Innovation cycles, the time from concept to manufacturing to delivery of products, are becoming ever shorter; the number of customized products is increasing (in the end, quantity = 1); and outstanding service and quality, as well as a low price are all taken for granted by the customer; and this with ever-increasing requirements with respect to compliance, certificates, environment, Corporate Social Responsibility, and more.
IT companies promise solutions for everything. A few years ago, MES was the cure-all. At least since 2013, the focus has been on Industry 4.0, and self-appointed experts drone on about the commonplace, cite texts from the literature, and their only recommendation is to continue increasing IT investments in production and the number of consulting days, but this strategy generally only increases costs and does not achieve results. This creates mistrust and reservations about IT solutions for optimization of production, although with pragmatic use of existing solutions, significant improvements could be achieved.
Stefan Bratzel, Professor of Automotive Management in Bergisch Gladbach says with respect to the large number of recalled cars, that according to his research, in many places the manufacturers’ quality management systems would be adapted to new global product development and production processes.
And this is precisely where the problem lies: for what is frequently still overlooked is the absolutely necessary interlocking of production and quality. An insulated coexistence of CAQ and MES systems necessarily causes a loss of efficiency, repeated defects, and it prevents learning from defects.
The companies’ task is therefore to do justice to these requirements, that is, defects may not even occur, production must be versatile, and for the worst-case scenario, in the end everything must be traceable. MES software must (if possible without programming) adjust to the user’s needs, employ existing standards and technologies, and ensure a sensible integration of existing and functioning systems so that the information that is created across the entire value-creation chain can be analyzed, aggregated, filtered, and distributed in beneficial fashion
Using an example from daily life, it becomes clear: Production must behave like a chef during the preparation of a good meal. You take the right ingredients and check whether they are fresh and OK. Then you follow a proven recipe, you make sure that nothing burns, you taste the dish, then plate it at the end. Similarly, you check the quality of the ingredients, control the production, monitor the process, and deliver the finished product to the customer. If you also pay attention to the sustainable and ecological origin of the ingredients, you not only fulfill environmental requirements, in addition you do justice to your Corporate Social Responsibility and the customer’s expectations. If the food tastes good in the end, then everything has worked perfectly.
In this example, the ability to change is absolutely necessary, for if a guest has special requests or cannot eat something, this must be taken into account individually during the preparation. If you transfer these thoughts to producing industry, you will see that all information from the various areas must be used.
If you transfer these thoughts to producing industry, you will see that all information from the various areas must be used
1. HUMAN AND ORGANIZATIONAL BARRIERS
Users on all levels, from workers to managers, must be empowered to make decisions. Everybody must have the feeling that he can influence and drive processes instead of being driven by them; this helps remove prejudices and reduce mistrust. Thanks to the constantly-increasing complexity, it is absolutely necessary that people are not flooded with too much and especially senseless information and that the IT systems used are intuitive and attuned to needs.
An incorporation of all additional organizational units such as IT and consulting as well as customers and suppliers paired with transparent communication and display of the upcoming tasks and goals makes implementation easier since sensitive topics such as IT security, transparency of the data, and efficiency must be considered and resolved.
2. INFORMATION DISTRIBUTION
Data is always being created in production and quality. The data must usually be available to the intelligent monitoring and analysis systems at the time it is created so that defects can be detected even before they arise and new, unknown defects can be revealed immediately. Specifications for the monitoring are required (which with consistent implementation were already defined in the FMEA) and connections must be known. A simple data collection in the spirit of “a lot helps a lot” is not constructive. To the contrary: the data to be recorded must be selected carefully and in any case you have to pose questions about benefits and the effects of changing the data.
If the data and the key figures and evaluations derived from it are available, then it is also relevant who must receive which information. The relevant information at the right time in the right place via the most suitable medium helps to have the necessary bases for decision-making in any case.
The technologies for collecting data and for simple data exchange are all on hand today. These are communication protocols, databases, and the quasi standards of various data formats. However there are also hurdles to overcome here:
- The necessary open IT architectures are not present everywhere. There are still countless IT systems that are isolated or for which nobody at the company knows how to access the data because the systems are hopelessly outdated, they were developed a long time ago by a student intern or they contain Excel macros that are protected with an unknown password.
- Not every IT supplier is ready to cooperate, which makes a sensible collection of data much more difficult. Sometimes, it is not even the reluctance to cooperate, but simply a completely excessive depiction of the complexity and thus the costs for an integration, which are gladly used to scare people off.
- However, Integration affects more than just the technology: Interaction and integration must take place between people, and this across temporal and spatial separation, across language barriers, and cultural and technological differences.