01 May 2003
Quick and below budget
Want to shorten time to market, cut costs? PLM, MES can help.
By Carter Johnson and Julio Gavilanes
Contract and outsourced manufacturing is driving the globalization of manufacturing and fragmenting the supply chain at a rapid pace. These trends are creating competitive pressures for manufacturers to introduce new products faster, respond to customization requests immediately, and minimize changes and the costs of producing the products.
In other words, product innovation and reduced build cycles are becoming the common denominator in remaining competitive. Business drivers once thought of as being specific to an industry, such as regulatory compliance in pharmaceutical, component traceability in electronics, and "as-built" tracking in aerospace, are beginning to affect everyone. Companies in all industries must manage asset utilization, outsourcing, traceability, regulatory compliance, and product warranty issues from the design of a product to the end of life.
Manufacturers' mindsets have changed along with these industry and market changes. The process of releasing a new product into manufacturing is a multi-faceted challenge. Coordinating requirements and design activities can consume more than 50% of a product's total cost, and subsequently, manufacturers have focused many tools and techniques for lowering the cost of new product introduction on product design. These initiatives have resulted in some disconnects between design and production. After release, the emphasis instantly shifts from product creation to managing product and process performance during the initial manufacturing phase, and quickly implementing design engineering and manufacturing process changes as needed. One of the major challenges facing product introduction managers is shortening time to market while reducing costs. Product lifecycle management (PLM) and manufacturing execution systems (MES) can help this process.
Many of the pressures facing manufacturers are financial, but simply focusing on the costs of doing business will not alleviate them. Businesses must deal with these issues at the source—the product—by focusing on how to design, make, and service products with the lowest cost, the highest quality, and the fastest delivery.
PLM is a strategy centered on collecting and controlling product processes from concept to retirement. It is a system that drives the success of any company designing and manufacturing products. This system includes requirements definition, design, project planning, manufacturing, and support. The driver for lifecycle management is now the master engineering bill of material, which represents the complete product definition, combined with associative light visualization data from which the entire lifecycle processes can be derived and managed. With PLM, manufacturers can track and trace all of the data from these activities so users can proactively make business decisions at any stage in the product process. PLM has evolved from linking customer requirements and design to production and supporting an infrastructure that facilitates new product introduction and customer and supplier collaboration.
There have been a number of early adopters of a full PLM strategy, as some companies have reimplemented engineering processes in the context of full lifecycle management by enforcing Six Sigma. By following the Six Sigma methodology, you only have to create engineering data once, and downstream processes reuse this data "as-is." Manufacturers use engineering data again and again, as downstream process groups add their value, and continue to incrementally add and manage knowledge throughout the lifecycle. This method ensures that engineering changes will flow very quickly and accurately, improving the product quality. Downstream processes are reliable and predictable from this knowledge reuse, and new derivative products can hit the market fast.
There are many documented benefits of adopting a PLM strategy for manufacturers. General Motors has achieved as much as $1 billion in cost savings while improving product quality. In some cases, the company was able to decrease product development time from six years to one year. Some companies similarly reduced new product introduction times due to the availability of integrated information and resources in the design process. In addition, abandoned project costs can decrease because a company is able to make a go/no-go decision on new products earlier in the introduction process. Finally, the availability of data and information encourages part and product reuse, which not only reduces the cost of creating a new product but also reduces the time to design the product.
MES' NEW VISION
The MES, once thought of as only factory automation components intended to squeeze certain efficiencies from a line or a plant, is a key component to fulfilling PLM. The MES gathers manufacturing information in real time, which gives managers the ability to react quickly to changing events on the factory floor. Until recently, MES software models were not able to collect and present data from multiple facilities due to their client-sever nature and hardware-centric histories. New advances in web-based technologies have allowed many MES packages to become enterprise-centric in collecting and supplying critical manufacturing data from multiple locations and even from trading partners.
When a company begins to understand the information levels required to achieve a PLM strategy, the importance of MES in that strategy becomes apparent. MES captures manufacturing data such as product genealogy, material usage, and labor and equipment yield at the lowest levels of detail. Funneling that information to PLM software delivers manufacturing data critical to optimizing design and planning decisions in the future.
MES, as its name implies, focuses on executing the manufacturing plans according to some instruction, usually a bill of material and a process plan, which is often created and stored in two distinct software environments such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and PLM.
In most organizations, manufacturing engineers are responsible for creating the manufacturing process plan. This plan can consist of the product routing and machine setup and run instructions created during the product design. The process plan typically goes to the ERP system for high level planning. The MES then receives routing instructions from the ERP system. Certain granularity of information is sometimes lost between the engineers designing the process plan and the ERP system storing the plan. As a result, a user manually adds additional data to the MES so the system has the appropriate information to manufacture the product.
Coordinating downstream processes among ERP, PLM, and MES systems by capturing manufacturing planning changes in real time is critical for optimizing production. For instance, the MES will trigger production based on a work order received from ERP. However, the MES must validate the product and process definition from the PLM system to ensure it is executing the proper manufacturing plan. Otherwise, errors cause increased costs throughout production. Therefore, automating the synchronization of these three systems will increase accuracy, throughput, and quality, especially for manufacturing environments that manage constant change.
The MES supports PLM by capturing, sharing, and storing, in real time, manufacturing data that determines how to make a product. This data includes how much labor and material went into a product, the genealogy and traceability, and the process variability captured during manufacturing. By linking the "as-built" information stored in the MES to the "as-planned" information stored in a traditional PLM system, your enterprise can create a closed loop system for answering the question, "Did we make it the way we planned, and why or why not?" Implementing processes and technologies that incorporate these strategies can significantly reduce product and process variability. Companies use Six Sigma methodologies to enforce lean strategies, which result in reliable and predictable processes eliminating any chance for error or duplication, and which stabilize their processes where continuous improvement is possible.
When introducing new products, designers utilize aspects of a PLM system to create product and process definitions. This includes the engineering bill of material (eBOM), the manufacturing bill of material (mBOM), and associated process and product routing information (See related story on page 54).
Once you confirm product and process definitions from PLM, you can automatically configure them for the MES to enforce the build plan and obtain "as-built" transactions and data collection requirements. These build packages can contain rich three dimensional work instructions, including animation that can associate with reused product information. Users can also access the information via a web browser, providing total visibility of the build cycle. The new technology for light visualization format allows reasonable performance served from both a centralized location and globally through the Internet.
Managing the build cycle with a single execution environment across a supply chain has enormous potential. These transactions, filtered with key performance indicators and business intelligence tools, provide managers with the decision support tools necessary to make process changes that can immediately affect an entire supply chain.
The MES provides real-time manufacturing data collection based upon the latest mBOM and process routing. The "supply chain portal" not only provides visibility into the manufacturing plant, but also monitors and controls production activities in real time. Moreover, the MES collects data on every activity on the shop floor across the extended enterprise. Users can then analyze the data and share it with various planning systems for reconciliation.
The MES is migrating from narrow manufacturing execution to global supply chain execution to build-through service execution and beyond. For instance, an engineering change order (ECO) may come from a corrective action request (CAR) initiated in the MES directly from the factory floor. The MES holds the CAR for nonconformance information, changes the status of the item, and triggers a disposition. Information about order status and build status from the MES can then help determine optimum effectiveness (point/timing of incorporation) for an ECO. The ECO integrates into the design activities controlled by the PLM system for a closed loop process that includes the initiation of the change on the factory floor, the management of the change in the design systems, and the rollout of the change back to the floor. Without these systems of integration, this ECO process can take a significant amount of time to fully develop, opening opportunities for breakdown or miscommunication.
|Key performance indicators|
An approved and implemented manufacturing process is far from static. How quickly you can react to product, process, or customer order changes can make the difference between success and failure in the global business environment. In high-value, complex engineered products, you cannot scrap out-of-date or non-conforming items because they have too much residual value. At any given time, these items need to be on the shop floor so you can upgrade them to the latest revision or downgrade them to a previous revision, to ensure product quality and minimize potential product liability issues. Some manufacturers even need to build multiple versions of the same product on the same line at the same time. In this case, each product revision and process routing revision needs to match on a serialized unit basis to ensure that each mass customized unit undergoes proper manufacturing.
Once a product starts shipping, you must have a process to deal with units returned from the field. A field repair depot with access to the MES' "as-built" and "as-maintained" product data for each returned unit has a tremendous advantage. The MES provides valuable information that helps diagnose and repair items to support customer repairs and upgrades. Limiting the number of repair cycles a particular unit can go through in manufacturing helps identify problem units before they reach the field. Field service reports on defective and repaired units also serve as a valuable source of input for the designers working on the next version of the product.
CLOSING THE LOOP
At the end of the "build" or "repair" cycle, there is typically a process of reconciliation between the planning and execution systems that closes the loop with engineering. The reconciliation process may include a serial number batch upload to the "as-built" structure in the planning system, but manufacturers vary in their needs for reconciliation. In some cases, it may be actual times versus standard or planned. Others may include a dimensional analysis for first time assembly. Others may consist of nonconformance data and ideas about how to improve design and update design rule databases to prevent problems from reoccurring.
In any case, closing the loop with engineering, manufacturing engineering, quality, and other systems is key to reducing chaos downstream, and at the same time, providing a complete "as-built," or "as-maintained" configuration. Ultimately, without the connection between PLM and MES, this feedback is at best time consuming and costly. IC
Behind the byline
Carter Johnson is vice president of product marketing for Visiprise, a provider of collaborative manufacturing execution systems. Julio Gavilanes is a business development manager for EDS PLM Solutions, a provider of product lifecycle management.
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