really Possible

“Buying a machine is low risk. It either does what it should or it doesn’t, and if it doesn’t, you send it back,” Gorham said. “But buying an ERP system is seen as a bit of a gamble; it isn’t that simple to send it back if it doesn’t work.”

Fujitsu Glovia offers GLOVIA G2 software, an ERP system that promises flexible production, high quality and low cost. Among the capabilities is the ability to predict how changing between jobs will affect overall shop productivity.

With GLOVIA G2 software, the user can test a potential order on the factory floor before committing—even months or quarters ahead. The FMS generates several scenarios, so a business can envision the impact on other orders and decide whether to take on the proposed job. Built on lean principles, the software can analyze both material and process quality.

With a simple user interface, the software can run on desktop and mobile devices. Color-coded, “traffic light” style alerts simplify the work process by providing end users with only the screens and data they need to complete their tasks.

Shops considering FMS need to have or develop long-term visions, Towner said. What will happen if a new machine needs to be added, or a new process must be integrated into the shop? It may be incredibly expensive or impossible, he said.

This article was first published in the Summer 2016 edition of Smart Manufacturing magazine.

With the name Fujitsu behind this product, GLOVIA G2 offers the best ERP solution for discrete manufacturers worldwide.