Many manufacturers are talking about Industrie 4.0. We can define the previous three from the original industrial resolution, to the coming of mass production, and the arrival of electronics and IT in manufacturing. This got me to thinking about the history of manufacturing operations management (MOM), and its close cousin manufacturing execution systems (MES).
The first MES systems, although the name was coined later (in 1992), started appearing in the late 1980s. Companies such as Setpoint, Wonderware, and Honeywell produced somewhat packaged solutions that could do a lot of what MOM systems do today. However, implementation required a lot of customization and integration was, when it existed, wholly custom built. In summary, the solutions were expensive and hard to justify from a ROI view.
Mom Era One – Integrated Plant Systems
The following decades saw a huge increase in offerings; huge companies and small startups all got involved in building ever more elaborate MOM solutions. Models of the software and control hierarchy in manufacturing organizations were built and have had considerable success in defining the needs for a MOM system. In particular, the ISA-95 standard (that came originally from the Purdue model) has become the de facto way of describing the various layers of MOM software. We have written much about MOM and ISA.95 level 3 and do not want to add more today.
These monolithic MOM solutions have been built out by development and acquisition of missing technologies. Today most vendors have a function rich plant based MOM solution with good, if not trivial, implementation capabilities to the business layers. This is the first era of MOM and it is getting fairly mature.
The Second Era of MOM – Cloud
Almost without exception, business software vendors have moved as fast as possible to move their software to the cloud. The momentum of cloud is unstoppable and we are sure that this inexorable shift will affect a large proportion of MOM vendors in the coming years. There are already vendors with MOM systems partially or wholly in the cloud and with tight integration and business systems.
Today, cloud offerings are mostly focused on in smaller manufacturers and discrete manufacturing; when there is not high complexity. Traditional MOM solutions are suitable for a wider range of industries than pure cloud based solutions today. LNS Research believes this is really down to opportunity – Pure cloud MOM vendors are going after the low hanging fruit where reaction times are big enough and data complexity are low enough that off premise software solutions can do a fine job. Some cloud MOM providers deliver a fully integrated business platform including ERP, EQMS and supply chain, among other business systems. The single vendor approach makes for straight-forward and powerful integration between plant and enterprise, but you do need to buy it all. If you already have a competitive business suite, the all-in-one approach is not going to be of much use.
Stand alone MOM cloud solutions would seem to have minimal benefits for a single plant. However, the ability to run many plants and lines off a single instance of MOM could bring cost benefits and stronger integration between plants. Cloud services might improve the ease of integration into business systems, but this is far from guaranteed. However, we do still see traditional MOM suppliers getting very interested in investing in cloud and IoT technologies. This is so they can make the jump from era one to era three without necessarily implementing an era two solution.
The Third Era of MOM – Smart Connected Applications
As we have written about extensively in our industrial internet of things (IIoT) research, LNS Research expects a new platform to emerge that will support smart manufacturing and other IIoT applications in industry. The four building blocks of such a platform are cloud, big data analytics, connectivity and application development. The IIoT will enable a flattening of the communication hierarchy in the plant and for IIoT applications to access plant floor devices and sensors directly. While this will not remove the need for a control hierarchy as espoused by the ISA-95 standard, it will allow the development of IIoT applications that make direct use of plant floor information.
These developments will lead to a breakdown of the monolithic MOM solutions that are all pervasive today, whether from era one or two. Separate functionalities will be able to run either on premise or on the IIoT platform that will then communicate directly to the plant floor. This will reduce complexity of MOM systems as each function will be able to manage its own data and share with other applications and big data management systems as necessary. Clearly there is a long way to go before full era three MOM solutions become the norm but LNS believe that you should, in the short term, be looking at plant and IIoT applications that fit this model of self-contained intelligence and clearly defined interfacing capabilities. We talk often of smart connected devices; welcome to smart connected applications.
Today’s MOM functionality will become a series of smart connected applications along with special plant based control modules handling time and safety critical functions. And there is the rub – perhaps there will not be a third era of MOM, just a set of semi-independent applications that get the job done.