While it’s true that manufacturing execution systems have been around for at least a couple of decades, you can rest assured that today’s MES is not your father’s MES.
Rockwell Automation is taking the lead by offering manufacturers a new generation MES platform that includes both an execution system for the plant floor, as well as the rich functionality of application software. This new MES contains vertical industry-specific content designed to meet the specific business needs of key industry segments, including automotive, pharmaceutical, and food and beverage.
“Today’s MES is all about content,” says Bob Honor, vice president, Information Software at Rockwell Automation. “We are focused on applications, taking an industry-specific approach with our functionality.” The Rockwell Automation MES applications support lean manufacturing principles for the automotive industry, regulatory compliance for the pharmaceutical industry, and product safety requirements for food and beverage producers.
Those industry-specific capabilities are what attracted Livzon Pharmaceutical Group of China to use Rockwell Software PharmaSuite MES. “Livzon is adopting Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for their production of pharmaceuticals to ensure high quality,” says Honor. “One of their needs was to have consistent processes across the enterprise, and PharmaSuite helps them meet these good manufacturing standards.”
Livzon built a new plant that produces three forms of drugs, including tablets, capsules, and granules. The production line uses 54 specifications, numerous recipes, and a total of 17 process routes. Complicating the production line is the plant’s layout over three floors, with materials moving up and down between floors. The single-building layout was advantageous in keeping down the cost of sterilizing the production environment.
Because of the movement of materials, PharmaSuite plays a critical role in production tracking and ensuring the company meets process control requirements, as well as compliance validation required for the pharmaceutical industry. The system generates validation documents for each phase of production, including planning, specification, system build, verification, and reporting.
The Rockwell Automation MES solutions are configurable, so that manufacturers can pick and choose the specific values or characteristics that fit their processes. “This configurability allows companies to get a faster result, since they can use a pull-down menu or type in a value to design their system,” Honor explains.
In a similar fashion, the Rockwell Software AutoSuite is designed to execute business rules to coordinate and synchronize automotive manufacturing tasks, assure quality procedures, and monitor inventory movements. It enables automotive manufacturers to synchronize the flow of materials as the vehicle goes through the assembly line.
AutoSuite also documents the history of production, collecting all the information about the vehicle that’s needed to meet regulatory requirements, and generally provides a genealogy to collect data for warranties and returns. The MES also provides functionality for lean manufacturing principles, including connectivity with andon boards; kanbans and just-in-time for replenishing materials; and kitting of parts on the assembly line.
In addition to vertical industry functionality, the Rockwell Automation MES integrates smoothly with ERP systems, as well as with automation devices on the plant floor. “Our MES suite adheres to both S95 standards for integrating with the enterprise system and S88 for how to connect with the plant automation,” Honor says.
Visibility into plant-floor operations is another key goal of today’s MES. “We are tying the classic execution systems with the information systems to provide business people with the information they need to make better decisions,” Honor says. “To that end, FactoryTalk VantagePoint EMI software integrates with our MES so you can view data from your plant-floor systems via the Web.”
Enterprise-level reporting of operational information-- about process compliance, error rates, production-line anomalies, materials consumed, and work-in-process-- provides value to decision makers, whether they are in sales, production scheduling, or quality control. “The reporting is a way of seeing the value of MES,” Honor adds. “Companies recognize that they need this kind of manufacturing intelligence to run their operation.”