The drive to maximise efficiency, minimise material usage and improve quality means that most manufacturers either possess or are looking for a new Manufacturing Execution System (MES) to monitor and control these business parameters at both the macro level and the micro-level on the shop floor.
The age of the Internet of Things (IoT) changed society. It also started to make inroads into manufacturing through the prevalence of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) development platforms such as Wonderware System Platform and Rockwell Factorytalk.
So, what are the choices that face the cable manufacturer looking to invest in a new MES? There are two: acquire an IIoT platform and create an MES from scratch or acquire a purpose-built MES for cable making, built on an IIoT platform, which facilitates quick project implementation with flexibility and scalability.
Here is an analysis of both choices:
Cable manufactures began to work with IIoT platforms to build their own custom MES systems. These are complex and require a great deal of software development to perform well in a cable manufacturing environment. Most cable manufacturers who chose to go down this path have had to contract a system integrator to develop their MES system using an IIoT platform. This is an expensive undertaking. However, the major disadvantage is that system integrators do not understand cable production, handling semi-continuous processes such as extrusion, tracing quality by length not time, and managing length.
There has been a number of failures of such implementations. What harms these initiatives is the steep learning curve the system integrator has to go through to specify and develop the application for cables. Once the development is complete, it is common that the system is redeveloped with the lessons learned either using the same system integrator or a new system integrator.
The alternative to employing a system integrator is for the manufacturer to train its own process engineers to use IIoT platforms to build their own MES. But the enormity of the task has stopped many such initiatives as the time of process engineers is a valuable resource in any factory.
The ‘develop your own software’ mindset is reminiscent of the ’90s where a generation of university graduates had software development skills and easy to use programming platforms such as Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access had become popular. The result of this was unsupported islands of automation, struggling to work in unison to support the company processes without a great deal of manual intervention.
There is a third option, and this is to acquire a purpose-built, well-architected, commercial MES for cable making such as CableMES from Cimteq. There are many advantages to this approach, including:
- Cost – it is generally cheaper in software and implementation costs
- Implementation timescales – because of Cimteq’s experience in the cable industry, the MES will be implemented right, first time, without the need for redevelopment
- Integration with other cable-based systems such as ERP and test equipment would be readily available out of the box with minor customisation.
Among commercially available MES systems, CableMES is unique in the fact that it uses the Wonderware IIoT platform called System Platform as its underlying architecture. The advantage of this method is that it has strong, preconfigured software architecture with integration to devices and other systems that comes out of the box. It also benefits from a developed workflow, quality tracking, performance tracking and job tracking specifically for the cable industry.
Since the basis of the system is an IIoT platform, process engineers at a factory can extend CableMES using a dashboard aimed at specific users to customise the application to the specific need of the factory in a controlled manner. Engineers can also use historian, which is a powerful analytical tool that correlates events with process conditions. For example, it is possible to find what extruder condition caused a quality problem.
In conclusion, using a commercially available MES based on an IIoT platform for cable making has the benefit of a well-architected, low cost and quick to implement a system with integration and data aggregation and the flexibility and power to customise the system to the manufacturer’s requirements.
To learn more about Cimteq’s CableMES software, please email Katy Harrison, Marketing Manager, Cimteq at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image source: Courtesy of Cimteq
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