Bernard Cubizolles, Global Product Marketing Manager, Automation & Manufacturing Software at GE Digital explains why manufacturers should use hybrid cloud.
For many years, industrial companies were committed to implementing cloud technologies for business data but skeptical about putting their operational data there. But as increasing amounts of enterprise data across the organization are being securely and cheaply moved to cloud solutions anyway, many manufacturers are starting to ask themselves – can they afford not to? What’s the right way to balance the needs of the plant floor with the advantages of cloud technologies?
The answer is a hybrid on-premise/cloud approach, leveraging the best of both worlds. Major manufacturing companies are already discovering four key benefits from moving to hybrid on-premise / cloud solutions. These range from reducing the cost of running their plants, making plants faster and more productive, and opening the door to deeper analytics and insights at the enterprise – all of which are helping them to take operational efficiency and agility to the next level.
So, what do we mean by hybrid on-premise / cloud as it relates specifically to MES software? Traditional Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) are technology systems used in manufacturing to track the transformation of raw materials into finished goods. MES supplies information that helps manufacturing decision makers understand how the conditions on the plant floor can be optimized to improve production output.
An MES works in real-time to enable the control of various elements of the manufacturing process in the space between automation systems and enterprise resource planning (ERP).
Hybrid on-prem/cloud MES builds on the benefits of MES by taking a hybrid approach, with operations happening on premises and the analytics and optimization tools leveraging only a required subset of the data in the cloud.
Early in cloud technology, manufacturers were reluctant to move critical operations to the cloud and today's MES answers that concern by taking a hybrid approach. This is an excellent use of the cloud because it does not pose risk to production but leverages the cloud to help to reduce the hardware footprint. This also offers cost reduction related to resources to maintain huge databases, such as day to day staff as well as the costs of downtime incurred with software upgrades.
Hybrid on-prem/cloud MES has now evolved to answer for these cost concerns with cloud-based information aggregation and visibility – making it much easier for teams at every level of an organization to get to value quicker.
Revealing hidden opportunities to boost operational efficiency
Some manufacturers have hit a wall when it comes to improving operational efficiency in traditional ways. They have made all the obvious changes. This has prompted manufacturers’ increasing interest in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), causing them to invest in advanced analytics.
Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), are helping to transform and contextualize time-series and transactional data into actionable insights and uncover improvement potential that isn’t easily seen by the human eye. For example, data-driven predictive asset maintenance can save up to 12% of scheduled repairs, reducing overall maintenance costs up to 30%, and breakdowns up to 70%.
Manufacturers in all industries are starting to look at predictive analytics to improve operational efficiency and to get the competitive edge. And, forward-leaning manufacturers are getting more and more sophisticated about putting these analytics to work. One performance chemical company has reported increasing its capacity by nearly 20% after adopting a predictive analytics model.
Speed & Agility
On a day-to-day basis, factories run faster by storing operational data in the cloud for analysis instead of storing on site. Operators aren’t held up by MES systems struggling to cope with large volume of on-prem data for analysis. At one site, operators had an 85% boost in productivity of the on-prem MES once it no longer had to deal with vast amounts of locally stored data. The entire factory just ran faster.
Upgrades with hybrid on-premise/cloud-based solutions can also be carried out much quicker than standard on-prem MES – requiring much less downtime and faster ROI every time new features or functionalities become available.
Intelligence & Insights
Different roles in the business require different information. Many manufacturers suffer from excessive costs related to materials, labor, packaging, and shipping.
By creating a hybrid on-premise / cloud MES, manufacturers also unlock the new ways to combine and view data remotely, compare dashboards across multiple plants, and track from the enterprise level to the shop floor. This helps every team make the best decisions based on the best data – faster.
For example, the supervisor needs information to optimize product flow, machine and operator efficiency, and manage safety incidents. The supply chain manager needs to optimize revenue targets and year-to-year growth while reducing costs. And the operations manager is focused on increasing monthly and quarterly manufacturing efficiency and reducing any non-value-added steps in manufacturing.
Due to all the different roles, the data they need to do their jobs solves an ongoing problem with data that plagues manufacturers: lack of data-based decision-making. Today’s MES technology harnesses that invisible data and makes it easy to give each person visibility to the information they need to do their job.
Manufacturers should look for OEE visibility for operators and managers, and tools to make them more efficient. This includes personalized views of collected data based on the role of the user (operator, supervisor, etc.), a UX with configurable out-of-the-box views to make users more productive and provide them with the ability to create their own personal experiences, built-in and ad-hoc reporting by role, and extensibility to create highly customized interface, if desired.
And if those other reasons aren’t compelling enough, the most straightforward business case: storing years of operational data is often a compliance requirement, but on-site server costs quickly add up. It is now much cheaper and affordable for manufacturers to keep a required subset of their OT information in the cloud – reducing the need for on-prem server storage. Manufacturers can achieve ROI quickly even by reducing these costs.