When preparing for integration between your production machinery and a MES (manufacturing execution system) it can be difficult to ensure the process goes smoothly. Most of this is in the hands of outside vendors that you don’t directly control, but the outcome of this process can make or break your production schedule.
Coordination between your MES provider and machine builders may even feel like something you don’t have to consider at all, since it is the responsibility of your vendors. There are, however, several things to consider when preparing for machine integration, so that you can ensure the smoothest possible experience.
1) Plant Infrastructure
The first thing you should ask yourself: “Is your infrastructure properly setup?”
This includes items such as network drops, electrical connections, gas hookups, compressed air hookups, and even IP addresses. These items must be addressed by your staff and will be vitally important to getting the industrial machines setup to integrate with a manufacturing execution system.
This, unfortunately, is frequently overlooked until after the engineers arrive. Thus, it causes slowdowns in the entire project as the machine builders and MES providers must wait for the machines to be setup with power and network access. While most shop floors are setup to quickly add power or other hookups, this is an unnecessary delay that can be completely avoided.
2) Integration Expectations
The next item to consider is setting proper and realistic expectations. For example, machine vendors are usually sending their engineers a long distance, sometimes even internationally. This can create issues when an integration runs longer than expected.
In these cases, the time an engineer may be onsite is limited not only by personal concerns, but by the immigration laws of a country. You must be fully aware of all expectations and be prepared if your timetables are forced to change.
Make sure you communicate with your vendors and understand what they believe their obligations are prior to starting integration, and what their contingency plans are if they are unable to complete the integration in the time allotted. You should also determine if parts of the integration can be done remotely.
By setting proper and realistic expectations for your shop floor integration team, you will save a lot of time and reduce avoidable headaches.
3) Work Area and Hardware Setup
Other ways you can prepare your shop floor for the integration process is to ensure the work area is properly setup for the engineers. The new machines should be setup in their proper location and, if the plant is in operation, traffic and workers should be kept away from the machines except when it is necessary for line workers and engineers to interact.
This also includes making sure all the machine hardware is available. Occasionally devices, such as barcode scanners, computers, or torque drivers, may be shipped separately or from a different vendor than the rest of the machine hardware. Without all the necessary equipment being available, and properly installed, integration can be slowed, and sometimes become impossible to complete fully. Whenever possible ensure these items are installed before beginning integration.
Another way to be prepared for integration is to have all the items you need to test with, including any additional tooling, test parts, fasteners, hardware, and even test data and barcodes needed to process a part. A substantial number and variety of these items should be available during the integration so the engineers can run these parts to test during the process.
4) Ensure a proper working environment
The last challenge I want to discuss is the often-overlooked issue of ensuring your providing the engineers with a proper working environment. This includes network access, access to servers and the Internet, and access to seating and surfaces for the engineers to work at.
During this process there may be a large amount of time spent working on programming the machines and the MES to properly integrate. Having a proper workspace is not only more comfortable, but it also speeds up the entire process.
Start Preparing for Your Shop Floor Integration
While integration is oftentimes a process that occurs outside the direct control of plant operations, it still requires all parties to coordinate and work together to get the new machines running properly. It’s not possible to avoid all contingencies, but properly preparing for integration will result in a much smoother and less stressful process.
If you follow these simple steps, you can avoid many of the common problems that arise when integrating a manufacturing execution system with your production machinery. Just remember to:
- Prepare your plant’s infrastructure
- Manage expectations
- Maintain access to hardware as well as other necessary items
- Install necessary equipment before integration
- Ensure a proper workspace for engineers
This list will help you avoid common mistakes and help prevent problems throughout your integration process.
If you’re interested in learning more about integrating an MES into your business, then check out our Error Proofing with Bar Codes White Paper. This document outlines error proofing within manufacturing through the use of barcodes and barcode scanners, and why you should consider it as part of your MES solution.
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