MES Adds SPC and Recipe Module Updates

I don’t seem to receive many MES updates. This update comes from Sepasoft, a sister company to Inductive Automation that naturally features connectivity to Ignition by Inductive Automation. These updates include Statistical Process Control v 3.0 and Settings and Changeover (formerly Recipe and Changeover).

Statistical Process Control 3.0 Module for Enterprise-Ready Connectivity

Statistical Process Control (SPC) 3.0 module extends Manufacturing Execution System (MES) manufacturing operations, allowing scalable solutions from the plant floor all the way up to executive level operations, regardless of location.

The new SPC 3.0 update adds important new features:

• Sample entry documents that can be integrated with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and custom sample entry forms are now available to reduce time while increasing consistency with your sample data.

• Highly-optimized data collection eliminates or reduces the time required by operators and QA staff to enter in sample data.

• Central MES Configuration reduces or eliminates common SPC configuration errors regarding sample definitions, equipment, materials, etc.

• Scalability and increased transparency are now an added benefit with our MES enterprise-wide management of sample definitions and enterprise-wide analysis of results features.

• Samples can be scheduled in concert with OEE, Track & Trace Operations, and Batch Procedure functionality.

Settings & Changeover 3.0 Module for Enterprise-Ready Connectivity

The Settings & Changeover 3.0 update adds various important new features and improvements:• Software performance gets a massive upgrade due to less demand on the server, database, & network. 

• Prevent loss of production or quality by centrally managing machine settings, equipment configuration, and security access rights. Identify deviations as they happen and quickly resolve critical issues with role-based management.

• Changes made to any MES configuration are automatically recorded in a changelog to help you meet challenges of regulatory compliance. Quickly zero in on significant changes with access to a complete audit trail evidencing the location, date, type of change, responsible person, and more.

• Optimize your document organization while increasing your production efficiency with our Artifacts feature that replaces the need for paper-based procedures and vastly improves upon your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

• The Settings & Changeover module is now compatible with OEE and Track & Trace 3.0 modules.

• Enterprise-wide management of machine settings and analysis of results.

Google Cloud Brings End-to-End Visibility to Supply Chains

US Presidential Candidate Ross Perot years ago described a “giant sucking sound” using a typical businessperson’s view of government. Well, I think that a digital picture of today’s supply chains would show a giant clogging mess, like a kitchen garbage disposal gone wrong. Regardless, Google Cloud released this supply chain digital twin to show just such a condition.

We in manufacturing and production need to pay attention to these giant enterprise IT companies. They keep encroaching into our territory. Someday industrial technology will be absorbed into it at the rate we are going.

Google Cloud today announced the launch of Supply Chain Twin, a purpose-built industry solution that lets companies build a digital twin–a virtual representation of their physical supply chain–by orchestrating data from disparate sources to get a more complete view of suppliers, inventories, and other information. In addition, the Supply Chain Pulse modulealso announced today, can be used with Supply Chain Twin to provide real-time dashboards, advanced analytics, alerts on critical issues like potential disruptions, and collaboration in Google Workspace. 

The majority of companies do not have complete visibility of their supply chains, resulting in retail stock outs, aging manufacturing inventory, or weather-related disruptions. In 2020, out-of-stock items alone cost the retail industry an estimated $1.14 trillion. The past year-and-a-half of supply chain disruptions related to COVID-19 has further proven the need for more up-to-date insights into operations, inventory levels, and more.


“Siloed and incomplete data is limiting the visibility companies have into their supply chains.” said Hans Thalbauer, Managing Director, Supply Chain & Logistics Solutions, Google Cloud. “The Supply Chain Twin enables customers to gain deeper insights into their operations, helping them optimize supply chain functions—from sourcing and planning, to distribution and logistics.”  

With Supply Chain Twin, companies can bring together data from multiple sources, all while requiring less partner integration time than traditional API-based integration. Some customers have seen a 95% reduction in analytics processing time, with times for some dropping from 2.5 hours down to eight minutes. Data types supported in Supply Chain Twin include:

  • Enterprise business systems: Better understand operations by integrating information such as locations, products, orders, and inventory from ERPs and other internal systems. 
  • Supplier and partner systems: Gain a more holistic view across businesses by integrating data from suppliers, such as stock and inventory levels, and partners, such as material transportation status. 
  • Public sources: Understand your supply chain in the context of the broader environment by connecting contextual data from public sources, such as weather, risk, or sustainability-related data, including public datasets from Google.

Once customers are up-and-running on Supply Chain Twin, the Supply Chain Pulse module enables further visibility, simulations, and collaboration features:

  • Real-time visibility and advanced analytics: Drill down into key operational metrics with executive performance dashboards that make it easier to view the status of the supply chain. 
  • Alert-driven event management and collaboration across teams: Set mobile alerts that trigger when key metrics reach user-defined thresholds, and build shared workflows that allow users to quickly collaborate in Google Workspace to resolve issues. 
  • AI-driven optimization and simulation: Trigger AI-driven algorithm recommendations to suggest tactical responses to changing events, flag more complex issues to the user, and simulate the impact of hypothetical situations.

“At Renault, we are innovating on how we run efficient supply chains. Improving visibility to inventory levels across our network is a key initiative,” said Jean-François Salles, Supply Chain Global Vice President at Renault Group. “By aggregating inventory data from our suppliers and leveraging Google Cloud’s strength in organizing and orchestrating data, with solutions like the Supply Chain Twin we expect to achieve a holistic view. We aim to work with Google tools to manage both stock, improve forecasting, and eventually optimise our fulfillment.” 

“End-to-end visibility across the entire supply chain is a top priority for supply chain professionals to optimize planning, real-time decision making and monitoring,” said Simon Ellis, Program Vice President at IDC. “Google Cloud’s approach to a digital twin of the supply chain spans internal, external, and partner data networks without complex integrations. This approach can help organizations to better plan, monitor, collaborate and respond at scale.”

Customers are deploying Supply Chain Twin via Google Cloud partners 

Retailers, manufacturers, CPG firms, healthcare networks, and other logistics-heavy companies can deploy Supply Chain Twin by working directly with Google Cloud’s partner ecosystem. For example, system integration partners such as Deloitte, Pluto7, and TCS, can help customers integrate the Supply Chain Twin and relevant datasets into their existing infrastructure. 

In addition, data partners, such as Climate Engine, Craft, and Crux can augment Supply Chain Twin by providing geospatial, sustainability, and risk management data sets for a more complete macroenvironment view. Finally, application partners such as Anaplan, Automation Anywhere, and project44 can provide information from their platforms into Supply Chain Twin to help customers better understand product lifecycles, track shipments across carriers, predict ETAs, and more.

Supply Chain Twin and the Twin Pulse module are today globally available in Preview. For pricing and availability, customers should talk to their Google Cloud sales representative. For more information on Supply Chain Twin, visit here.

Google Cloud accelerates organizations’ ability to digitally transform their business with the best infrastructure, platform, industry solutions and expertise. We deliver enterprise-grade solutions that leverage Google’s cutting-edge technology – all on the cleanest cloud in the industry. Customers in more than 200 countries and territories turn to Google Cloud as their trusted partner to enable growth and solve their most critical business problems.

The State of Ransomware in Manufacturing and Production 2021

Along with market research I have also been flooded with every security firms’ research especially on ransomware. This one just in from Sophos written by Sally Adam contains information more positive about our market sector than the usual scare tactics I see.

Our [Sophos] new report The State of Ransomware in Manufacturing and Production 2021 reveals that companies in this sector are the least likely to submit to a ransom demand and the most likely to restore encrypted data from backups of all industries surveyed. Just 19% of organizations whose data was encrypted paid attackers to decrypt their files, compared to a global average of 32%.

The report is based on the findings from an independent survey of 5,400 IT decision makers, including 438 in the manufacturing and production sector, conducted at the start of 2021.

Overall, 36% of the manufacturing and production organizations surveyed were hit by ransomware last year which is in line with the global average of 37%. Fortunately for this sector, 68% of those whose data was encrypted were able to restore it using backups, a rate considerably above the global average (57%). This high ability to restore data from backups enables many companies to refuse attacker demands, resulting in the low ransom payment rate.

Chester Wisniewski, principal research scientist at Sophos, advises that “backups are vital, but they cannot protect against this risk, so manufacturing and production businesses should not rely on them as an anti-extortion defense. Organizations need to extend their anti-ransomware defenses by combining technology with human-led threat hunting to neutralize today’s advanced human-led cyberattacks.”

OK, So There Is a Small Scare Tactic

While manufacturing and production companies show good resilience in the face of ransomware, the survey revealed that they have the highest expectation of a future attack of all sectors. Of the respondents not hit by ransomware last year, 77% expect to be hit in the future. The sophistication and prevalence of ransomware are the key factors driving this concern.

A sector heavily impacted by the pandemic

IT teams in manufacturing and production were severely affected by the challenges of 2020. This sector was the least likely to experience a decrease in cybersecurity workload over 2020: just 7% said their cyber workload had decreased, vs. a global average of 13%. It also had the fewest respondents who saw improved response time to IT cases (15% vs. a global average of 20%). The silver lining is that cyber skills also increased, with 71% of respondents saying their team’s ability to further develop cybersecurity knowledge and skills increased over 2020.

Learn more

Download the full report to explore the reality of ransomware in manufacturing and production. It also includes recommendations from Sophos experts to minimize the impact of ransomware in future.

Global manufacturing industry output to hit $41.9 Tn in 2021, up from $39.3 Tn in 2020

It’s the end of a quarter, and I’m flooded with manufacturing market reports. One set of reports I look forward originates from England and Interact Analysis. Below I’ve summarized three recent reports—a market report and two insights from CEO Adrian Lloyd. I have talked with Lloyd about methodology—something I’m sort of anal about. I don’t detect the usual sloppy thinking in the way they go about compiling data.

Global Manufacturing Industry Output Tracker

  • Manufacturing output set for slow 2021 recovery, after unexpectedly small 2020 contraction 
  • Freight shipping costs increased 5-fold over the past year 
  • Semiconductor and electronics machinery market grew 8% during 2020 

The research shows that recovery in 2021 will be muted, following a far smaller contraction in 2020 than had initially been predicted. Meanwhile, the ongoing semiconductor shortage, coupled with the continued spread of the delta variant, rising freight costs, and growing worker shortages; will create ongoing problems for all manufacturers.  

The semiconductor shortage can be attributed to several factors, but the biggest impact comes from the automotive industry. As automotive manufacturers scaled back production in preparation for an expected collapse in demand for vehicles, they reduced their orders for microchips. But the automotive slow-down was not as severe as had been feared, leaving vehicle factories unable to meet demand because their stocks of semiconductors were depleted. Demand for semiconductors then boomed as car factories suddenly ramped up orders, and now Interact Analysis predicts that the semiconductor market will suffer a steep dip in 2023 as the supply situation normalizes.  

Rising freight rates have also significantly impacted the manufacturing sector. And the cost of shipping a 40-foot container from China to the US east coast in July 2021 increased by 5 times compared to July 2020, reaching a high of $20,000. There are multiple reasons for this, including staff shortages, saturated ports, soaring demand in certain sectors such as electronics, and delta variant outbreaks. With no end in sight to inflated freight rates, manufacturers are likely to look for solutions that are closer to home in the long run. 

The global machinery market took a damaging hit during the pandemic as factories cut back on investment, with the hardest hit sector being machine tools, which slumped by 18% in 2020. However, many machinery sectors fared better, with the market for semiconductor and electronics machinery growing by 8% in 2020. By 2025, all manufacturing sectors will have recovered to 2019 levels, and some segments, such as the metallurgy machinery market, will reach the 2019 mark this year.

One of the market insight reports

Labor Shortages A Major Barrier To Recovery For Manufacturers

The struggle to recruit into manufacturing is unexpectedly hitting some big players

According to the latest available data we have at our disposal, specific regions have been hit hard by labor shortages. The USA heads the list, with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting over 800,000 vacancies in manufacturing alone. Meanwhile, it has been reported in Germany that there are close to 150,000 job vacancies in the manufacturing sector, and 68,000 in the UK. France, on the other hand, reported a mere 5,995 vacancies. So what is going on? The answer is a perfect storm of factors, which vary for each country, but the common denominator is always the pandemic.

The temptation is to look at the USA first, where vacancies have sky-rocketed, but Germany is perhaps more interesting. Traditionally the manufacturing powerhouse of Europe, Germany is currently struggling to reboot its manufacturing sector following the COVID shock. A recent report describes Germany (population – 83 million) as a country with an ageing population, low birth rates, and in desperate need of skilled immigrant labor, much as it was at the time of the Gastarbeiter (guest worker) program in the 1960s, though then the reach-out was for cheap labor.

The pandemic had a major part to play here, slowing migration and significantly reducing the numbers of skilled immigrants entering the workforce. The coalition government has taken some measures to reform the process of recognition of foreign professional qualifications, but they have been described in some quarters as being paltry and nowhere near sufficient to satisfy demand.

Across the pond from Europe, in the US, those 800,000+ job vacancies reported in May and June 2021 constitute double the number of vacancies for a similar period going right back to 2011. This problem has been exacerbated by the high use of unemployment insurance benefits rather than job retention schemes (see here). But pandemic unemployment benefits are scheduled to stop in Q4 of 2021, so we expect many vacancies to be filled. However, as in Germany, there has been a historical shortage of skilled manufacturing labor owing to an ageing workforce. That’s because the US has historically experienced difficulties in attracting younger people into this sector. [Note: I take issue with Lloyd here. Studies I’ve seen point to several additional constraints, and states that ended the payments early have seen no great influx of new workers.]

Finally, we turn to the UK as the third major economy where job vacancies are high. The twin shocks of COVID and Brexit have taken their toll here. For either or both reasons, many EU workers have left the UK and do not intend to return, or indeed cannot return owing to new post-Brexit immigration policies. There has been a resultant serious shortage of haulage drivers – 100,000 being an oft-quoted figure, including 25,000 EU drivers – and a shortage of factory workers. The result has been a disruption of supply chains, particularly in the food and beverage sector. The CBI has reported that general stock levels are at the lowest they have been for 40 years.

Recovery Is Slow, But Global Manufacturing Industry Is Limping In The Right Direction

A perfect storm for semiconductor supply

The long running semiconductor shortage saw strains on supplies caused by booming sales in electronic devices at the height of the pandemic. Additionally, the automotive sector has been a major contributor to the shortage because, as vehicle manufacturers anticipated a slow-down in demand for new vehicles, so they put the brakes on production and reduced orders for microchips. But when the slow-down in demand didn’t happen, car companies couldn’t get chips fast enough, leaving factories full of chip-less cars.

The slowness of supply chains for semiconductor chips – it can be 7 to 8 months between order and delivery – means that this isn’t a problem which is going to go away anytime soon. Not good news for industries that have already taken a battering. The approval of COVID-19 vaccines – a cause for celebration for most of us – has further exacerbated the chip shortage because vaccine vial production caused huge demand for the same raw silicon that is used in microchips. All-in-all, it’s been a perfect storm. The current boom in demand for semiconductors means we are predicting that the market will see a downturn in late 2023 or early 2024, because the glut of orders from manufacturers will inevitably diminish as their chip inventory builds up once more.

Over the long term, one impact of this has been big conversations at government level in the USA and the EU about the need for onshoring of some semiconductor production. If it happens, this will be a long-term trend, and so will do nothing to solve immediate problems. But, for example, Intel has announced that it will invest $20bn in two new chip plants in Arizona, and TSMC is also investing $12bn in a chip production facility in the same state.

Opportunity for Growth Along With Entertainment

This may seem somewhat off target, but not really. Personal growth and development are more than a hobby. I’ve taught classes, mentored, encouraged for my entire adult life. Thought in this era of divisiveness and fear and anger, this timely message and recommendation might help someone.

Ancient advice and modern spiritual explorers teach us to be self -aware and to be careful of being ruled by our passions.

This can be as mild as foolishly spending money on unnecessary things. Or choosing to spend time with the wrong people.

It can be as bad as letting fear, lust, anger, greed, pride, and the rest rule our lives.

On the other hand, a coldly rational outlook following the rules and inhibiting relationship fuels a life alone and unsatisfying.

A TV series from Belgium explores some of these themes with deep probing and gentle understanding. Professor T features the struggles of a genius criminologist professor who assists a former student now detective inspector in solving murders. Along the way the writers probe the struggles and growth of perhaps 10 characters.

The acting is superb. The soundtrack outstanding. The spoken language is Flemish (with some French—it is Belgium, so both languages are spoken). My wife and I found it on Amazon Prime. I realize there are people reading this in countries where you may not be able to find this program. But if you can, it’s worth it. It was recorded in 2015, 2016, and 2018. Three seasons of 13 episodes. We’ve watched it over the past month. I’m going to miss the characters.

There is an English version, as in performed in England in English. We have seen this one. Not as good. There are also versions in German and French. We have not seen those. Watch the Belgian one. I cried at the end.

Overcoming passions keys a sound life. Unless your heart is in the right condition, overcoming passions will leave you cold.