Like other popular MES packages, Inductive Automation's offering consists of a few components to give you the information you need to make better business decisions. The difference with Inductive Automation is their approach to licensing, installing software, and configuring the system.
Inductive Automation's approach to software takes a more modern approach than some of the other platforms. Instead of purchasing separate software packages for different functionality you simply need various modules to enable functionality in your system. These modules are installed in conjunction with their Ignition HMI/SCADA Solution, providing you with a seamless interface to configure communications, data analysis tools, reporting, and your production model. This approach simplifies the process of getting your MES tools up and running.
The Central Nervous System of Inductive Automation MES
At the heart of the MES backend is Ignition. Ignition provides you with HMI/SCADA functionality, communication with your process control system, and the requisite hooks into your database of choice. Installing the MES modules adds functionality to the Ignition interface, allowing you to configure your production model and perform various calculations in the same interface you are already familiar with.
The first module you will likely start with is the OEE module. This enables you to calculate your Overall Equipment Effectiveness, track downtime, production scheduling, manage work orders and product codes, and display this information in dashboards and reports.
Modeling your Process
With the OEE module you will configure a production model for your plant, encompassing various facilities, sites, process areas, production lines, cells, etc. Cells are comprised of various pieces of equipment on the plant floor. In a packaging work cell at a food and beverage facility you may have a former, a filler, a sealer, and a metal detector. You can track downtime, throughput, cycle time, and events for each piece of equipment in your work cell.
The OEE module also allows you to enter your production schedules, shifts, and planned downtime. Utilizing your actual production schedules allows you to analyze data by shift, crew, and by date giving you the ability to further understand how your entire plant, including personnel, is doing.
By utilizing cells and production scheduling to model your facility you can use The MES tools to get a detailed view of every piece of equipment in your entire facility during all of your scheduled production runs. You also have the ability to monitor how each piece of equipment contributes to your process losses. This removes operator error in tracking process upsets compared to a manual data entry system and gives you a true view of the health of your plant.
The OEE module uses real-time data to trigger downtime start/end times, track throughput, and changes in cycle times. This allows you to configure complex conditions for tracking downtime including when upstream or downstream issues cause production losses at any point in the process. Each event can be edited allowing to update notes, override downtime reasons, and manage any other data you might need.
Communicating With Your Process
With other MES platforms this is where we would discuss how to get data into your MES system. With Inductive Automation this is already done for you as part of the Ignition installation. This approach simplifies the configuration process, making it easy to get started on process optimization.
A Full-Service Performance Platform
The power of Inductive Automation's MES suite does not end here. In addition to OEE, they offer Statistical Process Control (SPC), Instrument Interface to collect serial/text information, Recipe Management and Changeover, and Track and Trace modules. These allow you to handle anything your process might throw at you, giving you the ability to easily track all of the information you need to bring your processes to the highest level.
We will cover some of the other MES modules in future posts. For now just be aware that Inductive Automation's approach to MES is changing the game by providing powerful, easy-to-use, and simple to implement tools making MES something every plant can easily implement as part of their optimization strategy.