My first salaried position in manufacturing after leaving university involved production/inventory control, with some industrial engineering and manufacturing engineering thrown in to keep me busy. Production scheduling efficiently involves juggling many balls in the air keeping people, machines, work-in-process, and inventory balanced and productive.
This was at a department that manufactured a variety of component parts fulfilling the orders of three assembly plants in the organization. This was before widespread use of computers. I managed with a number of hand-written spreadsheets.
Production schedulers for metal fabricators who balance orders from multiple customers processed across many different machines and processes have my sympathy. This is difficult work.
The easiest way is to batch according to order. The problem with this at a manufacturing level is that this may lead to downtime due to frequent changeovers to the equipment to set up for each batch.
A more efficient way to manage this would be to gather the day’s/week’s orders and sort by process type. Then all the pieces processed by Machine A wit a particular process could be processed regardless of whose order it is. The trick to all this is to track the WIP and get all the components sorted by order at the end.
Epicor Software Corp. contacted me about a successful application of its ERP to tackle just such a problem. Anchor Fabrication, a Texas-based one-stop metal fabrication shop. It has improved its productivity by up to 200% through the help of the Epicor ERP solution.
Anchor Fabrication caters to a wide variety of customers with a range of product needs – from plasma- and laser-cutting to machining, welding, and assembly work. Headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, Anchor Fabrication has more than 1,000,000 square feet of manufacturing space across six facilities.
“We’ve built a reputation within the metal fabrication industry based on our efficiency and ability to quickly execute on a variety of services,” said Hector Robles, VP of manufacturing at Anchor Fabrication. “During site visits, customers often tell us they appreciate our ability to quickly look up almost any particular part’s manufacturing history along with the number of times we’ve built those specific parts.”
Epicor ERP allows Anchor Fabrication to combine all work order data into a single job without the need for manual human entry – ultimately reducing order planning costs by over $100,000 each year.
“Anchor likes to inform employees with the most concise data and the best information possible for every job that goes to the floor. Epicor really helps to keep all that information together in one spot,” said Jason Davis, VP of sales at Anchor Fabrication.
Anchor Fabrication’s rapid delivery of manufacturing orders is due in part to their ability to perform dynamic nesting, made possible by the Epicor ERP platform, which allows the metal shop team to take work orders and perform them concurrently through integration with Service Connect. The software system examines all orders that are assigned to a certain machine and notifies the Anchor Fabrication team if any orders are a fit for simultaneous execution.
“Many metal fabricators only perform a single service – welding, cutting, coating – but Anchor Fabrication saw an opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition. They’ve strategically positioned themselves as an all-in-one metal fabrication service provider, and as a provider that can complete customer orders faster than single-service competitors,” said Terri Hiskey, VP of global product marketing at Epicor. “We’re very happy to see that our vertical industry specialization and product knowledge and capabilities have enabled Anchor Fabrication to work smarter, not harder – making a marked difference in the company’s business, productivity, and revenue.”
“Epicor can tailor software solutions to fit the needs of the customer,” said Steven Pybus, VP of engineering at Anchor Fabrication.
They didn’t tell me who the production scheduling team was, but they should all be the heroes of this story for finding and implementing the wise use of manufacturing IT software to meet many company objectives.
When I would go to NI Week, National Instruments would always talk about solving big problems. I began to approach the history of digital transformation that same way. GM had a problem involving the changeover of machines from one model year to the next. It took too long to change the machines due to the relay logic. They went to Odo Struger of Allen-Bradley and Dick Morely who then founded Modicon for a solution. Each built a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) to solve the problem and the race was on. We can then look at all the digital advances from then to now as the solving of successively more difficult problems. Today we have IoT, data science, edge computing, analytics, visualization, AR, VR. And we go on. It is a journey not a destination.
I laid out editorial direction for a magazine I helped to start with two basic ideas: contribute to thought leadership in industrial automation; and, tell stories of intelligent application of automation where the “heroes” of the story were the people doing the work not the products they used.
Seventeen years ago if you asked a company for a success story (you never get the “tried it and failed stories”) the formula was “Joe had a problem; Joe bought this list of products from his supplier; problem was solved and Joe was happy.”
Rockwell Automation has a Digital Transformation group headed by Vice President Keith Higgins. The PR folks sent me a “teaser” for an article about real-world application and benefits of digital transformation attributed to Higgins. I haven’t done many application stories at The Manufacturing Connection, so I jumped at the chance to get a real example for what companies are describing as digital transformation. I sent a bunch of questions. I received the formula company (all companies, not only Rockwell) app story.
However, reading into the story which I’m about to share were some lessons about successes from applying digital technologies and also to temper your enthusiasm lest you picture digital transformation like Clark Kent entering a telephone booth (remember those?) and emerging as Superman. While not so dramatic, nonetheless applying digital technologies can enhance productivity and therefore profitability.
This is a story about Agropur, a North American dairy processing company. Not a small one. It consists of over 3,367 dairy farmers who rely on 37 facilities across North America, processing over 1.5 billion gallons of milk into numerous dairy products, resulting in $5.9 billion in sales each year.
The company’s largest facility in Ontario had legacy industrial technologies which faced operational issues and downtime inhibiting its ability to produce the necessary data to continuously improve operations.
So, problem = downtime + inadequate data collection. Proposed solution = implement a standardized, plant-wide IT platform to collect, analyze, and understandably present data.
Agropur had already invested heavily in industrial technology at its Don Mills, Ontario facility, but none of those solutions have been able to provide it with the seamless data insights it needed to continually improve its operations. Data was not efficiently collected costing more than 2,500 hours per year and what data was collected could not be presented to management in such a way to enable continuous improvement teams.
On top of the data collection issue, the Don Mills facility’s equipment and systems were prone to failure. When the facility went down, it was forced to restore from the latest backup. That was no small feat considering there was no way to determine which of their seven maintenance laptops had the latest backup.
These inefficiencies and challenges drove Agropur to begin a search for a standardized, plant-wide
Rockwell Automation together with Grantek Systems Integration, a Rockwell Automation PartnerNetwork Solution Partner, deployed the new system with Agropur.
The result was an entirely new automation system built from the ground up. The system wasn’t only focused on creating a new way to collect data, it was also focused on overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), performance, capacity and more. From my point of view, the emphasis on OEE was unfortunate, but I guess it worked for the customer.
The technology involved included the Allen-Bradley family of ControlLogix controllers, PowerFlex drives, and PanelVew human machine interface (HMI) hardware from Rockwell Automation. Running FactoryTalk View Site Edition software on a virtualized server, each HMI could establish the standard for all additional software. This system collected data from production and provided information to operators to help them improve operations.
Supervisors decided to use OEE for benchmarking using FactoryTalk Metrics software, which collected performance data to power informed decisions.
With the information solution in place, employees from across the facility could see what was occurring on the plant floor and use that data to make continuous improvements.
Benefits: The Agropur team could eliminate 2,500 hours of manual data collection each year. Additionally, significant hours were saved annually thanks to the ease of managing assets through FactoryTalk software.
As soon as information was available, teams at Agropur deployed a data-driven approach to benchmark whether new hardware would curb the usage of lubricants for the lines. Creating benchmark reports and data-driven estimates of new hardware effectiveness, they were able to reduce lubricant consumption by 30%.
Here’s a benefit that I’m shocked to learn it took all this data collection and visualization investment to figure out. Supervisors seeking to identify opportunities for increasing capacity.discovered that lunches, breaks, and meetings caused more than 33 hours of downtime. Changing schedules turned lost processing time into productivity.
In brief: IIoT edge software allows industrial organizations to store and send data from remote assets to PI Server or OSIsoft Cloud Services for full edge-to-cloud connectivity.
The spring “conference season” has either been cancelled or gone virtual. The first virtual conference of the season for me was OSIsoft PI World. I’ve made the trip to San Francisco a couple of times to be there in person, but this year I sat in my office with headphones firmly affixed to my ears.
The “Edge” has been a hot topic for a few years now—mostly from the IT-oriented technology providers that I follow. OSIsoft’s PI is the ubiquitous “system of record” for a huge percentage of the industrial world. This historian database is often used in platforms for moving data from the plant to the enterprise. PI is the bridging step in most cases. The Edge, in our industrial case, often refers to a device serving as a data concentrator from physical devices in the plant or in the field and then as a gateway serving the data to the cloud or to the enterprise.
At the conference, OSIsoft announced general availability of Edge Data Store. With Edge Data Store, customers can remotely monitor critical assets to improve uptime, while minimizing the costs and safety risks associated with manual, in-person inspections.
Edge Data Store is Industrial IoT (IIoT) software that allows operators to collect, store, and access data from assets and sensors in remote environments. Remote edge data can now be easily collected and integrated with primary control network data to create a holistic view of industrial operations. OSIsoft’s customers and partners have deployed Edge Data Store in a variety of settings, including on hardened gateways to monitor personnel safety at sea, track performance of pumps in the field, and optimize the efficiency of large-scale battery solutions around the globe.
To improve the safety of personnel who must work in the dynamic, dangerous environment of the drill floor on offshore rigs, Edge Data Store pilot customer Rolloos turned its CCTV technology into a comprehensive detection system that could track personnel as they entered active zones. Through the Edge Data Store pilot, Rolloos ensured that all data was accessible by offshore operators for immediate decision support and could be streamed onshore for further retrospective analysis.
“We can actually track people from video and can combine that with the output from the equipment data to improve efficiency even more. Then, we can stream it back to shore using the Edge Data Store,” said Martijn Handels, director at Rolloos.
Easy, reliable access to edge data has enabled real-time monitoring of personnel and equipment to improve both employee safety and overall process performance.
“Our pervasive data collection strategy, with support for over 450 industrial protocols, has been utilized by thousands of customers, and we’re supplementing these capabilities with edge connectivity,” said Chris Felts, senior strategic product manager for OSIsoft. “Edge Data Store is a major step toward helping industrial customers capitalize on the promise of IoT and ubiquitous sensing. By supporting both edge to on-premises and edge to cloud data patterns, Edge Data Store provides an easy way for customers to improve operations with full end-to-end visibility.”
Because Edge Data Store shares the same data storage and API technologies as OSIsoft Cloud Services, custom applications developed for the cloud can be used at the edge and vice versa.
The Edge Data Challenge
Industrial IoT and Industry 4.0 initiatives continue to transform critical operations with low-cost sensors and solutions. However, data from remote operations has remained isolated due to poor network connectivity, the difficulty of developing edge solutions that meet both the high standard of critical operations data management, and strict hardware requirements of rugged or remote devices. Valuable remote data is often stranded beyond the reach of automation systems, held up by unreliable network conditions. Edge Data Store overcomes these challenges; the software self-heals after hard reboots from power outages and runs on low-cost, rugged devices with Windows or Linux operating systems.
Edge Data Store provides no-code connectivity to common industrial protocols and can expose the data for use by field technicians or analytics applications. In addition to facing extended loss of connectivity, remote areas are often subject to limited connectivity, where data transfer costs are closely monitored.
For example, snow on a satellite dish could mean that a remote location is disconnected for days at a time, previously leading to data loss or requiring personnel to drive to the asset in harsh conditions. Edge Data Store delivers robust local storage and simple configuration options to optimize bandwidth and send edge data to PI Server or OSIsoft Cloud Services, allowing corporate users to augment existing data sets and drive further analysis.
“Edge technology simultaneously drives centralized knowledge and distributed decision making,” said OSIsoft President Michael Siemer. “For 40 years, OSIsoft has pushed the boundaries of real-time, high fidelity operations data. Edge technologies decentralize information access and empower essential employees to make local decisions for safer, smarter operations.”
Platforms and value-add are crucial for not only success, but also survival, in many software categories today. I’ve done a bit of advisory and promotional work in this area. A platform with open APIs supporting a thriving ecosystem (think a healthy pond and wetland ecosystem with a variety of plant and animal life) brings value to both the suppliers and the users.
In the case of this research, we’re talking Communications Services Providers (CSPs) and what they need to consider for a strategy to make it in a 5G world. From the report summary:
Telcos losing ground in early enterprise 5G projects, must act quickly to recover position of influence as world emerges from COVID-19 pandemic
In brief—the news focuses on results of a global research study that includes some compelling data surrounding 5G in the atmosphere of Covid.
Omdia believes that the COVID-19 pandemic is pushing the ‘fast-forward’ button on enterprise demand for 5G technology solutions. Indeed, 5G investment in China is already recovering because the country recognizes the importance of accelerating the digitalisation of industries to guard against future risk.
Omdia expects this trend to unfold globally as COVID-19 makes digitizing the physical, enabling a work-anywhere economy and mitigating risk in supply chains through an ecosystem play more relevant than ever.
It also reveals that manufacturing, transport, utilities and energy/mining sectors account for nearly 80% of early enterprise 5G deals. As an enabler of business solutions, 5G’s value will be realized through industry specific processes, supply chains, partnerships, and applications.
The report also notes that the new 5G world demands CSPs to embrace platform-based business models and orchestrate partner ecosystems to meet specific enterprise demands. The report points to examples of how Deutsche Telekom, Verizon, and Telefónica are starting to form industry partnerships to access these verticals.
BearingPoint//Beyond, in collaboration with Omdia (previously Ovum), released a report May 5, 2020 outlining how Communications Service Providers (CSPs) must change strategies in order to drive revenues from their 5G investments. The study demonstrates alignment between CSPs and enterprises on the importance of 5G but reveals a worrying trend for CSP 5G revenues based on their roles in early 5G enterprise projects.
The report finds that 5G strategies focused on selling communications solutions only are failing and that only CSPs engaging partner ecosystems to solve enterprises’ business problems will be able to make up lost ground. Additionally, it identifies key vertical markets, uncovers initial success stories and opportunities and key learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Omdia reports that 72.8% of CSPs believe most of their 5G revenues will come from B2B, B2B2X or Government/smart cities opportunities. Earlier this year, BearingPoint//Beyond research showed that CSPs expect a 15% increase in current revenues from B2B 5G services. However, Omdia’s Enterprise 5G Innovation Tracker reveals that they’re already being cut out of strategic engagement and solution building with enterprise partners. In 40% of enterprise 5G deals signed CSPs were the secondary supplier. 32% were led by enterprises. Only 21% were led by CSPs.
“Only one in five early enterprise 5G deals are CSP-led, proving that the way CSPs want to sell is at odds with the way in which businesses want to buy. What’s deeply concerning is that some of these early deals, such as the ones we see in automotive, cut out CSPs entirely – even connectivity is being provided by other suppliers. Businesses want to buy complete solutions that fit their needs and help them solve business problems, rather than individual technology assets. This is a multi-billion-dollar opportunity that CSPs need to address fast and requires CSPs to collaborate with enterprises and SMBs to better understand their reality,” says Angus Ward, CEO, BearingPoint//Beyond.
The report emphasizes the need for CSPs to change their posture from ‘5G-first’ to ‘business-first’ thinking, focusing on applications and vertical-specific solutions. It finds that enterprises are already making the connection between 5G and applications. Omdia asserts that 5G will act as a catalyst for those enterprises that are still hesitant about the deployment of specific applications and will enhance certain applications that are going to be deployed anyway.
“CSPs will only realize value from 5G if they can identify, partner, codevelop, implement, and run a proposition with application-specific and industry-specific specialists,” says Evan Kirchheimer, Research Vice President, Service Provider & Communications, Omdia. “CSPs that can orchestrate such a complex web of relationships will be capable of capturing a greater share of the market and will not be relegated to being one of many connectivity providers competing solely on price.”
Omdia’s Enterprise 5G Innovation Tracker reveals that manufacturing, transport, utilities and energy/mining sectors account for nearly 80% of early enterprise 5G deals. As an enabler of business solutions, 5G’s value will be realized through industry specific processes, supply chains, partnerships, and applications. The report points to examples of how Deutsche Telekom, Verizon and Telefónica are starting to form industry partnerships to access these verticals.
“The promise of enterprise 5G is there for the taking, but CSPs must realize they will need to master ecosystem orchestration, including joint go-to-market with vendors and cocreation with customers,” says Dario Talmesio, Principal Analyst & Practice Leader, CSPs Europe, Omdia.
Omdia believes that the COVID-19 pandemic is pushing the ‘fast-forward’ button on enterprise demand for 5G technology solutions. Indeed, 5G investment in China is already recovering because the country recognizes the importance of accelerating the digitalisation of industries to guard against future risk. Omdia expects this trend to unfold globally as COVID-19 makes digitizing the physical, enabling a work-anywhere economy and mitigating risk in supply chains through an ecosystem play more relevant than ever.
“The report notes that the brave new 5G world demands that CSPs be brave. CSPs have to embrace platform-based business models and orchestrate partner ecosystems to meet specific enterprise demands. This requires a change in mindset, experimenting with business models, accelerating testing and monetising speed to test and monetize new offerings that are co-created with ecosystem of partners and underpinned by the right IT platform to support these new ways of working,” concludes Ward. “Fundamentally, CSPs must become 5G ecosystem orchestrators. That’s the only way they can hope to meet enterprise business needs and re-integrate themselves into enterprise 5G value-chain as the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
To monetize 5G at scale, CSPs must ensure that their operational and business support systems can meet four main requirements:
Orchestration and delivery of complex solutions spanning both different types of networks (e.g: 4G, Fiber,5G) and different sources of services (e.g. edge, AR, VR)
Flexibility in charging and monetization capabilities enabling CSPs to bundle and price anything from network slicing and consumer IoT, to industrial IoT solutions
The development of partner ecosystems enabling CSPs to truly co-invent and co-create joint solutions with multiple third parties that better fit customer needs
Increased operational agility and speed with cloud native solutions
The 5G-ready Infonova Digital Business Platform has been designed to deliver precisely these capabilities, enabling CSPs to:
Reduce risk by rapidly experimenting, launching and monetizing new offerings and scale with success, due to its SaaS delivery model
Achieve fast and simple integration with their business and operational landscape by using a comprehensive library of Open APIs and a flexible microservices and containerized architecture delivered in cloud native environments
Offer advanced charging and billing capabilities ready to support any pricing model, including network slicing offerings
Bundle anything with connectivity – especially important for consumer IoT, OTT services and enterprise solutions (e.g. Industrial IoT, Autonomous driving) – as a result of its flexible catalogue
Access comprehensive order management and service fulfillment functionalities, managing the challenge and complexity of dynamic 5G service activation, diversity of devices and network functions
Support multiple business partners on a single platform, allowing CSPs to easily and dynamically exchange offerings, orchestrate and monetize B2B2X, B2B, IoT marketplace, B2C and wholesale 5G use cases with an ecosystem of partners
Some analysts believe manufacturing generates more data than any other sector. Maybe, maybe not. But we do have the ability to rapidly generate a lot of data. Storage gets to be an interesting part of a manufacturing IT equation. This midsize storage solution from Hitachi Vantara could be just what you need at the plant level.
4:1 Data De-Duplication Delivers a Guaranteed 75% Improvement in Storage Capacity
New Ops Center Software Features AI-Driven Management Tools to Simplify Storage Provisioning For AI, ML and Containerized Apps
New EverFlex from Hitachi Vantara Provides More Choice to Help Customers Move to Pay-Per-Use Consumption Models
Hitachi Vantara, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., introduced Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) E990, the company’s new storage platform for midsize enterprise customers.
Feature summary. The E990 combines high performance and low latency with industry-leading data de-duplication guarantees storage cost reductions. Hitachi Ops Center’s artificial intelligence (AI)-driven management software can simplify storage provisioning for AI, machine learning (ML) and containerized applications. The E990 with Hitachi Ops Center provides an NVMe all-flash option for Hitachi Vantara’s family of solutions for midsize enterprises including Hitachi’s signature 100% data availability guarantee for businesses of all sizes.
The company also unveiled EverFlex, a program that provides simple, elastic and comprehensive acquisition choices for the E990 and the entire Hitachi Vantara portfolio. EverFlex adds consumption-based pricing models that range from basic utility pricing, to custom outcome-based services, to Storage-as-a-Service.
Hitachi VSP E990, Hitachi Ops Center and EverFlex are available globally from Hitachi Vantara and its network of partners.