Sunday, December 17, 2017

Agility - The Business Benefits of Smart Manufacturing

Yes we are all very excited about Smart Manufacturing, Industry 4.0, IIoT, AR, etc. but do we really understand the business benefit? I am sure I am not the first or the last to ask this question, yet it is still very interesting and important. Companies that are implementing these technologies clearly have a specific business driver in mind and there are plenty of good examples. So I don't believe that its a case of technology for technology's sake but I am not sure that the industry realizes the ultimate potential that these technology can provide.

However if we "get into the helicopter" (a term I borrow from working with Danes for a number of years), which means to take a look at it from afar to gain a broader perspective - a picture of agility appears. What I am saying is that the application of these modern technologies can transform our manufacturing systems from rigid hierarchical control structure to a more agile distributed control structure and hence inherently make the production system more agile. In addition it provides a unique opportunity to embed data integrity, and a full history of every minute transaction being made. This means the potential for GMP compliance with very little effort!

Now I am going to go on a bit of a philosophical-academic tangent here, but guess what its a blog and where else can I do that? The premise is that production systems are characterized by chaos and that the best way to deal with managing chaos is by using system that have emergent behavior. One of the basic concepts with IIoT is decentralization and automation of the decision making by moving it to the end nodes of a system (end computing). This brings about emergent behavior which is the fundamental trait needed for agility. OK, this concept requires a bit more explanation, I understand but take my word for it, for now.

So what does this all mean? In short, the Smart Manufacturing/Industry 4.0 set of technologies provide a potential to have true agility in a production system with inherent compliance! Now all that is missing are a practical architectures and implementations, which I believe are well on their way in some industries.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Smart Manufacturing / Industry 4.0 - 20 years in the making.

Hello everybody, I am back after a bit of an extended hiatus. I am finding my way back to blogging starting with some reflection on the past and view into the future.

In the late 1990s I was part of a international research effort that lay the groundwork for what we know of today as Industry 4.0 or Smart Manufacturing. I specifically was interested in the architecture of what is now known as IIoT. In 2000 I wrote an article in the Journal of Manufacturing Systems about these new concepts and predicted that it would take 15 years to become mainstream. I guess I was young and optimistic, it has already been close to 18 years and although its still not mainstream it has started to move in that direction.

At that time the Internet was at its infancy and we could only dream of what is now possible with today’s technology. it was called many different thing such as multi-agent systems, Holonic Manufacturing Systems, Adaptive Manufacturing, and a few other such concepts. It was also called Intelligent Manufacturing, there was even an international consortium named that (and it still exists!). It is also one of the reasons behind the name of this blog. The joke was that what we did up to then was not intelligent :-) However the underlying assumption was that it will be a paradigm shift, a new way of thinking and a new way of operating that is brought about with technological advances.

Now, in the last many years I have been deeply immersed in the pharmaceutical industry and I have come to understand how immature this industry is from a manufacturing operations and technology perspective. Yes biologic manufacturing is novel, complex and groundbreaking however looking at the operations of a pharma plant with paper based systems, traditional automaton and maybe some MES it is nowhere close to the likes of Automotive, Aerospace and even CPG. Yes, this may be a broad and general statement but there is truth to it! Risk averseness driven by regulatory requirements is clearly one of the reasons and probably also why there is little innovation in the manufacturing operations space here, however that should not be an excuse.

So where am I going with this? I think that the pharma industry is poised to take a generational leap and may be able to skip the current or traditional manufacturing operations paradigms and go directly to Smart Manufacturing - bold! it is going to take more than putting a smart sensor on some equipment or sending some data to the cloud for analytics, but its a start. Most of all it is going to take leadership and a vision. There are a few people out there that I know will be able to do this - you know who you are. I am also ready for the challenge - It is a paradigm shift, we must think differently and operate differently.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Fresh Seeds in a Plowed Field – Leadership Again….

Last night I had time to reflect on my experiences and learning from a 2 days leadership training delivered by Mark Hannum. I really enjoyed it especially all the stories from real world examples such as Allan Mulally's first few days at Ford. It also re-emphasized some of the things that I have known about leadership that I wanted to bring up again as well as my favorite leadership guru – Dr Deming. What makes Deming so intriguing is the fact that his statements and teaching is timeless as I describe in another post.

I wanted to point at this specific video about Deming - the real reason I am writing this long post. But there are also some other interesting observation that were discussed during the 2 days with some interesting information sources behind them such as why Management by Objective can be destructive, why do we do it and why there are no heroes. And of course one of my favorite leadership post "Death to the Performance Review" which is tightly coupled with lessons on how not to be a Bosshole.

There is always something new to learn and I guess that much of it was realization or maybe more confirmation that it really is all simple and logical once you wrap you head around. Or maybe its more unwrapping your head from the spreadsheet-centered engineering perspective on life. Mark described the leadership cycles that are core to leadership development, a concept that really hit home. It made me realize that my first leadership cycle was when I was 16 during an outdoor leadership course leading a group of my puberty infested peers on a survival backpacking trip around Mt Kenya (yes that’s the one in Africa).

Mark mentioned that this reflection is very important and with a bit of help from United (no entertainment on the plane) and low battery life I got a chance to do that. As the lights of the Central Valley appeared, I thought it would be a good idea to put some of what I felt in words, hence this blog post. I felt that during the 2 days there was some novel new understanding in our management group and with that maybe some openness or acceptance of these new concepts. It’s as if Mark has plowed the fields, opened up the ground and made it breathe. It is now ready for new seeds. Sorry, but I am a farmer at heart – I can’t help myself with these analogies.

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Brief Look at MES Products From a Historical Perspective

I am working with a number of Life Science manufacturing companies that have taken a strategic approach for their manufacturing systems landscape. There is a lot of buzz on this topic in the industry, which makes it that much more interesting but with some challenges. I am generally fond of using a historical perspective and so I decided to do the same for the MES software products in the life science industry. This perspective is just mine and I am sure there are many more that can be given by my peers in the industry – a subtle hint.

So let’s start in the 1980’s, the decade that gave us CIM and a growing awareness about the role that computers play in manufacturing operations. The focus at that time was how computer systems, aka software, can be used to increase efficiencies and manage complexity. In fact computer technology was gaining so much momentum that it was considered a major element in revolutionizing the manufacturing landscape in parallel to the advent of the Lean movement.

This gave birth to quite a few Manufacturing Execution System (MES) product companies in the 1980’s. The 90’s then followed by a massive development and spread of information technology, which is now at the core of everything we do today, not only in manufacturing. Manufacturing operations are becoming so dependent on information that these systems have to be considered at a strategic level. Initially this strategic focus was given to expensive business systems such as ERP however it is becoming evident that other systems, specifically MES, sometime have more impact on the bottom line and should be considered equally strategic.

MES software products evolved in different industries and their roots manifest themselves in both the functionality and the corresponding  MES vendor’s organization. Companies and products that currently serve the Life Science industry generally have their roots in the semi-conductor and electronics industry, and understandably also the Life Science industry itself.

In the industries outside Pharma and Bio-Pharma, MES was introduced to deal with the inherent high level of automation and complexity of the high volume manufacturing process where lowering cost and increasing production throughput were crucial. It was virtually impossible to manually manage the wealth and complexity of information and MES provided a solution. The  MES products were centered on a discrete workflow model that allowed rich modeling capabilities while at the same time allowing customizations. In fact early  MESs were merely toolboxes with a workflow engine, rich data modeling capabilities and tools to custom build user interfaces and business logic.

In the Life Science industry the main driver for introducing  MES was compliance or the electronic batch record and therefore the first such systems provided a “paper-on-glass” solution. The idea was to simply digitize the paper batch records, kind of like the old “overhead projectors”. These systems had simple modeling capabilities and did not allow for much customization. In many cases these “paper-on-glass” systems were supplemented with business logic built as customizations in the automation system. They were commonly implemented in pharmaceutical plants, where the focus on compliance meant low tolerance for customizations and a minimum of change after system were commissioned. This resulted in  MES functionality that was split between the heavily customized automation applications and a “canned” paper-on-glass system to deal with batch records. The Weigh and Dispense feature of these systems was used mostly for traditional pre-weigh activities where the materials are weighed and staged before the process.

In the 2000’s a consolidation started in which some of the independent  MES from vendors where acquired by the major automation vendors and positioned into the life sciences industry. This introduced the rich modeling capabilities that grew out of the semi-conductor and electronics industry to the  Life Sciences  industry accustomed to “paper-on-glass” systems. This leaves us today with a wide choice of  MES that are rapidly gaining maturity and sophistication in the form of advanced functionality and interoperability. I think that this maturity is an important factor and plays nicely into the strategic nature of most Manufacturing Systems initiatives that I have been involved in. There is still a long road ahead but I have not been so optimistic about the Manufacturing System domain, in a long time. It certainly looks like there are some very interesting and also challenging years ahead as we work to execute on these strategic initiatives.