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"Technology Evaluation Centers, Inc. (TEC) is the first web-native technology research enterprise. TEC provides decision support systems (DSS) that enable stakeholders to objectively identify the software products that best fit their company's unique business and systems requirements, and that contribute most effectively to superior business performance. "
Source : Technology Evaluation Centers
State of the MES Software Marketplace
Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) is also known as :
Manufacturing Operations Management,
Product Life Cycle Management,
Manufacturing Process Management,
Operations Execution System,
Software Product Management,
Application Lifecycle Management,
Production process Planning,
Table of Contents
- State of the MES Software Marketplace
- The Benefits of Advanced Planning and Scheduling Solutions
- Decorated Products Drive Lean Initiatives with Epicor
- Connect the Shop Floor to the Top Floor
- Real-time Work-in-process Visibility for Global High-tech Manufacturing
- Natural Factors & SYSPRO: Partners in Health
- Jealsa Rianxeira Achieves Productive Efficiency with Wonderware
- ODG in High Gear with SYSPRO
- Vendor Spotlight
- Epicor Software
- Omnitrol Networks Inc
- Syspro Software Ltd
State of the MES Software Marketplace
Manufacturing has been transformed in the space of a single generation. It has gone from being a neglected corporate stepchild, where orders were dumped into one end of the plant and products ready to ship were expected out the other, to becoming a linchpin to global competitiveness. In a lean, demand-driven world, agility and flexibility to be more responsive in delivering what the customer wants at the lowest cost in the shortest time has become imperative to survival. The only way for manufacturers to achieve world-class performance was by providing greater visibility into what had long been the black box of production. And the only way to do that was to start collecting a lot more data on work in process (WIP).
Manufacturing execution systems (MES) evolved from early custom-designed projects in the 1980s into generic packages that could be further modified as one-off systems, into sophisticated industry solutions reflecting deep domain expertise in specific verticals. Despite industry analysts long questioning whether MES was a legitimate, stand-alone software market, and predicting it would be subsumed by enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendors encroaching from above and automation vendors from below, it is a market that has continued to show steady growth. The MES market achieved a major milestone in 2006 when annual revenues from system sales, according to AMR Research, breached $1 billion for the first time.
It is a market that both ERP and automation vendors view as desirous, though they’ve found it a challenge to bridge the gap between their unique heritages and the demands of robust MES. Still, they have made inroads into the MES space, initially through close partnerships with MES vendors supported by collaborative efforts in developing ISA-95, a schema for engineering vertical integration. Increasingly, they’ve made major investments in acquiring MES vendors, most significantly Rockwell Automation acquiring Datasweep and integrating it into its FactoryTalk suite, and Siemens acquiring Orsi to deliver SIMATIC IT. Though growth hasn’t exploded as expected with validation as a billion-dollar market, it has continued to provide good current and future prospects of growth-enough to entice relatively acquisition-reticent SAP to recently acquire Visiprise. Vendors are attracted primarily by the large untapped market comprised of manufacturers who continue to attempt MES strictly by manual means, or by limited functionality using spreadsheets to gain narrow visibility into key processes.
Best-of-breed solutions vendors continue to compete well, often providing innovative services, unique functionality, and rapid time-to-benefit. Manufacturers looking to implement MES need to start by clearly defining what it is they’re trying to achieve. In many instances, it’s wise to secure the services of knowledgeable third-party experts who can help with the scope and definition of clear project goals. Many manufacturers intuitively sense that "there’s got to be a better way," and can even identify where opportunities might lie, though developing clear return-on-investment (ROI)metrics can be daunting, warranting capable and experienced assistance from third-party experts.
Business Issues Facing Manufacturers:
Justification and ROI
Capturing, displaying, and archiving data on numerous production metrics regarding the accurate status of WIP makes MES an invaluable manufacturing management tool. Full product lifecycle traceability to meet increasingly stringent regulatory compliance mandates and to improve warranty repair efficiency at reduced costs are two primary drivers behind growing adoption of MES by manufacturers of all sizes.
Justifying MES solutions is neither simple nor easy. It requires detailed data, a comprehensive understanding of problems and opportunities, and significant investment in time. Vision and faith are no small factors in the equation, either. Here are a few high-level focal areas for seeking opportunities to leverage:
- What manual data collection and processing steps can be eliminated?
- What operational problems might be eliminated or improved by greater process
synergy (incorrect labeling, quality issues, etc.)?
- Where can improved management of complexity result in greater velocity and agility?
- Where can improved visibility into operations yield greater customer service?
More specifically, greater confidence in available-to-promise (ATP) based on the reality of production capacity, labor, and inventory, coupled with improved throughput and higher on-time deliveries, helps bolster both the bottom line and customer service. MES data also serves as the foundation for targeted overall equipment efficiency (OEE) initiatives. Because much of the data collection can be semi- or fully automated, MES provides greater confidence in there being a single, reliable version of the truth, enabling management to move past blame-and-denial to focus on tackling inefficiencies and eliminating bottlenecks.
Many manufacturers in a variety of industries are facing a looming skills shortage due to an aging workforce. Detailed work instructions in an MES system provide manufacturers with the means to capture and retain expertise. MES terminal displays on the production line can provide textual directions-but also access to detailed schematics, 3-D graphics, and even video.
One integrated system for the whole plant also sidesteps the serious problem of implementing stand-alone data collection "point solutions" serving single lines or work cells. One system makes it easier to share complete production data, so that all data can move with the work when it is transitioned to allied plants for further processing. Comprehensive data in one integrated system becomes even more valuable when management strives to achieve best practices among multiple plants. A single integrated solution used by multiple sites provides common definitions and performance metrics that enable more straightforward performance comparisons. It subsequently makes it easier to replicate best practices at multiple facilities based on a single version of the truth, coupled with detailed work instructions.
MES has been used to effectively reduce labor costs. Of more significant impact, MES has also helped reduce or eliminate planned capital expenditures. As manufacturers have striven to become more
responsive to customer demand, growth in the number of models and options has exploded, making it
necessary to manage smaller lot sizes and greater variation in production runs. MES helps address this, making it possible to greatly increase product mix on existing lines, often eliminating the need to fund expensive, additional capacity.
Key benefits of MES include
- traceability-improved compliance and warranty management
- improved ATP-more throughput and higher levels of customer service and on-time shipments
- improved OEE-one verifiable version of the truth
- reduced WIP inventory
- multiplant visibility-integrated traceability and common best practices
- knowledge capture of an aging workforce
- reduced costs-labor and capital expenditure reductions
- support for stock-keeping unit (SKU) proliferation-smaller lots sizes with greater
- labor tracking and ability to review efficiencies by work center, operators,
- calculation and identification of production bottlenecks, with revision of both actual and what-if scenarios
- statistical process information on production batches and incoming raw materials.
MES Vendor Selection
Selecting a software vendor of any application suite should follow a carefully prescribed path. This routinely follows a broadly defined five-step methodology: research; evaluation; making your decision; implementation; and maintenance and management. Technology Evaluation Centers (TEC) has crafted a comprehensive approach that provides detailed guidance through each of these three steps.
There are some issues that are unique to making a smart MES selection-one where you’re essentially entrusting the management of your manufacturing processes to the quality, fit, and flexibility of a packaged solution. Of key importance is how well it maps to your business, technology, and agility requirements. On the business front, you want to know your software will deliver the most bang for the buck. With regards to technology, you need to ensure that it integrates fluidly with other critical, internal systems. With respect to agility, you absolutely want to ensure that the system is designed in such a manner that you can assume total ownership through mastery of how you can use it to adapt to necessary changes in your production processes and in your business environment.
At a high level, it should
- closely address critical industry-specific requirements;
- have earned strong endorsements from other manufacturers in your industry segment;
- be backed by a vendor who reliably delivers on promises-including enhancements and support; and
- be capable of delivering a customer-specific demonstration using your requirements and data on short turnaround-ideally no longer than two weeks. This demonstration
provides proof that the vendor can meet your critical requirements with relatively minimal custom programming or product enhancements.
This last point is worth amplifying. Requiring the vendor to prepare a demo addressing a handful of issues you deem critical to your operations, using your data, and delivering the demo in two weeks’ time can be immensely revealing. Quite often it quickly separates those who can deliver what you need from those
who can only offer what they have. It readily tells you how flexible and agile a product is to fully address
your needs-now and in the future. This is essential if you’re going to claim full ownership and use it to its full capacity to drive your production processes.
You are well advised to start by securing expert advice and assistance from the start. This is ever more important with small to medium businesses (SMBs) who have less on-staff expertise in evaluating and selecting the right approach and solution for the issues at hand. A qualified third party can help avoid implementations that only address surface issues rather than getting to deeper underlying problems. Additionally, outside expertise can ensure you proactively plan for the expansion, extension, and integration of your MES solution.
Though you should start small, you should also begin with the end in mind. With the big picture in mind, however, you need to start with an appropriate pilot project that enables you to thoroughly test assumptions regarding what’s most critical to manage, and that helps identify which process levers achieve desired goals. With new systems, there’s always the potential for the pitfall where "you don’t know what you don’t know." Pilot projects enable you to explore new terrain, gain experience and knowledge, and most importantly, achieve desired benefits that serve to build confidence, and justify and drive larger projects
In partnering, initially with third parties to scope requirements and subsequently with vendors, stipulate which professionals on their teams are going to be working directly with you during the engagement. You want to know their qualifications and experience, and to have a sense for how well they will integrate and work collaboratively with members of your staff.
Key points to keep in mind when evaluating and selecting an MES solution:
- Consider enlisting third-party expertise for MES software research, evaluation,
decision-making, implementation, and maintenance/management.
- Start small-learn what you don’t know and achieve benefits to driver larger projects.
- Clarify project staffing to ensure domain expertise and successful fit.
- Validate claims and test assumptions with reference visits.
- Begin with the end in mind-plan for successful extension, integration, and expansion.
- Embrace the notion you’re forging a vital partnership with your vendor that will have a
defining impact on your future.
The Last Word
The benefits of selecting and implementing an MES solution are not limited to the business issues outlined above. A comprehensive approach to software selection also forces you to examine your existing business processes to determine how and why you do what you do.
After all, in today’s economic climate, careful examination of your business processes can transform your sense that "there’s got to be a better way" into world-class performance-built on an MES solution that truly meets your needs.
About Flexware Innovation
Flexware Innovation provides information technology and automation solutions for the manufacturing industry. Flexware’s expertise rests in the MES domain, and its solutions help manufacturers thrive by providing real-time software to direct and monitor shop floor activities. Working in conjunction with ERP solutions and existing factory automation, Flexware provides easy-to-use shop floor solutions that eliminate data entry and work the way operators and supervisors work. The company offers business and functional analysis, software selection, system design, automation, implementation and long-term support of custom and commercial off-the-shelf solutions for manufacturing execution. Ultimately, Flexware’s solutions give manufacturing leadership the tools they need to constantly improve their confidence in manufacturing operations.
Benefits of Advanced Planning and Scheduling Solutions
Time is money. Manufacturers that are able to maximize time utilization reap unparalleled competitive advantage in today’s global economy. Understanding and responding to customer demand for more choices in less time while maintaining cost control translate to enhanced customer service and profitability-objectives most manufacturers strive to achieve. Advanced planning and scheduling (APS) solutions can help manufacturers achieve their business objectives by better managing their resources and time.
Every day, companies search for better ways to maximize the planning processes and plant throughput. While traditional planning and scheduling utilizes a step-by-step process to allocate resources and production capacity, APS introduces capability-based planning and scheduling techniques, which ensure the right resources with the right capabilities are available for production to begin. Furthermore, higher-level functionality is limitless in the number of resources required for production, such as machinery, employee, tools, fixture, material, and more. The system ensures all of the resources are ready for production to begin. Leading manufacturers understand that orchestration of resources for optimum output requires finely tuned and flexible tools that can support these efforts.
The two components that encompass the sphere of APS are strategic planning and an assembly of sophisticated decision-support tools. Together, they work to provide a simulation of procurement, production and logistics activities in real-world scenarios for both material and capacity constraints.
According to a leading industry research firm, Aberdeen Group, there are several top market pressures that drive the need to use APS. These pressures include: the need to reduce manufacturing cost, inaccurate demand forecasts, the need to maximize profitability, manufacturing process complexity, product proliferation/configuration, and shrinking product lifecycles. Companies have responded by implementing coordinated programs to manage rapid change with their existing resources, including the use of APS.
APS helps companies improve their profitability through better utilization of their resources while producing shorter lead times, stronger on-time performances, and reducing inventory costs while providing better operational visibility of the shop floor.
In its January 2008 report, "Manufacturing Operations Management: The Next Generation of Manufacturing Systems," Aberdeen Group also found that, "Compared to the industry average, Best-in-Class Manufacturers are … 55% more likely to use Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS)."
APS can handle the simple to complex scheduling needs and dynamic environments of today’s manufacturer, whether your requirements are discrete, make-to-order, mixed-mode, or make-to-stock environments. This includes the ability to enhance your scheduling power through a wide range of scheduling methods. Manufacturers are able to get a better handle on their production abilities through functions like drag-and-drop scheduling techniques and material planning. They are also empowered to provide better service to their customers with real-time capable-to-promise functionality.
Many companies have taken the steps necessary to make these changes to their business processes. They wanted results, and took strategic action to realize those results. Epicor customer Xenetech USA implemented Epicor APS and found new efficiencies in management of employee resources-an important resource for the company. Xenetech USA is a manufacturer of computerized engraving machines from Baton Rouge, LA. According to Carey Solomen, IT Director for Xenetech, "with Epicor APS capability-based scheduling, reassigning resources is automated, eliminating the need for manual people scheduling." In addition to this benefit, Carey suggested that Epicor APS understands individual resource standards and applies them in the scheduling process. "The Epicor APS schedule is fine-tuned as production standards are based on the capability of the resource, a real-world benefit to Xenatech USA," Solomon said.
Successful business leaders use these tools and techniques to orchestrate their operational practices. APS enables them to efficiently and cost-effectively obtain, produce, and distribute the materials necessary to fulfill customer demand. They are equipped to proactively process data about demand and supply expectations. When market demand surges, APS strategies and technologies help businesses keep pace. When demand wanes, APS functions help businesses remain competitive by remaining lean and responsive.
Decorated Products Drive Lean Initiatives with Epicor
Decorated Products, a Westfield, Massachusetts-based maker of metal identification labels, decals, and roll labels, was started in 1950 by the father of the current president and owner, Jeff Glaze. As a family-owned and -operated business, Decorated embodies the traditional focus on customer service and the personal touch that have made the company an undisputed leader in its industry. But these traditional values have not stood in the way of innovation and efficiency.
Following a failed implementation, Decorated Products needed a fresh start with a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution robust enough to support the company’s growth and its drive toward Lean initiatives. "Decorated is a much leaner company than we were several years ago," Glaze says. "We are continually striving to reduce waste, improve operations and be more flexible to better serve our customers."
Decorated Products’ journey has taken the company through Kaizen (starting in 1988), Six Sigma, Deming’s 14 points, and various Lean initiatives to ISO 14000 compliance, ISO 9001:2000 and ISO/TS 16949:2002 registrations, and qualification as a Tier 1 vendor to the automotive industry. Epicor has been a key part of those Lean efforts. "Epicor is flexible enough to support what we have done in our Lean transformation," Glaze says. As an example, he points to some of the changes in inventory management: "We standardized part numbering and reduced raw material inventory from 200 parts to about 60. We changed the way we purchase so that now 80% of our materials are on consignment – time-phased to coordinate with our raw material needs. Epicor’s flexibility has fully supported this effort to the point where we trigger vendor billing for these materials when we open the box."
Decorated has cut manufacturing lead-time from four weeks to four days. "We eliminated operations, and got better at the ones that remain," Glaze says. "Real-time reporting and analysis in Epicor are key, enabling us to react much faster to customer requests and keep closer track of inventory and production activities." On some custom products, Decorated offers 24-hour turnaround by having the necessary materials on hand. Nevertheless, they now maintain an average of only five days of materials on hand at any time. This is a dramatic decrease from before, when the company materials inventory averaged less than two turns (six to twelve months’ supply).
Before Epicor, Decorated was also unable to track finished goods with any level of accuracy. "With Epicor, we can track value by warehouse using different valuation techniques for different kinds of inventory. That has helped us to reduce inventory and waste," Glaze says. "We used to have to walk out to the warehouse to check on what we had. That took a lot of time and effort. We don’t need to do that anymore." The warehousing efficiencies have also reduced the amount of space needed for storage. Decorated also instituted a numbered bin system so they know right where everything is and can get to it faster.
While the company has chosen not to adopt the orderless flow style of production seen in many Lean plants, they benefit from the ability to link subassemblies in the system to final products and customer orders using a type of electronic kanban. Since some of the subassemblies can be used in many end products, this visibility helps keep things in synch, avoiding shortages and unpleasant surprises.
Customer service improvements include the use of the Epicor product configurator to quickly and reliably capture customer requirements and prevent problems on the plant floor that can delay shipment and impact quality. "The configurator guides the customer rep through the specification process and helps avoid mistakes," Glaze says.
Part of any Lean effort must be focused on keeping the equipment in good working order to reduce breakdowns and schedule disruptions. Decorated has an aggressive predictive and preventive maintenance program in place using Epicor labor tracking to measure equipment usage and minutes of downtime.
Connect the Shop Floor to the Top Floor
Business trends and drivers for manufacturers
Cutting costs, reducing time-to-market, and producing differentiated quality products have been the key business drivers for manufacturers for decades. In the last few years, manufacturers have dramatically reshaped their operations to compete in an increasingly flatter world. Manufacturers have implemented onshore and offshore sourcing strategies that have been met with various levels of success. Contract manufacturing has helped companies reduce their costs and time-to-market, but at the same time has increased risks due to lack of visibility and control. New regulations have emerged to cope with the global environment, adding pressure on businesses to reduce their products’ carbon footprints. At the same time, they are tasked to provide greater traceability, in the unfortunate case of product defects.
The "Lean" manufacturer path
The streamlining of manufacturing operations and other "lean" initiatives have already helped organizations reduce their investments in material and personnel while increasing output. These are excellent measures and the rewards are well documented. But, those measures reached an upper limit without the use of wireless, hands-off technology. As long as someone is filling out a form and is responsible for manually generating a product pedigree, or even scanning bar codes on the outbound shipping dock, then an organization is not as lean as it could be.
Those companies can achieve the next step change in productivity. The use of contactless sensors and wireless devices to monitor and control the plant floor has the potential to further improve productivity by providing real-time progress control, resource utilization and error reduction across the plant floor and beyond.
Machine utilization monitoring is getting more attention due to equipment complexity and energy costs. Energy is no longer a simple "cost of doing business;" it has a direct impact on the bottom line. On the plus side, it presents real opportunities to "lean out" energy use and purchase, and also creates competitive differentiators for environmentally and energy-conscious buyers. Manufacturers implementing leaner, greener operations are also reaping the benefits from a brand perspective.
In the interest of preventing costly recalls, best-in-class manufacturers are improving production quality by looking at real-time event trending, predicting and detecting deviations before they become quality issues. Real-time shop-floor visibility helps manufacturers get to potential root cause, and develop corrective and preventive actions than can be implemented back into the process.
"Out of sight," but not of mind
Each of these trends creates higher-quality, lower-cost product. But the rapid distribution of manufacturing operations outside of the traditional four walls of the factory has created "dark areas" in the manufacturing process. Even though outsourcing makes sense financially, it has created chaos on the shop floor and, more often, negatively impacted the production process. As a result, contract manufacturers are looking at ways to become preferred suppliers to other manufacturers, by providing real-time production visibility to their customers in order to alleviate fears of missing mission-critical deadlines.
Both original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and contract manufacturers face fast-growing pedigree and safety regulations that, at first glance, seem to hinder their ability to compete. But a wise few leverage these requirements to fend off less regulated competitors by providing safer, more traceable products. Automated, contactless data capture can simplify component, personnel and equipment-based
pedigree creation. Other valuable consequences of complying with traceability regulations include the identification of returned merchandise, warranty validation, repair tracking, lease return management and end-of-life and recycling process.
By adding real-time operational visibility to their current processes, manufacturers can share the benefits with their customers. And a better synchronized supply chain compounds these benefits by reducing overall costs and time-to-market across the entire ecosystem.
Manufacturing execution systems and processes
The new vision of manufacturing, moving from the four walls of the factory to a distributed manufacturing enterprise in a collaborative environment, has not yet been met by enterprise systems. Most of today’s solutions create silos of disconnected data in the enterprise, on the shop-floor and across the supply chain.
Manufacturing execution solutions continue to evolve and some vendors have started to provide composite applications that cross the boundaries of the enterprise by leveraging standard efforts like ISA-95. But for the most part, the manufacturing shop floor remains isolated and disconnected from the top floor.
The innovation in contactless technologies, as well as network, web and integration technologies, has created a complex patchwork of solutions requiring costly one-time customizations. Manufacturers still struggle to turn the technology innovation in radio frequency identification (RFID) and other sensor devices into business value. Because most of the solutions today are taking a top-down approach to integrating this new extended network, the cost and complexity is growing very rapidly. The control and requirements for these solutions are quickly getting out of the hands of the people who needed it most and know its requirements best: the plant staff.
Advanced manufacturing execution system (MES) providers are working hard to enable rapid customization of plant-floor workflow services that can be easily managed without requiring costly back-end integration. These new systems allow the solutions to be more industry-focused and enable the flexibility to implement the manufacturers’ unique business process.
To succeed in the new world of manufacturing, companies need to connect the shop floor to the top floor in their factories, but also across the supply chain.
Manufacturers need solutions that automatically collect data from a variety of sensors, machines and devices to provide real-time information to the plant personnel to rapidly respond to changes and deviations. These new network-enabled manufacturing devices need to be orchestrated at the edge of the network in order to support the ever-changing production processes without impacting the traditional enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications. Finally, the solutions need to scale incrementally with an ultra-low total cost of ownership (TCO) to accelerate adoption, large-scale deployment and return on investment (ROI).
Manufacturers know their pressures well, from difficult economic times to stiffer regulations and more global competition. Yet each of those pressures creates an opportunity to make a company more lean, automated, connected and competitive.
Real-Time Work-In-Process Visibility for Global High-Tech Manufacturing
Endwave Defense Systems designs and manufactures radio frequency (RF) modules that enable the transmission, reception and processing of high-frequency signals in next-generation wireless telecommunications networks, defense electronics and homeland security systems.
Endwave’s Defense and Security business unit is a supplier to both the defense electronics and homeland security industries. As such, their products are under intense scrutiny, as they are components of mission-critical systems that are essential to safety and success. Furthermore, key defense contractors and the Department of Defense are starting to request real-time visibility on order status to improve the performance of their own lean manufacturing process. The project focused on automating work-in-process visibility on the assembly line to report progress and needs to customers, management, and suppliers, while also reducing waste and delays in the manufacturing process.
Though observing best practices in their manufacturing line, Endwave management had limited visibility on the progress of individual work orders through the assembly process, and was unable to detect bottlenecks, or systemic production "hold ups" in a timely manner. As with many manufacturers, existing processes required the production managers to walk the floor to visually locate a work order to find out when it would be completed per customer request, or to flag a particular work order for priority treatment.
Adding real-time visibility to lean manufacturing
The solution was deployed by adding real-time sensing capabilities to the existing assembly cells. Fixed and mobile radio frequency identification (RFID) readers, antenna, printers, sensors and information displays were added and integrated with the existing shelving infrastructure. Individual RFID tags were added to the work-order bins and employee badges to seamlessly track movements along the assembly line without changing any existing processes. The integration of RFID-based hardware and software enables transparent visibility and traceability on the work floor. The new "smart" assembly cells are viewed as a chain of multiple cells on which work orders are tracked as they move towards the end of the assembly line.
The integration of the new Smart Assembly Cell eliminated risks with no impact to the existing business process. The integrated Smart Assembly Cell delivers complete visibility and traceability across the entire manufacturing process. The deployed solution included Omnitrol Networks’ Work-In-Process application software running on the Edge Application Services Engine (EASETM) on the OMNITROL appliance. It also included a complete database to keep track of work-order pedigree, sales orders, return merchandise authorizations (RMAs), products, materials, shipping and pricing information. The current deployment did not require integration with other enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications to be fully operational. This approach helped Endwave lower the investment required to deploy a fully operational solution. If future requirements necessitate integration with back-end applications, the Work-In-Process (WIP) appliance allows for such integration
The complete project took less than a month of planning, training, deployment and testing at the Diamond Springs facility. The Manufacturing Operations Department provided the manufacturing process information and selected key choke points where to position the smart shelves.
Immediately after installing the solution, the production managers could view the status of work orders over web-based interfaces. They were able to quickly identify bottlenecks by noting any manufacturing cells with longer-than-expected production cycles. Each order could be tracked by component and production employee (pedigree), allowing the company to maintain records on components per product built.
With only a small investment and no significant change to their manufacturing processes, Endwave has been able to obtain a contactless WIP visibility environment that can conceivably be pushed across their entire production line.
By using RFID in a closed loop application, Endwave has been able to generate immediate benefits compared to the previous manual process. For a minimum investment per manufacturing cell, the RFID integration they performed does not require any complex and expensive development or customization which would have prevented them from deploying the overall system.
Endwave expects that the return on investment (ROI) will increase further when they connect to their customers and suppliers who are deploying similar standards-based solutions, thereby producing a network effect.
Natural Factors & SYSPRO: Partners in Health
Natural Factors Nutritional Products has been a leader in the manufacture and sales of naturally sourced personal health products for over 40 years. With markets in North America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, Natural Factors is well-positioned to take advantage of the burgeoning global demand for naturally-derived health products. In the United States alone, the size of the emerging nutraceuticals and supplements market is estimated by some observers to be in the region of $80 billion, with enormous up-side potential.
Natural Factors produces millions of tablets and capsules every month. On a daily basis, the company packs an enormous variety of finished goods into thousands of bottles and fills hundreds of sales orders. At present, Natural Factors carries thousands of active stock items, with new formulations continually introduced. The company’s corporate structure includes company-owned distribution centres and manufacturing facilities. "Without SYSPRO ERP software," says Jaime de Sequera, Chief Information Officer for Natural Factors, "we would not be able to manage the complexity of a business this size."
According to de Sequera, one of SYSPRO’s most basic advantages is its adherence to the familiar logic of best practices. "SYSPRO approaches each specific business discipline in the most intuitive manner possible," says de Sequera. "It never confuses you with eccentric terminology. Instead, it operates according to best business practices, which makes it very easy to understand and simple to learn."
As a manufacturer of naturally sourced nutraceuticals and supplements, Natural Factors places enormous emphasis on quality control. "Quality control-and government health regulations-are easily satisfied," says de Sequera, "due to SYSPRO’s ‘Lot Traceability’ module." As batches are produced, each one is given a specific, serialized lot number. That identifier allows Natural Factors to know everything about its product, including where the raw materials came from, when they were received in inventory, who received them, and to what job the raw materials were allocated. "Lot Traceability builds a very useful database," emphasizes de Sequera. "In the event that a problem occurs, we can trace the product back to its source. Without that function, we would have much less control over the quality of our products."
When the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (under the Bioterrorism Act), issued guidance for the entry and release of imported food products into the United States, Lot Traceability provided an additional dividend. "Essentially," says de Sequera, "the Department of Homeland Security wanted assurances that we had the systems in place to provide relevant information if there was ever a problem with a product. SYSPRO’s Lot Traceability gave us that capability. Instead of being a huge process, we had already met the requirements. That saved us a great deal of time, effort and money."
Built to meet the needs-and budgets-of small to midsized businesses, SYSPRO ERP is well suited to single and multi-site operations. With facilities in Burnaby, Coquitlam, and Okanagon (BC), Toronto (Ontario), and Everett (Washington), Natural Factors takes advantage of complementary technologies, such as Thin Client, to efficiently and inexpensively incorporate all its offices within the SYSPRO enterprise resource planning (ERP) fold. "Our wide area network," says de Sequera, "allows us to control SYSPRO centrally, yet decentralize its availability."
In 2005 de Sequera and his colleagues decided to switch SYSPRO from Natural Factors’ original Unix platform to Microsoft’s SQL Server 2000. The migration to Windows, which took two months (and resulted in no business disruptions), has allowed Natural Factors to leverage Microsoft’s .NET component architecture to deliver SYSPRO’s e.net solutions. This new wave of Web services enables functions such as remote sales order entry and inventory status determination using remote devices such as palm pilots and cell phones. "With the availability of wireless broadband," says de Sequera, "the potential for web-based business solutions is enormous." Natural Factors has already implemented on-line picking; company warehouse workers now use wireless tablet PCs which update the system as they pick.
The amalgamation of SYSPRO and .NET also allows Natural Factors to monitor its supply chain linkages. For example, by connecting to the reporting systems provided by couriers such as UPS and FEDEX, a Natural Factors customer service agent can instantly retrieve the exact shipping status of any item directly from the Syspro query screen. Says de Sequera: "That’s very powerful from a customer service perspective."
"SYSPRO handles many other processes that are critical to our success," says de Sequera, "and it allows us to do all this in an integrated fashion. In addition, it creates a repository of useful data that we regularly use to measure our performance. It also allows us to report against that data, so we can make informed business decisions for guiding our growth. In many respects it has allowed us to grow our operations in the most efficient manner possible. All in all, SYSPRO fulfills our needs in a very good way."
Jealsa Rianxeira Achieves Productive Efficiency with Wonderware
Founded in 1946, Jealsa Rianxeira has become well known as a world-class canned fish producer. It is the fifth largest canned fish producer in the world, with factory installations on three continents. Although canned tuna is its main product line, it is also involved in the processing of mussels, sardines, squid, bonito and mackerel.
The canned food business is very competitive due to various conditions in the global market. One of the biggest challenges is competition coming from canned food products produced outside the European Union that compete with European goods. Because of lower labor costs and duties, products supplied outside the union are cheaper to produce and market.
Another important business challenge is the general maturity of the canned food industry. This translates into lower margins, even as customers require higher-quality products. This is true not only in the actual product itself but also in the other auxiliary items, such as the canned food containers and additives included in the processing.
The factory in Boiro (Coruña) is engaged exclusively in tuna processing and canning. The processing system involves more than 1,500 references with 30 different canned formats. The plant is staffed by 700 people producing a volume of more than 2,000,000 cans of product per day. It is a big challenge to collect, manage and integrate the information in this processing facility.
From the cool holds of the fishing vessel to the finished canned product, the production process passes through ten difference phases. This involves the cutting of the raw material, packing of the cans, cooking, cleaning, packing, closing and sterilization.
Tuna must also be processed correctly, as there are a number of variables involved in the production, such as tuna species, fish quality and the location it was caught. In addition, the availability of specific tuna is not constant, which is why it is important that the processing system have the capability to replan production based on the needs and the availability of the main raw material.
Jealsa Rianxeira decided to focus on the optimization of its business processes with production as its key piece. This was done in order to streamline the process and bring down the total cost of production, thus making the products cheaper to produce, but at the same time generating higher yield with improved product quality.
It was vital to improve their processes by reducing the production costs and increasing the visibility of the production cycle. This improvement would also enable Jealsa Rianxeira to better address their customer’s needs, in terms of both delivery times and order optimization.
To be able to optimize the management of its processes, it was obvious that the implementation of an information management system in all of their processing facilities was required.
The Wonderware software system involves the following:
- Production efficiency management on the processing lines
- A production process traceability system
- Production data statistical control
- Integration of processing and business systems
To improve the efficiency of the production resources, a downtime analysis system was installed on all the production lines that provide information on machine stoppage, frequency, duration and cause of failure. This enabled Jealsa Rianxeira to manage the production efficiency of all the lines by means of OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) analysis.
A plant platform was created based on the Wonderware System Platform and Production Events Module. This enabled Jealsa Rianxeira to collect all the information on raw material consumption, batch management, processing time and man-hours in each of the stages of the process.
A quality analysis tool was also installed to provide statistical control on the weight of the cans. This verified that the cans sold in the market did not exceed the minimum weight marked on the container. It also optimized the amount of raw material used in the production process.
One of the main objectives realized by this Wonderware system was the improvement of the decision-making process. This was achieved when Jealsa Rianxeira developed the tools that enabled the exhaustive analysis of data, both from its processing and business levels.
"This objective can only be covered by the powerful integration of both worlds: the factory and the business layer of the company. This is why one of the most important parts of the project is to define, configure and start up the processes that integrate the data between the MES platform and SAP." - Antonio Sartal, Head of R&D+I, Jealsa Rianxeira
With the planning of the requirements of materials and the resources used based on their capacity, all of the information was linked from the factory-times, consumptions and material productions, batches used and consumed-to the business system. This helped reduce the difference between what was planned and what was actually performed.
Thanks to this integration process, the business and processing layers, historically separated in the past, are now operating as a single unit. This resulted in better optimal levels, savings in processing costs and has improved the decision-making process. It has enabled Jealsa Rianxeira to become a more adaptive and productive company.
ODG in High Gear with SYSPRO
Founded in 1962, Ontario Drive & Gear Limited (ODG) now operates a 105,000 sq. ft. manufacturing
facility in New Hamburg, Ontario. ODG produces two amphibious all-terrain vehicles, the ARGO and the
Centaur. Both are world leaders in their categories, and are designed to meet the demands of the off-road
vehicle market. These 6- and 8-wheel-drive vehicles transport people and equipment through challenging
terrain inaccessible to other traditional all-terrain vehicles.
ODG’s industrial division has built a solid reputation for the design and manufacture of quality gears
and transmissions by targeting original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in a variety of industries that
require high-quality precision power transmission units, including material handling, forestry, infrastructure
maintenance, and agriculture. Numerous performance awards from industrial customers are testimonials
to ODG’s commitment to customer satisfaction and quality.
In 1991, ODG was using four separate systems for inventories, accounting, sales and MRP . The challenge
was to combine all four systems into an integrated management system. The system needed to be rocksolid
– stability and data integrity were of foremost importance, followed closely by a requirement for
flexibility and transparency – and affordability. "The software had to offer a reasonable value proposition: it
had to be scalable to position ourselves for the anticipated growth; and it had to be flexible to adapt to our
processes, not the other way around; and it had to be easily understood and maintained by non-IT staff,"
remarks Michael Eckardt, VP Finance, Ontario Drive & Gear. ODG chose SYSPRO.
At that time, ODG operated one facility, had 40 employees and produced sales of just under $6 million.
Today ODG operates two plants, has 145 employees, and in 2004, generated sales in excess of $30
million. "SYSPRO allowed us to do what we do best – manufacturing all-terrain vehicles, cutting gears
and assembling transmissions. We do not have to worry about the performance of the system – the
administration tasks are minimal and we have never had the need for an IT person to manage the system,"
"The flexibility in the system was provided by the countless options that allowed us to tailor it to our
specific needs, as opposed to having to adapt our processes to the system. When this was not possible
and we had to adapt to the program, we found that SYSPRO improved our thinking, our processes, and
our assumptions," adds Eckardt.
SYSPRO monitors the quality, accuracy, lead times and costs of purchases, while providing comprehensive
supplier performance analysis. As an example, Eckardt points out how the goods received notes (GRNs)
in SYSPRO’s Purchase Orders module improved their processes: "The use of goods received notes has
almost eliminated the unmatched invoices file, and simplified the payment process to such an extent that
we grew by 500% without requiring additional A/P personnel."
With 3,500 – 4,000 active stock items, SYSPRO’s cycle count function initially saved hundreds of year-end hours on ODG’s inventory counts and provided them with a systematic process for continuous improvement in their inventory accuracy. Recently, ODG has chosen to use the cycle count system to trigger "cycle costing" of standard parts in order to significantly reduce the overheads associated with daily labour collection.
Every two years, ODG introduces a new ARGO model with a wide range of options to customize the vehicle to specific customer needs. New gears or transmissions are constantly developed according to customer specifications involving significant customization and sometimes unique engineering design. As a result, each customer order can result in a unique set of part numbers, bill of material, and routings. SYSPRO’s planning bills, phantom parts and sub-contract operations makes assembling products to customer specifications straightforward. "As we develop new products, the Work In Progress module helps us keep track of hours and expenses incurred in our R&D jobs, and provides us with documentary evidence to benefit from government programs," adds Eckardt.
With its business continuing to experience significant growth, ODG is investigating other features contained in the system, such as SYSPRO’s e.net solutions, to share information. "As we continue to grow, we will rely more and more on e.net objects to communicate with our customers, suppliers and internal processes. An increasingly complex business environment requires us to be as flexible as possible. We have high expectations that SYSPRO can meet these challenges," concludes Eckardt.