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How the IoT is changing the MES world

Comment by Thorsten Strebel, MPDV

With the Industrial Internet of Things, producers have a new infrastructure level at their disposal to optimize their workflows and manufacturing processes. Thorsten Strebel from MPDV describes how the technologies affect the MES world and how the MES manufacturer reacts to it.

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If you look at the IoT in the context of MES, then you could come to the conclusion that it is just a new type of data acquisition. In my opinion, this is not enough. The experts now agree that the IoT is more than just a network that forwards the data from sensors, gateways and other IoT components. Because more and more applications are settling in the IoT that generate real added value - often without a permanent connection to higher-level systems. In addition, the IoT enriches the MES environment with broader data availability. This becomes clear in our recently presented model of the Smart Factory Elements: In addition to the four elements of the control loop, Planning & Scheduling, Execution, Analytics and Prediction, the Industrial IoT, or IIoT for short, has a central task - the distribution of data. At the same time, the IIoT element includes applications such as operator guidance or the plausibility check of manual entries. In the spirit of edge computing, decentralized intelligence takes care of tasks that cannot be covered with capacities from the data center or the cloud due to real-time requirements. This makes standards that guarantee the connection of such edge applications to the actual system all the more important.

MES thought modernized

With our model we are pursuing two main goals: Firstly, the description of the tasks of manufacturing IT in a modern factory and secondly, the classification of established MES functions in the new task structure. In this way, the often underestimated gap between what manufacturing companies want and what MES providers can achieve can be significantly narrowed, if not completely bridged. At the same time, the model helps to break away from established product structures. The new structure according to phases supports a radical modernization of the MES concept - also with a view to the IoT.

New loops with IoT possible

Let us first take a closer look at the Smart Factory Elements model: The control loop anchored in the model provides that production is planned (Planning & Scheduling) and this planning is then carried out (Execution) on the basis of specifications from different sources. The data collected in this way is analyzed (analytics) in order to derive predictions, among other things, which can in turn flow into the planning together with other findings. The Industrial Internet of Things supports this cycle by connecting the real with the digital world and operates its own real-time applications for this purpose. What is meant by this is that applications in the planning & scheduling element process a wide range of specifications and use them to create plans for all processes in production - from the order to machine maintenance, personnel deployment and test planning. The previous separation into individual disciplines is no longer necessary. In the Execution element, too, the applications ensure that what has been planned and prepared is carried out in an interdisciplinary manner. Regardless of whether it is about the recording of quantities, working times or test results, the data is processed together. This is particularly important for analytics applications, as the new bandwidth of data enables significantly more extensive analyzes and thus also predictions. But none of this would be possible without the IoT and the continuously recorded data. The IoT thus forms an important basis for the model and opens up a new perspective on manufacturing IT, including the classic MES functions.

Basis for small batch sizes

A Smart Factory would hardly be possible without the IoT and MES. Together, the systems ensure that production processes are mapped more transparently, efficiently and flexibly. This is what the manufacturing industry needs in order to manufacture ever more varied products in ever smaller batch sizes. Thus, the IoT has a significant and necessary impact on MES. I would even like to argue that MES needs the IoT these days in order to survive. The factory of tomorrow, i.e. the smart factory, needs MES, IoT and the intelligent connection of the real with the digital world. Our task as a provider of MES or manufacturing IT in general is now to use the potential of the IoT and to generate applications from it that help the manufacturing industry to remain competitive.

Thorsten Strebel is Vice President Products and Consulting and a member of the management at MPDV.