Lots of MOM? Think Cloud to Solve Smaller Problems

Last week we looked at the ISA-95 standard and how it can be used to imagine a MOM solution made up of independent smart objects that are unplugged. This week we will look at some of the questions you need to ask when considering what to split up and where you should run each component as you move towards an IIoT architecture and platform.

Manufacturers should be thinking about modernizing plant IT architecture and moving towards a broader communication with stakeholders through IIoT-like solutions. We fully understand the hype surrounding the Internet of Things (IoT), especially in consumer markets; however, there is a huge opportunity for manufacturers to be more competitive through better quality, customer responsiveness, and nimbler product introduction. Industrial IoT (IIoT) is not a big bang solution to all these challenges, but it offers almost unlimited opportunity for change. Most of these changes should be for the best.

Last week we talked about MOM and IIoT “objects” in a single plant. Most manufacturers have multiple plants, and many have done large roll outs of integrated MOM solutions across a variety of plants and processes. As the number of MOM systems increases, support and maintaining consistency among them becomes a challenge. We can address this by decomposing the MOM solution into its component parts and studying potential functionality that could be shared across plants.

Where to Run My Smart Objects?

Consider that you have a plant quality module in your MOM solution that reports into enterprise quality management in the business domain. Each factory has its own MOM solution with nearly identical quality monitoring at the plant level. Data is passed up as necessary to the EQMS. If you split out the functionality and define the interfaces and functions of a plant quality object, you will probably find that the interfaces for each plant are very similar since they have to report to the same EQMS. This leads to two possibilities to simplify system architecture:

  • A single solution to support all sites
  • A solution per site that is defined from a single smart object

Both are quite valid, but the first one forces us to consider the question, “Where will I run my smart object”? In the cloud or in my enterprise systems? As IIoT solutions mature, LNS Research believes that some MOM functionality will gradually move to the cloud. There are many benefits and a few challenges that will inevitably occupy the naysayers for a long time.

Benefits include:

  • A single instance can support multiple plants, which leads to less maintenance and cost
  • You might be able to combine plant and enterprise solutions (especially in an example like ours)
  • Communication with the outside world (or at least outside the plant) will become much easier.

There are challenges:

  • Security - this is always the fallback challenge for naysayers. It is real and must be addressed without fear, uncertainty, or doubt! Every IIoT vendor has this at the top of their list of must-have functionality.
  • Getting Started - If you do not currently run enterprise or operational systems in the cloud, you must understand there is a big step to get started. You need to plan it along with a good dose of Enterprise Architecture (EA) work as promoted last week in this blog.

Depending on your industry there may be substantial parts of your MOM solutions that will not easily move to the cloud. For example, continuous processing industries will probably want to keep data related to process control and on-line optimization very close to the process itself. On the other hand, a make-to-order discrete manufacturer with takt time in the minute or longer range will possibly benefit from a large dose of cloud-based MOM (takt time is available time for production divided by the required units of production).

Small Steps

As mentioned last week, this is not a big leap that you need to take at once. Companies that are considering implementing a corporate MOM solution should address their enterprise architecture, cloud philosophy, and potential MOM vendors before they take the big leap into the cloud (soft landings not guaranteed, despite the name). In our last survey, carried out in 2014, only 19% of respondents were actively implementing an IIoT strategy. We would consider it essential that companies starting a MOM program consider it part of a longer term IIoT plan that will inevitably include cloud-based solutions. Over the last few months there has been a continual flow of new announcements about IoT architectures and platforms. This will inevitably increase the interest and urgency shown by many manufacturing companies.

Be prepared, talk with your control system and software partners and work out ways to take small steps to move towards an IIoT architecture while maintaining or improving your MOM architecture. Making moves into the cloud for some plant functions can be a smart way of starting with smart connected assets without making a commitment to one IIoT vendor’s architecture.

Smart Connected Operations

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