White Paper: A head start in the
digital age with MES

Interview with FORCAM EXPERT Alexander Schäfer

What challenges do companies face concerning discrete manufacturing?

Increasing product diversity

Alexander Schäfer: here are numerous challenges that a company dealing with a digitization solution for manufacturing must face, regardless of whether their product is to be manufactured discretely or made using classic process manufacturing. First of all, the variety
of products has grown substantially in recent years. For example, there is a discernible trend toward increasingly individualized products. For manufacturing, this means that products have shorter life cycles and must adapt more quickly and frequently to new conditions, a changed range of parts, and manufacturing processes. To work successfully in this changed environment, a good understanding of which methods work, which processes run stably, and at which points difficulties arise is essential. The fundamental prerequisite for this evaluation is objective transparency.

Increasing shortage of skilled workers

Another challenge is the worsening shortage of skilled workers. The more complex and flexible manufacturing is, the higher the
demand for personnel and supporting automation. Of course, some activities still require little training and can be performed by unskilled workers. The growing complexity and flexibility in production require better personnel training. A large proportion of companies will have to address this point. User interfaces that are well adapted to the workflows of production staff can significantly contribute to a  successful solution here. Modern ME systems can be explicitly adapted to the process-specific needs of the operators utilizing flexible
workflow modeling so that the system is perceived as a work facilitator or work aid and not, as is often seen, as an additional burden. Every automated and thus saved input on the operator’s part saves corresponding hand movements and walking distances.

Seamless integration of systems

Another development I see is that PLM and ME systems need to work together more seamlessly to provide
better feedback for design and product development. This also allows valuable optimization potential to be
derived regarding order planning. Consistent feedback on the manufacturing results yields numerous possibilities:

  • How well can the designed work-pieces be executed in the planned work steps?
  • How well do the designed parts fit the available manufacturing processes?
  • How does a higher or lower manufacturing complexity of the parts affect the actual production costs?
  • What potential does the standardization of assemblies offer to the company?

In summary, integrated, transparent manufacturing allows production and development to participate jointly in a sustainable improvement process.

Further topics in this white paper:

  • Challenges and Goals
  • Benefits of a MES
  • The role of goals in digitization projects
  • Standardization as a prerequisite?
  • Requirements for ME systems
  • Success factors for the introduction
  • Typical challenges in MES projects
  • The role of standardized use cases
  • Deployment model
  • Tips for the introduction of an MES
  • Provider selection

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