Enterprise Manufacturing Software Broadens Reach into Automation Systems

  • September 28, 2015
  • Feature

By Bill Lydon, Editor

Enterprise software cloud offerings and their integration with industrial automation systems is an exciting, evolving development. The new offerings allow manufacturing companies to operate more efficiently and be more responsive to customers with a lower investment and lower lifecycle cost. This is an opportunity for small and medium size manufacturers to leverage valuable software that only has been affordable by large companies in the past. An important part of this trend is tighter integration of enterprise software with industrial automation systems. I talked with Larry Korak, Infor’s Industry & Solution Strategy Director, about their comprehensive offering of enterprise software for manufacturing.

Lydon: What is your cloud strategy for manufacturing software?

Korak: Infor is providing focus and flexibility in our cloud strategy. We are the only software company who has developed industry-specific CloudSuite solutions. These solutions feature pre-configured workflow, collaboration, easy integration, and implementation accelerators all supported by Amazon Web Services. Infor currently offers CloudSuite Auto, CloudSuite A&D, and two CloudSuite Industrial solutions - one for large enterprises and one supporting SMB (Small & Medium-size Business) companies. These solutions are tailored to support the unique needs of these discrete manufacturing verticals. Additionally, Infor’s ERP and edge applications are available both on-premises or in the cloud. In this way, a customer can take advantage of previous investments while addressing new requirements with cloud-ready solutions. Additional benefits of our cloud strategy include a lower TCO, improved capital allocation, always current versioning, true scalability, real disaster recovery planning, a managed infrastructure, and best practice security.

Lydon: Do you have software that processes real-time transactions for ERP and MES as opposed to running in batch mode?

Korak: Our industry suites offer highly flexible architecture, which allows for easy integration with specialized point solutions and edge applications to manage the most complex operations. This allows manufacturers to monitor production performance in real-time via one easy-to-use system. Manufacturers can have a manufacturing-specific ERP, plus the edge applications that apply additional logic supporting interpretation, routing, decision-making and reporting.

Lydon: What are examples of “edge applications” for manufacturing plant floor and production?

Korak: Infor’s primary edge applications supporting production include: Advanced Planning & Scheduling, Enterprise Performance Management, Enterprise Asset Management, Factory Track and Product Lifecycle Management.

Lydon: In this architecture, is the ERP updated when each production step is completed and are inventories updated based on consumption in the step?

Korak: Currently, in Warehouse Mobility, Shop Floor, and Time Track applications, the quantities are updated in ERP in real-time every time a job-move is performed. This helps ERP keep track of WIP status as well as production schedule receipts (finished goods). The labor and machine hours can be posted either real-time or after supervisor approvals. Today this is done via either a barcode scan or a manual input through a shop floor kiosk. In case of an MES, it will just be automated.

Lydon: Are you delivering the MES function in your software?

Korak: Referring to the ISA 95 control standards hierarchy model, Infor solutions support all aspects of level 4 requirements (Business Planning and Logistics) and some aspects of Level 3 requirements (Manufacturing Operations Management). Infor solutions support production activities using Warehouse Mobility / Shop Floor / Time Track applications as described previously - MES would automate these activities. Infor also supports inventory, maintenance, and quality operations within our ERP and edge applications. Infor partners with specialist providers who provide the interface to production sensors, controllers and actuators.

Lydon: How are you linking information directly from industrial controllers on the plant floor to MES and ERP? 

Korak: Infor industry suites, purpose built for manufacturing, are designed to easily collect, store, and access data from a wide variety of sources, including the shop floor and third party logistics providers. Infor Factory Track Solutions and Infor EAM (Enterprise Asset Management) integrate with ERP solutions to provide additional equipment monitoring and management of shop floor activities, include tracking labor, warehouse activities and machine utilization.

To be able to connect to a wide variety of devices, sensors and control systems, Infor partners with specialist providers as the devices are frequently industry-specific. For example, the equipment and devices used in a meat poultry factory are very different from those used in equipment production. Infor brings the data into its applications through its own middleware platform ION where it can then be used to drive multiple business processes in Factory Track, EAM, ERP and others.

Lydon: What industry standard communications do you support to electronically interface with equipment? (Examples: OPC, OPC UA, Profinet, EtherNET/IP)

Korak: Per the specialist provider, we select vendors who work with as many standards as possible to cover the range of devices (digitized or not). OPC is the recognized standard, along with flexible and open integration standards like APIs, web-services etc. The idea is to deliver integrations that provide maximum deployment flexibility, both on premise and in the cloud. 

Lydon: How do you view the Industry 4.0 initiative?

Korak: Industry 4.0 and its many name derivatives (IoT, IIoT) will be a significant driver of business transformation as organizations move toward an increasingly digitized business. We are already seeing customers deploying pilot IoT projects across a number of industries including manufacturing, healthcare and public sector, the latter two refer more to IoT initiatives rather than Industry 4.0. Infor has a complete platform in healthcare for IoT that addresses communication from the devices directly into applications that assist with patient monitoring and care. In manufacturing, Infor has invested in building a Data Science team to develop analytics applications that can bring new insight and decision making from the high level resolution data available. Infor is also reaching out to its customers via user groups and Industry Councils to engage with customers on their IoT projects. 

Lydon: What is your approach to Industry 4.0?

Korak: Our strategy is centered on B2B applications with a focus on people, processes, assets and materials. This includes interfaces with monitoring solutions. Our solutions provide data capture, interpretation, routing and communication to improve awareness, risk mitigation, energy conservation, asset useful life, resource utilization and decision making. Infor Science Lab also applies advanced modeling techniques to Big Data to develop and imbed predictive modeling capabilities within our solutions, further improving planning and execution.

Lydon: Since your software processes real-time manufacturing transactions at the production machine level, does it eliminate the need for MES and other middleware software?

Korak: Not at present. At this point it is important to breakdown specific production related activities and highlight how these are supported.

  1. Management of product definitions are handled within our ERP and PLM solutions including version control, production rules, bills of material, etc.
  2. Optimization of production schedules and routing of production orders are supported within our APS and ERP solutions.
  3. The execution of production orders is performed using a combination of ERP, process control systems, MES, and Infor Factory Track.
  4. Production performance is assessed using a combination of ERP, Factory Track, Enterprise Asset Management and Enterprise Performance Management (EPM).
  5. Quality and track/trace capabilities are supported using ERP and EPM.

Infor’s middleware solution, ION, provides connectivity across this broad range of solutions, the scope of which is determined by the individual requirements of each manufacturer.

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