Production systems are the ones that drive day-to-day activities of every manufacturing unit/site available in various organizations across countries and continents. By production systems, we mean the chain of processes where raw materials and components are transformed into products that a customer would pay for. Every production system consists of organized interaction between machines and equipment for manufacturing processes, handling and transport and people. The human role in the production system varies; it may focus on data collection and availability, prevention, monitoring and follow-up or carrying out important manufacturing and handling operations. To make the process continue operable seamlessly, data collection throughout entire lifecycle of the product becomes the most vital challenge in maintenance and support of every production system.

Often times, production systems are mistakenly understood as “systems that are primarily present in the shop floor” that are used for deliverables out to customers. That statement is not true all the time and is pretty much dependent on the type of industries involved. Production systems have a long chain of involvement right from the phase of estimation/quote generation and last until the phase of obtaining customer feedback after successful delivery of the product. So, the involvement and usage of production systems are made to a “high degree of criticality” in every phase of a product delivery. Success of every production system lies in “high quality data delivery” of the same. Until and unless the production systems offer reliable and appropriate data to be fed to their internal job management system and finally to design / manufacturing plants, there is no quality production made at the end of day.

Production system is the company’s main tool for responding quickly to changing market needs and greater demands on its products. Production system needs to be well suited to the particular product range, flexible, and in many cases also easily re-configured and easily upgradeable to higher versions suit market needs and customer’s wishes. An effective, well-functioning production system is an important component in the company’s business model and a strong competition factor.

Factors that determine high quality and success of every production system

  • Industrial engineers, production managers, application owners, data analysts and other technology specialists must choose and design, technology and infrastructure to be used to build the production system
  • Capacity of the system needs to be determined up-front
    • Too much capacity during the initial phase might end up with incurring more costs during setup
    • Less capacity at times may not even suffice the daily production rate
  • Data collection, availability and accessibility to the system from various modules/intra-systems that play a role in developing the product
  • Single point delivery model
    • Even though in reality there may be many intra-systems that feed data into the main production system, there has to be a clear mechanism of data collaboration and data consolidation within the main production system to assemble the final delivery of product
  • Automated data transfer across systems
    • Success of every production system lies in the concept of “automation”. More manual intervention leads to errors which would eventually affect production at every level. Instead, automation needs to be considered as a very important point of access across systems so that data flow is made seamless without manual intervention.

Role of Supplier or Customer involvement in success of production systems

As the famous saying goes by, “Customer retention is the asset”, every production system is built for customers and if a product is made available to a customer that he doesn’t like, it needs to be considered a failure. To make a product being “liked” by the customer, the production system team needs to make sure what the customer likes and needs. That plays for the foremost role in determination of the quality of production system. Backbone of “likes” for every product relies totally on process of data collection and data analytics that makes the success of it.

Next comes the phase of interaction with customer on data feeds:

  • Determination of what kind of data gets fed to the appropriate systems
  • Involvement of data analytics team on interaction with customer to determine the phases during which data collection should be made
  • What frequency should data set be either collected or synched based on customer’s system updates
  • Validation of data supplied performed within the internal data analyst team

Taking a quick example of packaging industry, barcodes play a very important role and truly is the unique identifier for every product on the shelf. Barcodes are proprietary information of every customer pertaining to their products. Timeliness delivery of those barcodes to the packaging unit is vital for it to be printed on the package. If there was any delay in obtaining the barcodes for a product from the customer, the entire production line gets stopped for that product and delays the overall deliverable of those products to retail market. That would incur a tremendous loss for companies. So, to make sure the data collection/consumption process go seamless, automated integration of various systems tied to the master production system need to be practiced within the organization.

Technologies recommended achieving seamless collaboration with customer or partner / supplier.

  • EDI Standards for exchanging data with third party systems without any complications in the implementation and support.
  • Service based interactions (either SOAP or REST) for realtime data exchange between ERP systems and supplier or partner environment.
  • Message Oriented Middleware – Even though this approach is bit complicated it is still preferred for broadcasting information to multiple customers or partners.
  • CSV or Flat File Exchange – This is not at a preferred approach; however when some of the customer or partner cannot handle above mode of integrations, adopting CSV based exchange may be justifiable.

Note: The above article is authored by Mr.Sudhir Pallavoor from Enterprise Integration & Information Management Practice @ Aspire Systems.