Chambers ... efficiency focus

Adopting digital technologies across distributed manufacturing systems drives powerful efficiency and flexibility gains, Keith Chambers, Vice President, Manufacturing, AVEVA, tells OGN

Global manufacturers are battling supply chain headwinds and rampant competition, all the while striving to slash expenses and adopt more sustainable operating practices.

Amid this pressurised backdrop, organisations are addressing the challenge by running multiple plant facilities in various locations, enabling them to respond to local demand and supply chain fluctuations.

This type of distributed manufacturing, or multi-site production, also promotes economies of scale and enables easier access to new markets.

Digital solutions like manufacturing execution systems (MES) have proven a powerful enabler for manufacturers – both before and during the pandemic.

From raw materials to finished products, MES software can monitor the entire manufacturing process and oversee manual and automated workflows in real-time.

By leveraging these value chain insights, organisations are able to elevate plant efficiency, quality control, waste reduction, cost-efficiency, and sustainability.

Factories have long gleaned competitive gains from MES, such as automated production processes, paperless manufacturing, and data-driven continuous improvements.

However, these benefits traditionally tended to be derived from individual, separately-deployed MES systems, which can be hindered by information silos.

The good news is technologies such as cloud and edge computing now make it possible to centrally host a single MES across multiple plants.

Known as 'enterprise MES’, this approach promotes consistent manufacturing practices by standardising technologies and processes. Enterprise MES enables seamless production reporting, continuous improvement, efficiency measurement, and regulatory compliance enforcement across multiple locations.

The latest MES systems support running application services and data storage in the cloud, as well as remote connections for plant workers and automation systems – yielding powerful value, efficiency, and sustainability gains throughout the plant network.

The concept of industrial Intelligence as a Service (IIaaS) leverages the cloud to eliminate data silos between information technology, operational technology, and engineering technology, fostering a powerful network effect.

This interconnected approach forms the basis of a connected industrial economy, enabling enterprises to share data and analytics insights both internally and externally, collaborate on new opportunities, and address critical industry and environmental challenges.

In the post-pandemic era, a manufacturer's success hinges on its agility and resilience in the face of change.

In this context, having a global overview of manufacturing operations offers competitive advantages, unequivocally leading to improved profitability and sustainability outcomes.

Multisite MES systems provide the necessary standardisation for consistent visibility and data-driven decision-making in distributed manufacturing operations.

Put simply, making rich and contextualised operational data available from edge to enterprise can critically enhance business agility and resilience.

What’s more, operational best practices can be captured and scaled across all plants, optimising operational efficiency, reducing waste, energy consumption, and carbon emissions, while mitigating quality and consumer safety compliance risks through consistent product genealogy record-keeping and end-to-end material traceability across the plant network.

Consumer goods company Henkel realised just this sort of gain when it built a digital backbone for its laundry and home care production business.

The company deployed MES to meet its sustainability and efficiency goals. As a result, it was able to improve supply-chain resource efficiency on the production side by 5-6 per cent annually.

With such a demonstrable impact on the manufacturing value chain at all levels, the harmonisation of operational technology and data across multi-site manufacturing businesses is essential for gaining competitive advantage and delivering on sustainability goals.