Perhaps no expression evokes more of a disputed territorial discussion in a manufacturing environment than “Real-time” information. Process control engineers and manufacturing operations personnel have historically claimed the expression “real-time” within their domain. They openly scoff at IT professionals who refer to real-time activity that isn’t measured in microseconds. If you don’t know the value of some important information in less than a second then you are just reading yesterday’s news.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) in the context of manufacturing is a
planning and business function that executes on daily, weekly or even monthly
cycles. This hardly matches the shop floor definitions of real-time. Not even
the most zealous material manager would clamor for backflushes within
microseconds of inventory consumption. Finance leaders don’t use sub-second
clocks to close their monthly books. (Although I have met some that would if
So what does real-time
mean for ERP and manufacturing operations? Real-time is a relevant descriptor
when it is defined as the ability of a system to provide information and enable
responses within strategic time frames. Too often real-time in our
planning and operational processes is measured in the time that it takes to
update and share a spreadsheet. The lags in information flow and inconsistent
access to current status changes are very real detriments to optimizing both
planning and responsive decision-making. Real-time for production order status
is most likely measured to the minute, which would be a significant improvement
for many manufacturers.
Even in automated
environments, attaining real-time information is not always guaranteed. The
integration between manufacturing ERP and third-party or home-grown shop floor
systems like MES or machine-level operator interfaces can be challenging. The
inherent purpose-built design of these distinct systems can still result in an
integration that is dependent on batch loads and periodic lags of current status.
The solution to
delivering real-time manufacturing ERP capability may lie in the ability of ERP
software systems to extend into the operational functionality. No one should
advocate for ERP software to actively control machines. However, extending core
capability to the collection and coordination of relevant information is both
possible and capable of providing real benefits.
So what information is
necessary for real-time manufacturing ERP? Generally speaking, for most
manufacturers ERP is production order-centric. The ERP software system converts
demand into manageable portions of material requirements and executable orders
with defined delivery windows. Correspondingly, the information needed to
deliver real-time feedback at the ERP level is associated with these production
orders. ERP capability needs to evolve to provide the interface that is
appropriate and available to the shop floor. Order progress is best collected
directly from the personnel doing the actual manufacturing. This requires an interface
that is both appropriate for the operators on the shop floor and provides
minimal disruption to the operators’ focus on the manufacturing process.
ERP solutions provide great capability in terms of comprehensive access to data
and hierarchies of functions that are appropriate for planners and other
business functions. The cockpit of an ERP planner looks like a spreadsheet on
steroids with access to all relevant data.
Conversely, the shop floor operator interface needs to be highly visual,
use simple navigation and always be contextual to a limited scope of geography
and responsibility. The operator of a work center should only be presented with
released orders in a relevant time frame, such as a shift or even the next few
hours. There may be hundreds of planned orders but an operator should only deal
with a finite and limited scope.
This allows the
operator to take action and efficiently record progress in real time. This
simplistic and visual access is far superior to the dreaded clipboard or paper
travelers. These processes often result in delayed production reporting at the
end of the shift via separate data-entry. The recording of production
quantities by the operator themselves not only improves the timeliness of the
data but also improves the quality of the data. On-line integrity checks and
the avoidance of data entry miscues are a huge upgrade over manual collection
strategies. The emergence of IoT as an enhanced path to process data associated
with individual production orders completes a data set with real-time details
around the order, operator information and equipment performance.
All of this may not
sound like a new approach. The distinction is that adaptive ERP
solutions can provide this capability by providing native operational
extensions. The legacy layers of multiple systems and complex integration have
been, in some ways, a barrier to real-time insights. ERP-provided awareness of
shop floor activity as it happens can be used to make better-informed
decisions. One very simple example is the potential for improved collaboration
between planning and operations. If a planner can instantly see that a
production order is near completion via real-time access, they could make
decisions about the next order or the possible expediting of an unplanned
order. Historically, the planner would have been blind to the current status
and would have to resort to a cumbersome series of phone calls to floor
supervision or worse just release orders blindly. The floor supervisor also
benefits by having a clearer set of priorities.
Real-time insights into operational capability can make modern
manufacturers truly rapid, agile and effective. Manufacturing
ERP with native operational extensions may not be real-time at the
microsecond level, but it can provide real-time, real-world results.
https://erpnews.com/v2/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/manufacturing.jpg400600katiehttps://erpnews.com/v2/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/[email protected]katie2019-09-13 14:49:362019-09-13 17:12:17Manufacturing ERP and the Pursuit of Real-time Information
Do You Know How ERP Systems Have Evolved Up Until 2019?