Making Industry 4.0 a Reality

Critical Manufacturing Blog: Insights into a successful digital transformation across your operations.
  • While some industries, such as non-essential goods, were brought to a complete halt, other industries supplying goods to battle the disease (the Pharmaceutical, Clinical Diagnostic and Medical Device sectors), were expected to scale rapidly to meet the global demand for their products.

  • A truly Industry 4.0-enabled semiconductor fab needs more than a MES. It needs an IoT data platform, which encompasses the core MES functionality, but has the capability to unleash the potential of IoT through enhanced data storage and manipulation capabilities.

  • The Semiconductor Industry has been at the forefront of digitalization. Chips manufactured by the industry have enabled increased data storage, real- time data processing at the edge and the very manifestation of IIoT and AI in value chains worldwide. However, the automotive and medical device industries are outpacing semiconductor in terms of digitalization, with the semiconductor industry lagging behind.

  • After being named as a leader in the 2021 Gartner Magic Quadrant for MES, our MES scored highest out of 19 vendors evaluated for “Batch/Repetitive Flow Manufacturing”, “Complex Discrete Manufacturing” and “Highly Regulated Industries”. We are proud to say that our modern MES ranked highest for the complex manufacturing styles it was designed for.

  • A modern MES is capable of providing manufacturers much more than traceability; in fact, the right MES data platform, which is IIoT enabled and has the capability of integrating with IT applications both from automation layer to the ERP/SCM/WMS layer, can act as the cornerstone to successfully answer market needs.

  • While 3D printing or additive manufacturing has vast potential in reducing lead times for discrete and customized manufactured products/parts, it is vital that the MES being used to usher in the technology is ready for the changes which will occur across the value chain, in order to ensure that the true potential of the technology and other Industry 4.0 technologies being used in tandem are realized.

  • If you have the right MES application deployed, the speed of your digitalization efforts does not need to be subject to your employee’s skill development; it can be done simultaneously and organically to deliver the best results. Having the right MES will help your organization harness your specific and unique organizational knowledge, and develop a new stream of knowledge.

  • There has been an uptake in Line Automation and Management Technologies, such as MES, in SMT. The automation and digitization of manufacturing and assembly lines is seen as a priority by industry leaders, and those who have acted now stand to gain far more than ones who choose not to.

  • The Automated Validation approach is crucial in helping companies to reduce the time and cost of their validation efforts by at least 60-70%.

  • Industry 4.0 leverages both the Internet of Things-based devices and cloud-based computing, using AR and/or VR for an enriched and immersive experience, enabling enterprises to react faster. Armed with high quality information, the resulting actions help to achieve Industry 4.0 benefits associated with speed, accuracy, clarity and in some cases, innovation.

  • Critical Manufacturing hosted a webinar with Julie Fraser, based on a survey of over 300 executives from around the world. It explored how the leaders are pursuing data management and what should be the priorities related to data management in manufacturing.

  • What in the world does the IKEA effect have to do with software, and more specifically with MES? A truly modern MES application should, by virtue of its design, have the IKEA effect built in and as a part of its standard outlay.

  • The importance of harnessing large volumes data and the value its analysis creates has been the rhetoric behind Industry 4.0 and seen as one of the major drivers towards achieving the benefits associated with it.

  • The COVID-19 Pandemic is perhaps the biggest reality check for every single business entity in the world. Today, we will explore why your operation needs a MES from a digitalization and post-pandemic perspective, and how it directly contributes to building a value chain-wide reliance.

  • MES applications which were pre-IIoT were mostly custom built, and many times ‘closed’ systems where business and product, logic and flow were intertwined and integration with enterprise applications was optional. You need to look at the current MES deployed in your process and ask the following five questions; upon answering them, it will become clearer whether or not an overhaul can save your application or it needs to go.

  • As the medical device industry grows despite the pandemic (current research shows a 7% market growth) the need for an MES for process oversight and guidance becomes an even stronger argument.

  • There is a lot of talk about the technology behind Industry 4.0 and digitalization, but this is not the most important consideration – people are. Afterall, it is people that make technology happen, that change how we manufacture, and, ultimately, the needs of whom the whole manufacturing process is designed to fulfill.

  • Combining data from Information Technology (IT) and Operations Technology (OT) is not only essential to analysis and insights, but it is the foundation for achieving the agility and business value that companies want.

  • The CSA ‘represents a step-change in computer system validation, placing critical thinking at the center of the CSV process, as opposed to a traditional ‘one size fits all’ approach.’ CSA helps manufacturers achieve CSV.

  • This may sound a totally impractical suggestion, but we need to ask the question: ‘Why not?’ Traditionally, factory operating systems or manufacturing executions systems (MES) have used bespoke interfaces, but the world, and technology, has moved on.

  • Let’s examine a use case of MES implementation where there is a high level of vertical integration, multiple product variants, and production lines executing a mix of process and discrete manufacturing modes. There are also strict compliance requirements with paper-based capture of process data. Essentially, the MES is crucial to the manufacturing process and the value chain.

  • One technology which is becoming extremely popular is the ‘containerization’ of applications; the most popular provider of containers being Docker. Our goal here it is to establish how applications or functions within larger applications can be created, modified and deployed better when they are containerized and the fact that this is much a cheaper and faster option for the organization which intends to use the applications.

  • From an ideal Industry 4.0 perspective, the approach which is highly recommended is to have the QMS data reside within the MES itself, rather than as a siloed system. Since a MES contains both the master data and the process data which it captures in real time, it is the single source of truth feeding other IT applications, including the QMS.

  • Why replace a working MES with a new MES? There are many reasons, and they must be sound and significant for most companies to take on such a major endeavor. Industry 4.0 and an array of emerging digital technologies make the prospect of upgrading your MES attractive—taking advantage of new technologies; reducing a ‘hodgepodge’ of applications for a centrally-managed, cohesive application framework; and addressing hardware/software end of life issues with no migration path.

  • If you are running a paperless program in manufacturing or thinking about starting it, this article is a must read. And I have chosen to start it by giving you already the three main takeaways: Prone to human error, inefficient and inflexible, predisposed to decision lag are hidden costs of paper-based systems; The choice of the right tool to go paperless shall consider its Integration Capabilities and Configurability, Usability, and Mobility; This is a journey. Start to process your data quickly with an easy-to-use interface and soon you will get deeper insights to rethink your manufacturing processes.

  • Pursuing an Industry 4.0 or modern MES in a Brownfield project, you must work with the basic plant structure, whether it’s single or multi-plant, complex or simple IT infrastructure, and varied or homogenous automation and information management solutions.

  • Companies which approach digital transformation from a strategic standpoint and pursue the step changes required for enabling this new revolution reinvigorate their value chain and have the opportunity to achieve unprecedented results from their operations and extended supply chain.

  • Today, we will look at the foundational aspects of MES and the cloud to understand what cloud computing offers, what makes it so exciting for businesses around the world to adopt for manufacturing, and how the MES interplays and leverages the cloud.

  • Are you deciding between an MES or an IIoT Platform? What about leverage them both? MES enables value chain-wide improvements, which no IIoT platform alone can ever achieve.

  • One of the most common concerns when it comes to the implementation of IIoT and Industry 4.0 for manufacturers is the risk to data security and maintaining requisite level of data integrity throughout the value chain. Let’s understand why security is a concern.

  • How to start an Industry 4.0 project? It seems rather direct—start small, prove the concept, and then scale. The problem is more than two-thirds of these projects fail. Why—because there wasn’t an overarching strategy set for the transformation.

  • Industry 4.0, the fourth Industrial Revolution, is the promise to manufacturing companies of lower costs, higher quality, faster processing with theoretical ‘lots of one.’ It is a marketplace, where smart products and smart equipment can interact autonomously for dynamic optimization on the fly.

  • To meet the strenuous requirements of Current Good Manufacturing Practice, if there were ever an industry segment which needs Industry 4.0 implementation, it would be the pharma industry. Let’s examine how a modern MES is able to help manufacturers in the pharma segment better manage their production and their supply chain to unleash Industry 4.0 benefits.

  • Establishing the need for an MES at the C-suite level is perhaps the first and most significant step in the long but highly rewarding journey of MES implementation. From that moment to the time an MES is deployed across the value chain, there will be a time lapse of at least 2 to 3 years.

  • Is an ERP as a standalone solution enough to get manufacturers Industry 4.0-ready, without using a MES or another operations management solution? Can an ERP system replace a MES in a digital transformation project, and still provide the same benefits?

  • There is a lot of debate and discussion pertaining to the way a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) should function from an IIoT and Industry 4.0 perspective. The words ‘open’ vs. ‘closed’ application are also encountered in such debates; I will focus on the basic difference between an open and a closed MES, and which one is suited for the times to come.

  • The need for an MES is strategic and its returns multiple and span across the entire value chain. Capture each gain individually, and then view as a whole to truly determine the benefits the MES application brings.

  • Delivering perfect orders isn´t easy, but having the right technological tools will help your company to get the most value of manufacturing data and make you outperform, shaping the difference between failing and succeeding in Order Management, especially in highly vertically integrated industries.

  • Much like Aerospace & Defense, the Automotive industry has strong governmental oversight for both safety and Good Manufacturing Practices. Manufacturers at all levels are under constant pressure due to shrinking margins and the need to implement new innovations rapidly at low cost with high quality.

  • Everyone seems to have a vision on Industry 4.0 but the big question remains: how the associated digital technologies can be effectively and efficiently implemented for quick time to value. We think we have the answer, and it encompasses combining technologies such as Digital Twin and Augmented Reality (AR) with modern operations management systems such as MES.

  • For Industry 4.0 to have its full impact, Advanced Production Planning and Scheduling (APS) must be a MES native capability. Meeting the demands of a high-mix, constantly changing automated and digitized Industry 4.0 environment, MES is the single application that can fully embody APS. With it, you gain speed, accuracy and the execution necessary to optimize plant performance.

  • The challenge with a QMS is that it is often a standalone system with a reactive approach to quality issues, whereas the manufacturing process requires a proactive approach to quality. Our argument is that a Manufacturing Execution System MES or MOM solution is a necessity for your holistic approach to quality, and we offer you ten reasons why MES should be the backbone of your quality operations.

  • ROI: Return on Investment. It’s a standard measurement criteria used for most complex or costly endeavors, where the factors of time, funds and people are involved: buying a new piece of capital equipment; investing in a new production line; or buying a software product which has vast organizational impact, such as an ERP or MES. For IT projects, an ROI exercise is a given.

  • Industry 4.0, Smart Factory, Digital Factory, Connected Enterprise, Factory of the Future, Plant floor to ERP, Convergence of IT & OT, IIOT and Digitization are either connected terms or very close to each other with slight differences.

  • Analytics have become a big part of manufacturing operations. For decades, plants have generated and collected data, but modern technologies with advanced analytics, machine learning (ML) and other artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms are taking how we use this data to new levels.

  • The term Autonomous Factory has gained popularity in the context of Industry 4.0. In this article, we will discuss what an autonomous factory means and how manufacturers with multiple plants across the globe can move towards this coveted autonomous manufacturing infrastructure in their value chains.

  • It is only after the top management realizes the need to implement an MES, or to update the existing legacy system, that the MES project starts to take shape. With it comes complexity and fear of failure; so, to alleviate those fears, today we will explore ways in which you can ensure that your MES project is a success.

  • Critical Manufacturing increased its sales representative base significantly in 2020 for the Electronics and SMT Industry in North America. We’ve added a category called Manufacturer’s Reps. What is the reasoning behind this?

  • Today we will discuss the future of manufacturing, examining the effects that new technologies and the pandemic are having in shaping its future. We will review the need for digital transformation and building resilience in global manufacturing supply chains.

  • Categorizing manufacturing operations based on process workflows and establishing a functionality/weight-based methodology for selecting the right MES is a logical first step. Understanding industry-specific use cases will enable and aid better decision making when it comes to deciding which MES works best for you.

  • As I started to explore in the first post of this series, many companies seem to be strategically lost among the various digitization initiatives and are experiencing severe difficulties in achieving results from the investments made.

  • Whether it's MES, Batch Recipe Management System, or EMI portal, they all are subjected to the "make versus buy" argument or sometimes, the "repurposing" of existing applications to make do. Let's examine the reasoning.

  • If there’s one thing over everything else that’s going to ruin your plans for manufacturing excellence, it’s uncertainty. And that is something we have in abundance right now.

  • It is with great pleasure that we note that the 2020 Gartner Critical Capabilities Report for Manufacturing Execution Systems, recognizes Critical Manufacturing with the highest product scores for three use cases.

  • A good scheduling will be integrated with both business and production systems, to provide the ability to quickly respond to changes in demand, and employ the necessary iterations in operations for accurate execution.

  • As the data sources grow in size and variety, things get more complicated, and the Data Warehouse implementation projects become extremely long and prohibitively expensive, since they imply a normalization of all business data. But there are alternatives.

  • The urgency of response to Covid-19 and the market whiplash are causing MedTech companies to rethink their product mixes to either innovate or partner with other technology companies to answer the pandemic needs. MES has reinforced its place as a critical component in GMP for these companies.

  • While manufacturing increasingly relies on near real time data for decision making, it requires solutions that can rapidly generate and process huge amounts of data. Edge solutions are a critical element of the entire data platform.

  • There are several reasons why MES needs Implementation Providers. These are companies focused on providing services, with a MES practice developed over many years, often with a strong MES-specific project methodology in place, and having the success of the project as the main objective.

  • Dark data has no immediate value and does not translate into useful information, even when orchestrated and organized. Yet you should store it. This post explains why and how

  • Industry 4.0 and automation & robotics have grown in importance in today’s manufacturing landscape. What role do these technologies have in improving process efficiency and capacity? Chris Parsons, Critical Manufacturing, explains how manufacturing execution systems (MES) can improve process capacity.

  • Contrary to what happened in the previous industrial revolutions, manufacturing has lagged in implementing the base technologies underlying the transformation. Why has it been so conservative and slow to adopt big data?

  • Innovative medical device companies are embracing the Industry 4.0 paradigm for smart manufacturing to support outcome based models. They recognize that they cannot manufacture and market next generation, disruptive and personalized products with last generation processes and legacy systems.

  • Augmented-Reality (AR) is very much part of the digital revolution in manufacturing. By simply donning a hands-free headset, workers can add a virtual layer of contextual information on top of what they see before them along with detailed information about a machine or process.

  • Recognize a paradigm shift in technology that affects your line of business and re-organize to take advantage of it, in spite of the short term pain. It is worth the risk to be the first mover, to gain an advantage over the competition and wow the customer.

  • It’s not unusual to have concerns about progress to plan when the majority of resources will be working remotely. That’s why we’ve decided to share our practices and experience in these trying times.

  • A highly automated factory is also inherently more resilient. In times of crisis, such as with the Coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic that the world is experiencing today, a highly automated factory is far more likely to continue manufacturing operations than a factory with low automation.

  • IT and OT each manage different aspects of a plant’s functioning. Equipment data is the domain of OT, and it becomes far more valuable when it goes into an IT environment for context and analysis. Only with IT and OT working in harmony can a plant achieve optimal performance.

  • Finding success with smart factories can be a frustrating experience. It’s not for lack of trying, since most major companies have undertaken projects, but as a Cap Gemini report shows, it appears they are not getting the results they’d expected.

  • The selection process for a MES system is by nature time consuming. If this downtime is properly used by the manufacturer, for all phases in which physical contact is not necessary once restrictions are lifted, it will be in ideal conditions for the final stages of the process.

  • As manufacturing relies on increasingly more complex equipment, the management of the recipes that the equipment will use for a certain process becomes increasingly important. Not only it’s a basic requirement to ensure that the right recipe is used for the right process, but also the recipe information is a key enabler for performance and efficiency improvement.

  • Recently, the leading technology market analysis firm ARC released a market report – “How Digital Transformation is Changing the Business Value of Connectivity to Machines”. In today’s increasingly complex global competitive environment, real-time information is vital to help manufacturers at both the plant and enterprise levels make decisions that improve efficiency and effectiveness, bringing intelligence to their business.

  • It is no secret technology keeps advancing. Today, it seems to do so at an accelerated pace with a level of innovation that is nothing short of spectacular! These advances have created new opportunities for manufacturers to explore new ways to increase productivity. At the same time, these technologies have opened up greater global competition, which is now placing new pressure to be more creative with how work gets done.

  • It is no secret technology keeps advancing. Today, it seems to do so at an accelerated pace with a level of innovation that is nothing short of spectacular! These advances have created new opportunities for manufacturers to explore new ways to increase productivity. At the same time, these technologies have opened up greater global competition, which is now placing new pressure to be more creative with how work gets done.

  • I am John Meulemeester from http://www.mesa.org and I would like to add some feedback to Francisco's comments, focused on some particular items. For me, SCADA and MES are not the same and should be separated. In my 30+ years visiting factories that produce everything you can imagine, I have personally witnessed that most manufacturers have some kind of HMI/SCADA

  • I just read CapGemini’s Smart factories @ scale report. Some of the numbers in it caught my eye. The report is good and the methodology seems solid. And yet I believe that with such self-reported research, we need to take the findings with a grain of salt. I will be doing some critical analysis in this post.

  • As automotive manufacturers continue to accelerate the pace of electrification within their industry, it may surprise you that this might not be the greatest challenge facing these manufacturers, their technology partners and their internal IT departments.

  • We live in a world where digital technologies have warped what we now consider “normal.” For example, with the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), it is now widely accepted that by next year, the IoT will comprise more than 30 billion connected devices. Can you imagine what 30 billion devices look like? If we are going to make sense of all this data, then we’ll need a better way to process and act upon it. Augmented Reality could be our best option.

  • With all the focus on new technologies and how the world of manufacturing is digitally transforming, it is easy to lose sight of what the repercussions will be with regards to how people will do their job. One thing is certain – it will be different!

  • Instead of a painful, time-consuming and costly process, what if being audited by the FDA, or any other regulatory body, was just part of the day to day routine? For the MedTech industry this makes perfect sense – it would not only reduce the financial overheads associated with being audited, it would also substantially reduce time and business risk.

  • Perhaps the most important feature of the smart factory, its connected nature, is also one of its most crucial sources of value. Smart factories require the underlying processes and materials to be connected to generate the data necessary to make real-time decisions. In a truly smart factory, assets are fitted with smart sensors so systems can continuously pull data sets from both new and traditional sources.

  • To bake a good cake, you must get the processes right. These include mixing to the right consistency and baking at the correct temperature for the appropriate length of time – but fundamental to your success is the recipe. To create your masterpiece, you must add the right ingredients in the proper quantities. The same is true for the MedTech manufacturers producing combination medical devices.

  • Speed, efficiency and effectiveness. These are three very different things but are often associated with each other. According to folklore, the fastest doesn’t always finish first - so is efficiency and effectiveness what you should be striving for? Design of Experiments (DOE) is like this. You can conduct experiments fast, but what if you miss an important interaction because you can only experiment with one factor at a time?

  • Some time ago in 2019 Tom Jenks wrote a great article that defined a Digital Twin and provided a high-level overview of the potential benefits. This technology has come of age, given recent advances that have occurred with the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning and Artificial Intelligence. By providing access to a greater number of data points coupled with the ability to better predict other variables, it is now possible to achieve far greater calibration between the physical and digital worlds. These developments have significantly increased the value of the Digital Twin.