Update on Plex Systems, Stand-alone MES and IIoT

I had an opportunity to talk with Ben Stewart, VP Product Strategy for Plex Systems, the other day to get my first deep dive for years. I talked with the company occasionally, but it was primarily an ERP developer with a robust MES incorporated. Much has happened lately.

What has set Plex apart for years is its SaaS, multi-tenant cloud offering. While competitors have only recently found a way to move from the license-based, client-server model to some form of cloud offering using browser-based connectivity with HTML 5 to offer visualization through tablets and smart phones.

Plex has made several moves within the past year to bolster its presence and offering and along the way garnered a Gartner recognition. First, Plex has made its MES available without its ERP so that users of other ERP solutions can add Plex SaaS MES. The second news is the Gartner recognition. And the third news item discusses Plex entering the IoT space through acquisition giving it a robust and comprehensive solution to its customers.

Plex Manufacturing Execution Suite (Plex MES)—a flexible cloud-based suite.

Plex Systems manufacturing operations capabilities are now available as a best-of-breed shop floor-specific offering called the Plex Manufacturing Execution Suite (Plex MES). This cloud-based suite is comprised of packages that satisfy the spectrum of smart manufacturing needs from MES to manufacturing operations management (MOM).

“Plex allowed us to quickly standardize our systems and processes across eight facilities globally, helping the company record production and quality checks in real-time,” said Jennifer McIntosh, ERP Manager of Gill Industries, a world-class supplier of advanced mechanisms and welded assemblies. “With the entire company now working from a single system of record, we are able to leverage MES capabilities to continuously improve our quality standards and optimize processes while reallocating our staff to focus on value-added business activities instead of system and server maintenance.”

Plex MES is designed to seamlessly connect insights from the shop floor up to the top floor, enabling production to deliver relevant real-time, operational information to key roles throughout the organization and empowering everyone to make better business decisions.

Plex MES gives manufacturers access to key capabilities required for smart manufacturing, including:

    Error-proofed control: Choreographed production processes are driven directly from the quality control plan to shorten cycle times and improve efficiency. A unique operator control panel is paperless and easy-to-use, allowing for increased productivity and fewer manual input errors. In-line quality control governs quality activities to ensure check sheet compliance, and real-time production reporting allows for real-time decisions.
  • High-resolution visibility: The full production lifecycle—from raw materials through finished goods—is accessible from anywhere on any connected device. Operations are monitored in real-time, delivering manufacturing intelligence for more accurate decision-making. Compliance risk is mitigated through database-driven traceability information, while increased visibility to asset performance creates more opportunities for continuous improvement.
  • Seamless connectivity: Flexible, configurable cloud MES is connected by design. It is easy to deploy and standardize enterprise-wide while connecting to enterprise systems like a corporate ERP. Edge connectivity to industrial automation ensures at-rate production recording to Plex MES in the cloud. The Plex MES solution is fully unified, reducing the risk of disruptions common with an MES comprised of multiple point-solutions.

“There is an underserved need among large organizations to tap into the invaluable data generated in plants around the world,” said Bill Berutti, CEO of Plex Systems. “Plex MES answers that need by consolidating our 20 years of manufacturing expertise into a highly targeted smart manufacturing solution that enables operational visibility, transparency, and accuracy, helping manufacturers standardize operations across multiple plants.”

Gartner

Plex Systems announced that Gartner has recognized it as a Challenger in the 2019 Magic Quadrant for Manufacturing Execution Systems. For this report, Gartner evaluates vendors on their Completeness of Vision and Ability to Execute. Plex is positioned furthest for Completeness of Vision in the Challengers quadrant and has improved its position on Ability to Execute compared to the previous year.

“We feel that recognition of Plex Systems as a Challenger is further validation of our ability to disrupt the MES market,” said Bill Berutti, CEO of Plex Systems. “Our manufacturing expertise is based on decades of helping customers exercise control over their shop floor operations while gaining access to invaluable data. Plex MES is flexible and scalable, answering a growing need among manufacturers to standardize their shop floors anywhere in the world.”

According to the 2019 Magic Quadrant for Manufacturing Execution Systems report, “The global MES market is a key pillar of smart factories and digital business for manufacturers. New technologies are starting to be leveraged, and disruptors are emerging. Supply chain technology leaders should use this research to select appropriate vendors and solutions.”

Plex delivers cloud MES and ERP to nearly 700 global process and discrete manufacturers. As a multi-tenant SaaS solution, manufacturers can easily implement, scale, and standardize operations with Plex across their plants throughout the enterprise.

Plex is also rated on Gartner Peer Insights, an online platform of ratings and reviews of IT software and services written and read by IT professionals and decision-makers. Verified, anonymous reviews provided by members of the Plex worldwide customer base include:

Plex Systems releases Industrial Internet of Things (IoT), a suite of solutions designed to solve business challenges generating from the shop floor.

Plex Systems released Plex Industrial IoT, which connects machines to the cloud, manages the resulting data streams, and contextualizes the information in real time. The first available offering will focus on asset performance management (APM), helping companies avoid manufacturing disruption caused by common problems like unplanned downtime, diminished machine performance, and substandard quality output.

Plex’s new solution enables manufacturers to implement and leverage connectivity in the era of Industry 4.0, breaking down siloes created by varying protocols and data types used by equipment and sensors by simplifying the connection to machines and the contextualization of data. Plex Industrial IoT grants access to the underlying machine intelligence, delivering to manufacturers timely and accurate insight in a single solution, eliminating operational surprises.

Plex Industrial IoT delivers:

  • Continuous improvement through access to historical IIoT data: The first solution within the suite focuses on asset performance management (APM), starting with an understanding of current and historical activity. This real-time assessment empowers shift supervisors and plant managers with the data to understand behaviors, trends, and diagnose root cause of common challenges like machine failures, efficiency dips, or substandard quality output.
  • Improved productivity with real-time asset dashboards: Plex Industrial IoT helps manufacturers monitor what is happening with any asset, in any facility, from any connected device with comprehensive pre-built dashboards. Customizable and real time, these dashboards deliver access to up-to-the-minute metrics and analytics. The information delivered by the dashboard enables manufacturing leaders to respond to live data immediately and accurately to improve operator performance or overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) mid-shift.
  • Minimized operational disruptions by predicting and preempting unplanned downtime: Data collected over time with Plex Industrial IoT, analyzed against historical trends and contextualized against MES and ERP data from the same facilities, will expose an unprecedented quality of shop floor to top floor insights. This reduces operational disruptions to help manufacturers better plan for the previously unanticipated.

This is Plex’s initial Industrial IoT offering following the acquisition of IIoT leader DATTUS in July 2018.

Connecting Plant to Execution to Business

When it was time to leave paid employment and head out on my own, I looked for a domain name I could buy with “connection” in it. Surveying the landscape of technology and applications in 2013, I saw that despite a couple of decades of thought on connecting sensors at one end to business systems on the other this was still the future.

I also thought that I’d make a living in the MES space. Wrong! That space has never supported media or analysts. But Internet of Things came along and changed the conversation. And the technologies that evolved with IoT have enabled connectivity at new levels.

Here is the story of plant level (Ignition SCADA from Inductive Automation) to the execution level (Sepasoft MES) to business level (SAP).

In brief, Sepasoft launches Sepasoft Business Connector & Interface For SAP ERP Modules for connecting Ignition to business systems. Easy-to-integrate toolset democratizes connectivity between manufacturing and the enterprise.

Sepasoft Business Connector and Interface for SAP ERP is a suite of modules for connecting Ignition by Inductive Automation to business systems like SAP ERP. Connecting the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Manufacturing Execution System (MES) layers of manufacturing operations, the Sepasoft Business Connector provides intuitive drag-and-drop interfaces for developing business logic, transforming data, and mapping data between Ignition and other systems.

The combination of Sepasoft and Ignition by Inductive Automation becomes a first-class MES and connectivity platform for the enterprise.

To ensure that the new product suite would present a unique offering and adhere to industry best practices, Sepasoft teamed up with 4IR Solutions due to their deep expertise in enterprise and SAP integration. “The Sepasoft Business Connector offers increased flexibility and substantial cost savings versus existing solutions. When factoring in licensing, maintenance, training, engineering, and support, customers can expect to pay an order of magnitude less compared to leveraging other middleware or developing custom solutions,” said Joseph Dolivo, Principal of Digital Transformation at 4IR Solutions.

“The Sepasoft Business Connector will allow our customers to improve their operations while reducing their costs,” said Keith Adair, Product Manager at Sepasoft. “The Sepasoft Business Connector can link directly to SAP via the Interface for SAP ERP module and provides built-in templates for common data exchange scenarios. With the addition of our Web Services module, the Sepasoft Business Connector can communicate with other ERP and business systems that support SOAP and RESTful endpoints.”

“We’re very excited to welcome a native SAP connector and business connectivity tool to the Ignition ecosystem,” said Don Pearson, Chief Strategy Officer for Inductive Automation. “As an integrated part of the Ignition platform, the Sepasoft Business Connector supports familiar idioms like drag-and-drop, tag binding, and scripting, while requiring minimal configuration of third-party systems.”

4IR Solutions Corp is the leading provider of Life Sciences and enterprise integration consulting services for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and beyond. 4IR’s consultants have decades of experience providing companies with enterprise-wide connectivity, partnering with leading vendors to capture and encapsulate that experience into new and innovative products.

IIoT versus MES, Is It A Battle?

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or Manufacturing Enterprise Solution (MES), that is the question. Actually, I didn’t know that it was a question, or an either/or. I’m thinking false dichotomy.

As you might imagine, I receive a ton of emails from a variety of marketing and PR people promoting one thing or another.  Recently, a message arrived from Brock Solutions highlighting just that question. Since I know several people at Brock, including the man whose name is on the building, so to speak, and since I respect the organization, I bit.

Here is the pitch: Many of our manufacturing customers have multiple plants around the world. And it’s safe to say that each of those plants are different. Some plants come from acquisitions. Some have been around forever. And some plants are brand new. 

Inevitably, this mix of sites also means a mix of technology at the operational layer. As you may know, there is no easy answer to manage this. Watch our video to see how we help manufacturers evaluate MES vs. IoT using a standard criteria.

They then sent me to a vlog (video blog). This is, of course, a little promotional at the end. But some good issues are raised about evaluating your business, your technical needs, your application needs and fitting a solution to the need. It’s worth a watch. Only 5 minutes.

ABB Updated MOM

ABB Updated MOM

Suppliers of manufacturing software, some from surprising places, are putting sizable investments into products that will help customers reap the rewards of digitalization. Today, I’m looking at both ABB and Emerson Automation Solutions. Previously I checked out GE Digital and Rockwell Automation. Each has taken a slightly different course toward the goal, but notice the common thread of enhancing software products to help customers prosper.

ABB enhances manufacturing management technology

The new version of ABB Ability Manufacturing Operations Management will offer new features including:

  • Enhanced user experience based on new HTML 5 web client;
  • A new smart interactive dashboard application that provides greater visibility and collaboration;
  • A new statistical process control (SPC) application, to determine if each process is in a state of control;
  • A new Batch Compare application – for advanced batch analysis.

“ABB Ability Manufacturing Operations Management is a comprehensive, scalable and modular software suite that optimizes visibility, knowledge and control throughout the operations domain,” said Narasimham Parimi, Head of Digital Products – Product Management, Process Control Platform. “This release provides a range of rich new functionality and a new enhanced user experience that enables operations to become more productive and responsive.”

ABB Ability Manufacturing Operations Management is designed to simplify production management by enabling performance monitoring, downtime management, and maintenance support, as well as providing statistical production analysis tools. It provides solutions and tools to facilitate the collection, consolidation and distribution of production, quality and energy information via the plant’s web-based reports, trends, and graphs.

A new, self-service dashboard application promotes increased collaboration, providing visibility from shop floor to top floor and spanning IT and OT environments. It increases data connectivity to all apps and modules within the MOM suite, combining historic and manufacturing data and providing the user with improved customization capabilities. Dashboards can be shared amongst users, further promoting collaboration between teams. Trends and events are displayed together, which enables customers to identify issues and opportunities enabling informed and timely decisions.

The new common services platform features an HTML 5 web platform that runs across all suites ensuring customers have a seamless user experience, so that applications can be viewed on different devices right down to a 10-inch tablet.

Statistical data process control (SPC) is used in manufacturing to determine if each process is in a state of control. The new SPC application works across all the different apps and modules and helps the user to improve quality and production related performance.

In addition to the existing Batch View and Batch Investigate features, a comparison option has been added to the platform’s batch analysis applications, allowing different types of comparison.

Cyber security remains one of the key issues in the advancement of Industry 4.0, and the new features in MOM include enhanced security.

Emerson Expands Analytics Platform

Plantweb Insight platform adds two new Pervasive Sensing applications that manage wireless networks more efficiently with a singular interface to the enterprise.

Emerson has added two new IIoT solutions to its Plantweb Insight data analytics platform that will enable industrial facilities to transform the way they manage their enterprise-level wireless network infrastructure.

As digitalization and wireless technology adoption continue to rapidly expand in industrial facilities throughout the world, the need for greater visibility of network infrastructure performance is key. These new Plantweb Insight applications provide a quick-to-implement, scalable IIoT solution that helps customers advance their digital transformation strategies and achieve greater operational efficiencies.

The new Plantweb Insight Network Management application provides continuous, centralized monitoring of WirelessHART networks. This first-of-its-kind application provides a singular, consolidated view of the status of all wireless networks in a facility, with embedded expertise and guidance for advanced network management.

A key feature of the Plantweb Insight Network Management application is a configurable mesh network diagram, providing visualization of network design and connections along with device-specific information. It also provides an exportable record of syslog alerts, network details outlining conformance to network best practices and more.

While the new network management application provides a holistic look at wireless networks, the Plantweb Insight Power Module Management application drills down to the device level, allowing facilities to keep their wireless devices appropriately powered so they can continuously transmit key monitoring data. By aggregating power module statuses, users can evolve traditional maintenance planning and implement more efficient and cost-effective practices.

“We were able to infuse a decade of experience with wireless technology into these new offerings,” said Brian Joe, wireless product manager with Emerson’s Automation Solutions business. “Our customers will now be able to manage and improve hundreds of networks through a singular interface, realizing significant efficiencies in individual network and wireless device management and maintenance.”

These new applications further enhance the Plantweb Insight platform, a set of pre-built analytics primarily focusing on monitoring key asset health. Other applications in the platform include pressure relief valve monitoring, heat exchanger monitoring and steam trap monitoring.

Market Research Firm Says Digital Transformation to Drive Adoption of Manufacturing Operations Management Software

Market Research Firm Says Digital Transformation to Drive Adoption of Manufacturing Operations Management Software

‘Tis the season—for market research reports. This one again from a firm I don’t know (but quite European centric)—by Transparence Market Research attempts to gauge the size and growth of the Manufacturing Operation Management (MOM) software market. I did not get a chance to chat with the company, but I find the list of companies “surveyed” interesting. Note, this software was previously (before ISA 95) Manufacturing Execution Solutions (MES), and when I did work in the space Manufacturing (prior-Materials) Resource Planning.

According to the market report, the global manufacturing operations management software market is projected to reach a value of US$ 17 Bn by 2027. The MOM software market is projected to expand at a CAGR of about 10% from 2019 to 2027. Growth of the market can be attributed to the shift of manufacturing toward digitization. [Note: I propose that as companies have acquired other companies, the MOM of choice—Microsoft Excel—became to cumbersome and not scalable. Add to this thought, the burgeoning data available through the Internet of Things.]

Asia Pacific is anticipated to dominate the manufacturing operations management software market at a CAGR of about 11% during the forecast period. In terms of revenue share, the manufacturing operations management software market is dominated by North America, followed by Europe. In 2019, the software segment is estimated to be valued at about US$ 5 Bn in the global manufacturing operations management software market, and see an opportunity of about US$ 10 Bn in terms of revenue from 2019 to 2027, reflecting a CAGR of about 9% during the forecast period.

The report does rightly point out that “MOM plays a vital role in integrating information systems on the shop floor, with business systems in corporate offices, leading to a gradual phasing-out of traditional paper-based systems.” They expect demand for manufacturing operations management software to increase during the forecast period due to these advantages offered by these systems.

Asia Pacific is one of the fastest growing markets in the global manufacturing operations management software market, as this region is witnessing increased adoption of new technologies. The manufacturing operations management software markets in North America and Europe are also expected to expand rapidly during the forecast period. [Gary’s note: have you ever seen one of these reports where the line on the graph did not reach upward from lower left to upper right?]

The research study includes the profiles of leading companies operating in the global manufacturing operations management software market. Key players profiled in the report include Siemens AG, ABB Ltd., Dassault Systems SA, Emerson Process Management, Honeywell, International Inc., General Electric Co., and Invensys plc. [Note: I’ll give them Invensys for historical data, but the software is now aggregated under AVEVA. I’d suggest a few additional players in the space.]