The digital factory’s impact on the plant floor

The digital factory is driving manufacturers to a more competitive position and using technologies such as product lifecycle management (PLM), manufacturing execution systems (MES) and computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) to change how manufacturing works.

By Ultra Consultants December 28, 2017

Today’s manufacturing enterprise is challenged to undergo a "technology transformation" to become a digital factory for true business process transformation, To align investments in technology to realize value through enhanced business performance, manufacturers must keep up with technologies such as: 

  • Product lifecycle management (PLM)
  • Quality management
  • Finite scheduling
  • Manufacturing execution systems (MES)
  • Computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS).

What is the digital factory?

The digital factory is one where manufacturers have invested in technology, business models, and processes which drive value for customers and employees. It results in a more competitive position in an ever-changing digital economy.

Business transformation in the digital factory comes from seven areas related to the product and the process. Four areas of value related to the product are: 

  • Accuracy of the quantity of the product produced
  • Timeliness of production
  • Quality of the product
  • Cost of the product.

Three areas of value related to the process are: 

  • Equipment wear, uptime, managing maintenance costs
  • Environment concerns/compliance with regulations
  • Worker safety.

Modular transformation

Technology is driving modular transformation on the shop floor. Value comes from integrating these technologies with an enterprise resource planning (ERP) methodology.

PLM automates the management of product-related data and integrates the data with the ERP solution and MES. It includes bill of materials (BOMs) and configuration options with requirements for repeatability, product/item management with all item data in one place, routing management and change management.

Quality management systems are a set of policies and processes required for development, planning, and production to impact the organization’s ability to meet customer requirements. Options include test plans defined by SKU and customer, test results recorded by SKU, lot and serial numbers, Statistical process control charts identifying cause and resolution and complaint management with non-conforming material reports and a materials review board.

Finite scheduling or factory/production scheduling is a supply chain planning technology which translates as an operating plan into a granular set of daily manufacturing activities to fulfill planned orders. Modules include capacity and what if analysis, visual and intuitive scheduling, customer prioritization and short supply decision options, known downtime scheduling to prevent surprises and achievable constraining scheduling to avoid backorders.

An MES in a control system for managing and monitoring work-in-process on the factory floor. It tracks all manufacturing information in real time, receiving up-to-the-minute from robots, machine monitors such as programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and employees. It includes process monitoring of machine information—up and downtime and reasons for them—and production monitoring which stores and maintains data at the item, job lot and process level.

The CMMS, also called an enterprise asset management (EAM) system, help maintenance workers perform their day-to-day jobs, and assist management in making repair/replace decisions. They include well-defined preventative maintenance plans to minimize breakdowns, skills scheduling to meet equipment repair needs, parts inventory planning, and downtime analysis with repair or replace scenarios.

This article originally appeared on Ultra Consultants’ website. Ultra Consultants is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media,

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