The concept of Business Intelligence (BI) has been bandied about by software companies for the past few years – and has come to mean many different things. However, the concept of Production Intelligence (PI) has been developed by specialist MES supplier FELTEN Group as a necessity. PI has been developed to help improve production efficiency and reduce downtime for some of the world’s largest process companies. Manufacturers of flavours, fragrances, pharmaceutical and operators of food mixing lines across Europe have all benefited.
In partnership with Products4Automation, the FELTEN Group is introducing the PI concept to the UK market. The key feature of what is a highly developed and powerful suite of software modules is flexibility; the PILOT MES suite is the realisation of Production Intelligence and can be used to increase production efficiency on just one production line – with no additional IT support, or an entire manufacturing site, replacing manual systems or indeed expensive and inflexible ERP or MES derived systems from other vendors.
“P4A and FELTEN have introduced the concept of ‘Production Intelligence’ to UK industry: it can be tailored to provide improvements in reporting, visualisation, efficiency and control in virtually any process or production situation.”
The people behind the UK launch are; Mr. Werner Felten, CEO of the FELTEN Group and Mr. Paul Hurst, the new MD of Products 4 Automation (P4A).
PI is what FELTEN describes as: “the functional part of SCADA and MES systems, but developed so that it is so flexible and easy to configure that it can be applied to virtually any process situation”; and what Paul Hurst describes as: “the best opportunity to solve production problems and improve efficiency that has been launched in the UK in the last ten –years.”
The holistic approach of Production Intelligence differentiates itself significantly from the usual MES products, by moving away from the very isolated view of the planning and control processes that these products typically offer.
PI makes way for the true integration of business and production processes, which are uniformly controlled by characteristic values. By doing so, performance potentials can be increased in a more targeted and comprehensive manner. At the same time, the technological advances of the PILOT products ensure that companies can create their workflows according to individual demand and that they can change their workflows in a matter of minutes. This results in an optimum ratio between automation and flexibility for each process.
Werner Felten, CEO of FELTEN, describes the problem this way: “Despite their integration into ERP and other infrastructure systems, conventional methods for production management have always worked with a very limited focus. This is a significant limitation in exhausting the possibilities for increasing productivity.”
“The processes are the real capital in production management, because they don’t just determine the relationship between quality and quantity in the output; they also determine the economic efficiency. Until now, processes were not given enough attention because of a strong technical focus. As the first product strategy for production management, the PILOT Suite, in conjunction with the PI framework, completely fulfils the holistic requirements of production intelligence and, therefore, we are a significant step ahead in the market.”
Central features of production intelligence
Production Intelligence does not represent any special sort of software solution; rather, it describes goal-orientation or a top-down approach. PI comes from the knowledge that the development of intelligent production structures is not based solely on the breadth of support and quality of individual software systems, but rather must incorporate the total of the participating technical components, methodical procedures and people. As a result, Production Intelligence differentiates itself from the conventional strategies of production management, especially through the following features:
• Integration approach instead of isolated focus on software systems
Production Intelligence overcomes the competing situation of production- and business-oriented solutions not having been developed to complement one another, and replaces the previously more isolated focus on ERP vs. MES systems with an approach that is comprehensive for the system.
According to this integrative approach, and in line with the best-of-breed idea, the functional requirements should be allocated where they can achieve the greatest overall utilization.
• Thinking in the dimension of end-to-end processes
The goal of Production Intelligence is to do away with the current, still relatively isolated focus at the process level and, instead, to consider production sequences as a whole. This will result in the required transparency of all effective conditions. It will also enable the sub-processes to be better harmonised and can, in particular, also eliminate the efficiency hurdles/restrictions in the transitions among sub-processes. The effect of this is increased uniformity and capability in the entire process.
• Interdisciplinary concept development for production control
The vision of Production Intelligence represents a framework for the interdisciplinary development and co-ordination of intelligent production processes. This is intended to standardise methods, technologies, and resources with the goal of utilising increased performance quality and mutual synergies (potential optimisation) and reducing ambiguities. Special processes for complete concept development must be established for this. They should be organised such that the active participation of all relevant resources and competencies is ensured.
• Continuous innovation dynamics through interdisciplinary stimulation
Due to its interdisciplinary and integrating approach, Production Intelligence establishes a structural basis for continuous’ innovative transfer. Because there is no isolated view of one’s own area of expertise but rather continuous involvement, including with adjacent areas, there is Strategic model Production Intelligence cross-pollination. This occurs at both the technology level and at the methods and procedures level. All areas learn from one another. Some examples are the defining of variables or using the SOA (ServiceOriented Architectures) trend in the ERP environment as a stimulus for a similar focus in the MES area.
• Production Intelligence as a learning system
Production sequences typically have great complexity with a multitude of performance factors which additionally mutually influence each other. Without so-called Key Performance Indicators (KPls), developments could not be solidly evaluated and optimum decisions could not be made.
However, many production companies are still not open to this logic in that they rely on partial impressions and mostly intuitive-based evaluations in production management, rather than utilising methods of machine and production data collection that have been fully developed over time.
Production Intelligence establishes key indicator systems as an elementary basis of production management. It meets the methodical requirements for need-based performance analyses and initiates the processes for a continuous improvement process (CIP). This leads to continuing education within the entire production system. Proactively, these methods should also be combined with those from Business Intelligence to enable the establishment of a key-indicator-based control in end-to-end processes.
Products4Automation (P4A) is a specialist supplier of new and innovative software and hardware solutions to the UK market. Product ranges available from P4A include the latest touch-screen HMI’s and flat panel PCs, SCADA software and plug-ins, a wide range of SCADA enabled hardware, Alarm plug-in software for large automation systems, and a full range of Production Intelligence software solutions.