Monday, June 27, 2016

Smart(er) Manufacturing Is the Next Stage

By Jimmy Asher, Director of Product Strategy for Savigent Software (published by Automation World on June 24, 2016)

No matter what type products that you make, or type of manufacturing you are in, Smart Manufacturing is coming and will change how we think of manufacturing. In some ways, the same journey that industry has been on for years – one of increased visibility and optimization. While these components of technology are accelerating the journey, it isn’t simply technology or its application that makes Smart Manufacturing but rather the changes to the business process that this enables. Smart Manufacturing is about thinking differently!

Read the full version of this column at

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

3 Takeaways From the IndustryWeek Manufacturing & Technology Conference & Expo

Smart Manufacturing sets a new bar.
Nearly every speaker presentation touched on the topic of Smart Manufacturing at last week’s IndustryWeek Manufacturing & Technology Conference & Expo and MESA North American Conference. While it was evident that there are many different definitions for Smart Manufacturing, one thing is clear, manufacturers need to, and already are, investing in new technology to remain competitive. They’re getting “smart” on the topic of Smart Manufacturing in terms of people, processes and technology.

It is time to leverage the Industrial Internet of Things.
OrbitalATK and Synchrono® shared how the global leader in aerospace and defense technologies is Leveraging the IIoT and Visual Factory Technology to Drive Continuous Improvements. Using Synchrono SyncOperations software, powered by Savigent Software, OrbitalATK is able to connect machines, work cells and systems across the enterprise so that relevant data can be collected in real-time and fed into SyncView, a visual factory information system.

With data overload, context is key.

“To measure everything is to measure nothing.”

Advanced Analytics was one of six MESA Smart Manufacturing unConference breakout sessions. The session examined how manufacturers can better use the massive amounts of data they collect on a daily basis. Data alone provides very little value. Smart Manufacturing tools that provide data visualization, advanced analytics and contextual information are what’s needed to transform data into meaningful, timely and actionable business intelligence.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

APC|M Europe: Driving Decisions with Automated Workflow and R

Mark Gorman of Seagate Technology presented "Driving Decisions with Automated Workflow and R" on April 13 at the 16th Annual European Advanced Control and Manufacturing (apc|m) Conference. The presentation provided an overview of the value and capabilities gained by Seagate using Savigent Software and R.

The rise of automated workflow in the manufacturing industry has lead to a shift in the way companies approach Business Process Management (BPM). Automation of workflow promotes improved operational efficiency, traceability and standardization across an organization. Now it is time for the industry to take automation to the next level.

By incorporating data analysis and contextualization with workflow, companies can extract additional value both from existing infrastructure and from the large volumes of data being produced daily. The benefits of embedding analysis in workflow include faster response speed to events, improved detection and containment strategies and rapid root cause analysis.

Savigent's Platform has been providing workflow automation within Seagate's manufacturing facilities for five years, enabling the manufacturer to tailor an industrial solution that can interact with tools, control systems and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) in house. The open-source R programming language has been integrated with the existing infrastructure as an analytics framework. This enables advanced, actionable analytics to be carried out on a scheduled or reactionary basis.

For companies like Seagate, thanks to the use of workflow automation paired with R, root cause analysis is now faster, more targeted and unanchored with all possible contributing factors in the build included. Engineers and technicians are presented with real-time information so that they can take traceable action to address unforeseen events.

How does this work?

Throughout the workflow a summary of statistical differences is created and can be used to take action during production. Depending on the severity of the issue, the platform will prompt a different automated response such as taking a tool out of production, disabling a recipe configuration or holding defective parts. In addition to the ability to drive better decision making in response to unpredicted events, engineers now have visibility over time of their workflow solutions, providing the opportunity for continuous optimization of best practices and improved operational efficiency.

The use of this technology truly empowers engineers and technicians to "work smarter, not harder," and allows manufacturing companies to better leverage their diverse skill sets. This means better compliance and standardization, higher yields, and most importantly, increased profits.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Microsoft Envision Recap

This week's Microsoft Envision kicked things off in New Orleans with the keynote from the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella.

“It is no longer just about procuring one solution and deploying one solution, it is not about one simple CRM or ERP or even office automation solutions that you get from us or others… it is really about you thinking as a digital company,” stated Nadella.

During the keynote he posed two questions:

1) “How is your business being digitally transformed?”

2) “How is your business model being digitally transformed?”

We are seeing this transformation in manufacturing – the beginning of manufacturing's digital age – where we are seeing a future driven by the Internet of Things (IoT), human friendly automation, additive manufacturing and simulation systems. Manufacturing is no longer seen as the old, dark and slow sector. These topics were discussed in a session called Manufacturing: State of the industry.

In manufacturing, we often refer to this transformation as “Smart Manufacturing”, which is not implying that systems before were unintelligent. Today’s manufacturing is full of technology - IT process, networking and computers.

So is this transformation an evolution or revolution in manufacturing? This question was addressed in a session titled What is a Smart Manufacturer? In reality, it is both! It is an evolution because manufacturers embrace change on a daily basis with continuous improvement by optimizing and improving production and information flow. Smart Manufacturing is the deployment of IT systems to drive these initiatives further than they could yesterday. As for the revolution, there are forces driving change to the core of manufacturing: decreasing time between new products and tailoring products to the desires of their consumers – this drives manufacturers to produce parts in quantities of one versus large runs. For more details, listen to the discussion here.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Data Visualization and Smart Manufacturing

There is a lot of buzz about the topic of data visualization in the manufacturing industry. Much of the discussion is centered around the necessity of data and the ability to visualize that data in a meaningful way to achieve “Smart Manufacturing.”

But what is Data Visualization?

To some, it is a technology. Software that enables a person to turn copious amount of data into a graphical representation with the premise that it will improve comprehension of a point of view.

To others, it is an art form. Using artistic talent to represent data.

Yet to some, it is a process that one follows to gather and analyze data to inform decision-making.

To me, it is the “Ah Ha” moment, the confluence of all of the above. That moment when the data has been mined, the story has been built, the graphical and pictorial representation has been created, and the exercise has revealed an answer or outcome you could not reach before.

So, data visualization is key to helping manufacturers to use data and analytics in smart decision-making.  Right?

Yes, but here’s the problem: the house of cards hinges on an important concept before anyone can begin to visualize data… context. Visualizing data, or presenting it in a pictorial or graphical format, without context and analysis provides marginal value. It generally provides a one dimensional view without the complete picture.

To better utilize the art, craft and process of data visualization we need to start by setting the scene and determining what question we are trying to answer, or better yet what story we are trying to tell. If you simply ask, “which of my manufacturing lines is performing best?” there are many ways you can answer that question with different data. Is speed the best measure of performance? Cost? Accuracy? The answer is none of the above. To truly measure performance and efficiency you need to analyze all available data, with context, together.

Building context is extremely important for downstream clarity. To build effective context, you need:
·       a way to collect multi-dimensional data, not just data streams coming off individual tools or sensors.
·       a means to determine when is the right time to collect the data validation and a place to store that data and provide early visibility.
·       visibility that enables you to act upon that data and alter your approach if needed.

To think about the problem from another perspective, let’s look at the life cycle of data – from the moment it is produced to the moment it is “realized.” Where does visualization fit in? How do tools and technology assist? Where do we build context?

In the early stages data is produced. Decisions are made about what data to collect, i.e. temperature, humidity levels, power draw, up-time, down-time, etc. At the point of collection, we have the opportunity to provide additional context. What else was happening in the environment when the data was collected? Who was running the machine, what recipes of batches were being made? Now, this collected data starts its transformation into actionable business intelligence.

As we are collecting data, we have the opportunity to look out for other unique events – are we picking up fluctuations in operating parameters, what is happening with other machines running the same recipes or batches, what is going on outside the plant like an abrupt change in the weather? These unique events provide us yet another level of dimensionality to our data.

Now we store the data and begin to analyze. What trends are we seeing, what anomalies are beginning to surface? We start to prove or refine our ideas or hypotheses. We test our assumptions and validate our approach.

Do we need to make changes? If so, let’s adapt our platform or approach and incorporate those changes quickly and efficiently, with minimal impact to operations. Let’s begin the process again, executing the new plan – make the feedback, analysis, and action loop continuous.

Where does contextualization fit in? It is in every stage of this life cycle - helping ensure we have the right data. Setting up visualization enables decision makers to see analysis so they identify new patterns, drill down into charts and graphs for more detail and interactively analyze variable data. When used this way, data visualization can inform almost any decision related to the manufacturing process, from inventory management to maintenance scheduling to human resource allocation.

Together, effective data visualization, and a Smart Manufacturing technology platform can get the right data, in the right format, in the right hands, at the right time, to take the right actions.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

What Industrial Artificial Intelligence Means for Your Operations

For years there has been a lot of buzz around intelligent computer systems and their capability to replace human-operated jobs. What does this look like in manufacturing and other industrial settings?

We are not talking about robots – like the one’s we see in Hollywood blockbusters ­– running factories and replacing humans. The fact is, the amount of data that we are processing in manufacturing is higher than ever, with faster production rates than ever – while at the same time, the total number of employees has decreased in manufacturing… this isn’t about loss of jobs. Humans simply can’t keep pace with the data. We need a system to triage the information and respond automatically (or if needed, escalate to humans) when there is a fault. Artificial Intelligence makes this possible.

Artificial Intelligence is already being used by manufacturers who deploy “Smart Manufacturing” technologies including manufacturing operations management software. Systems and solutions utilize Artificial Intelligence to allow software to perform actions that previously required human analysis and calculation. This automation of manufacturing processes can be applied at nearly every stage of the product life cycle: design, production planning, production and distribution.

Decision complexity is a common issued faced by manufacturers throughout production. A system that not only collects incoming production data, but also analyzes that data in real-time alongside context and historical data can automate decision making.  Artificial Intelligence can be used to look at manufacturing data from a holistic approach – looking for errors that might not be readily visible during the manufacturing process (i.e. general trends and possible causal/effects correlations). If the system can detect patterns and react accordingly equipment downtime, faults and wasted materials are decreased.

The bottom line? Artificial Intelligence should not be feared by manufacturers, but embraced as a tool to optimize operations and raise profitability.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Takeaways From the 20th Annual ARC Industry Forum

IT and OT Are Converging! Traditionally the Information Technology and Operational Technology groups operated in separate silos and far too often did not work together. Matter of fact, in the past, the only thing they shared was a loathing of each other. However, with an evolution of systems and mindsets, the groups now realize that they are customers of each other and bring best practices from both domains – infrastructure, manufacturing and information.

Big Focus on Visualizing and Analyzing the Data. Manufacturers are using their wealth of data in interesting ways. While some companies are just starting to connect and use manufacturing data to provide a better understanding in their processes, it is more common that manufacturers face the challenge of “too much data” Today’s software systems are allowing manufacturers to apply context so that optimization can take place. Ultimately, the goal is to provide systems that automatically use the data and manipulate the process without need for human intervention.

Information is Bigger Than the Four Walls of Manufacturing. Groups such as Dow and Shell are using data from multiple sources – manufacturing, supply chain and news to form a “Control Tower for IIoT Visibility.” Imagine where an alert notifies a plant that a catastrophic event just took place at a supplier’s factory…or that an earthquake or flood might delay critical shipments - and being able to act upon that information immediately? You might think that this is only for the large companies – but the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC) intends to deliver this for all manufacturers – regardless of size.