Manufacturing Execution System
MES + DevOps = Easy Deployment + Scalability
Manufacturing is undergoing a digital transformation that is facilitating new and previously unimaginable levels of agility and efficiency, writes Luís Ponte, Product Development Director at Critical Manufacturing.
Historically, manufacturing execution systems (MES) have been difficult to implement, maintain and upgrade but, in a world that is changing at an increasing pace with growing volatility, manufacturers now need something that can embrace continuous process improvements and latest technologies. However, the aging MES ‘dinosaur’, which production managers feared to change, has been reinvented as a dynamic and versatile environment that gives a platform to ride storms of uncertainty across global markets.
For multi-site organizations it may also be difficult to justify the implementation of MES for smaller or lower-margin facilities or the system does not have the flexibility to handle the differences in processes and procedures.
A traditional MES is difficult to change because of its deep connections to equipment and automation systems throughout a plant. Guiding processes have been refined and fine-tuned over time and older architectures, once set up and running, make it challenging to upgrade to latest versions. Difficult to use and not fully understood by all operators, these systems often inhibit the adoption of best practices and can stifle progress. For multi-site organizations it may also be difficult to justify the implementation of MES for smaller or lower-margin facilities or the system does not have the flexibility to handle the differences in processes and procedures.
The winds of change
So, what is changing in the world of MES and where does DevOps come in? Modern MES systems offer a new architecture that means they can be easily deployed, maintained, and upgraded across multiple sites. This opens the door for continuous improvements and new levels of manufacturing agility to respond to changing markets and volatile supply chains. These systems offer better security and ensure that latest updates can be implemented quickly, accurately, and efficiently.
The way these platforms are constructed means they can run effectively on a variety of hardware or software configurations and can be hosted on premises, in the cloud, or other hybrid options. New functionality can be quickly deployed, and new sites added without large cost overheads and the systems are inherently scalable and customizable. Manufacturers benefit from lower overall cost overheads with a single, easy to use solution operating across multiple sites and the comparative data to truly understand where best practices lie and where improvements can be made.
Usage of container technology in MES applications helps optimize IT performance and make the system readily deployable across global sites.
Through the use of DevOps, a set of practices that combines software development and IT operations, within the MES environment, software development and operations are simplified. By further making DevOps supporting tools open and available for solution providers, system integrators, partners, and manufacturers, MES vendors can further help facilitate the development, improvement, and maintenance of the MES platforma. Additionally, usage of container technology in MES applications helps optimize IT performance and make the system readily deployable across global sites.
The benefits of employing DevOps in MES
DevOps is a well-known concept for the acceleration of software delivery. It is especially crucial during software release, deployment, and the maintenance of the up-front software development process. It enables standardization, version control of every application, and rapid delivery of the software to all manufacturing sites.
The centralized DevOps environment means faster deployment of new applications, lower risk to production implementations, and easier maintenance of systems already deployed.
The centralized DevOps environment means faster deployment of new applications, lower risk to production implementations, and easier maintenance of systems already deployed. A single service center can support all sites and regions within a global organization and data can be standardized and normalized across all manufacturing plants to give deeper insights into overall operational performance.
The additional step of making the DevOps an open environment, accessible to the wider ecosystem, further facilitates collaboration and the promotion of innovation. It ensures the same set of technologies and tools are available to different teams through every stage of the life of the system, increases the speed at which updates can be realized, and enables all service partners and manufacturing IT teams to keep the software current and optimized.
To efficiently handle custom configurations to meet the nuances of individual site requirements, composable deployment packages combining a global template with site-specific needs can be created, ensuring the manufacturer benefits from optimized standardization while not having to compromise on flexibility. This means that an MES center of excellence or centralized manufacturing IT team can control and update both the core software and all upgrades, customizations, and configurations.
Software updates, templates, customizations, master data and application dependencies can be managed without creating unique instances of the software that needs to be separately maintained.
To achieve this, the modern MES leverages DevOps practices, containers, and container orchestration, together with a flexible packaging and deployment technology. Software updates, templates, customizations, master data and application dependencies can be managed without creating unique instances of the software that needs to be separately maintained.
The demands on manufacturing are changing, and with it the systems that underpin processes to ensure consistency, quality, and efficiency. Modern MES have been designed to embrace the need for flexibility and benefits of latest technological developments. Through the use of containerization and DevOps, a new breed of platform offers easy multi-site deployment, version control, and updates, without curtailing innovation or creating a tangle of difficult to manage systems to meet individual plant needs. Instead, manufacturers can more readily and widely employ MES, deploy new systems and upgrades almost at the touch of a button, and be confident that they have a platform that can scale, adapt, and change with their business needs, no matter the uncertainties in the world.
A whitepaper Digital transformation for manufacturing agility is available here.