In the era of Digital Transformation, manufacturing firms need a drastic evolution through process innovation, standardization, and integration in alignment with IIoT and AI solutions. A global integration strategy is crucial for MNCs to develop and roll out game-changing plans for manufacturing sites across the globe.

Here is a summary of good practices that FPT Software Smart Factory SME team has gained while helping FPT Software customers in manufacturing sector to integrate and roll-out their systems (MES, IIoT: Cloud Dashboard) across the globe.

Global Integration Strategy under business perspective

“In the new world, it is not the big fish which eats the small fish, it’s the fast fish which eats the slow fish” Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum. The disruption & impact of Industry 4.0 have changed the existing ways of working and introduced new ways of creating value for organization, thus required transformation progress to happen in every business entity. While many consultant firms can help business leaders in developing a visionary roadmap and pointing out some initiatives to start the transformation, the residual problem is how to convert a successful proof-of-concept into comprehensive change into business operation and maximize the chunk of return-on-investment. This kind of problem endangered the success of digital transformation and inevitable to top business players who tend to have multiple manufacturing sites and a complex FICO (Financial Accounting and Controlling) systems to adapt to local law. To guarantee successful roll-out, the establishment of Global Integration Strategy is expected to make global adoption smoothly, in addition to site-specific customization with reduce the enormous magnitude of complexity.

Global MES System: Operation perspective

A survey in 2015 showed that product variety more than doubled in the past 15 years and lifecycle have shortened by around 25%. In order to keep up with development, market leaders are now focusing on achieving operational excellence at global scale. While most of our customers facing the biggest problem during trying to make standardization process happened, some successful one still has to face to other challenges:

  • Barrier in agreement of best practices across sites
  • Culture different and anti-change mind-set
  • Requirement and changing conflict across sites
  • Site-specific systems are built with legacy technology and working in isolation
  • Dependencies with 3rd party, external system different from site to site
  • Availability of system blue-print (document) and SME (subject-matter-expert) during solution construction These challenges need to be solved and some practices can be applied at the beginning to minimize both the likelihood and the impact of these challenges.

(You might also want to read: COVID-19 Situation: An Operating Strategy To Drive Business Continuity)


Practice 1: MES Global Project with Agile Methodology

In MES, Agile development methodology can help smoothen the implementation & roll-out process, compared to classic waterfall model. Using iterative & incremental approach can reduce likelihood of miscommunication and quickly identify gaps, challenges. Typically, each sprint, small aspect of to-be system is developed, tested and demonstrated to stake-holders before moving to the next sprint. This provides the project team high agility to adapt to changes & keep minimum viable product. This model can help improve visibility and better control of project progress by elimination of “waste” and keep the solution both be standardized and adapted with customization varying from site to site.

This model can help improve visibility and better control of project progress by elimination of “waste” and keep the solution both be standardized, adapted with customization varying from site to site.

Practice 2: Think Big but Start with A Baseline

A global project is expected to cover the enterprise vision and has the functionality that “best match” to every site. This expectation is a common goal to gather every business stake-holders and get their interest as much as their support for the solution development. This is also the reason why making solutions take a very long-time till could be administered. The baseline requirements should be completed by a core solution group that has authority to decide the functionalities, key performance metrics, reports that are required at each plant.

All requirements related to this baseline are considered no-change and must be supported by business users across sites. After establishments of baseline for core solution, a program management framework should be implemented with coordinator from the core solution group and adequate participation from sites to discuss about “hooks” or plugins to address site-specific requirements.

Most read: Key Factors for a Successful Smart Manufacturing Journey

Practice 3: Quick wins vs Big Bang

In order to make sure the investment success, the management of global project should be governed under an enterprise program model. While keeping the management centralize at enterprise level, the execution can be break-out into phases instead of Big Bang approach. Especially, MES deployment at each site can be treated as a project and if needed, a more lightweight or heavier solution can be considered for each site. Taking phased approach allows the program management to use fewer resources and experts to focus on success deployment of the solution in selected sites and allows improvement chances as much as harness the knowledge base.

Most of MES systems are modular in natures, each module focuses on a distinctive function such as finite scheduling, equipment management, performance monitoring, ERP integration, laboratory information and plant floor automation systems. Phased-approach can shorten the time-to-benefit for key modules and smoothen the training process to successfully cut-over for new go-live system in brown-field site.

On the other hand, a Big Bang approach can provide as-is all the benefit in a single go-lie time but require a lot of resources before any MES benefit can be acknowledged. The Big Bang approach is considered suitable for new factory site where impacts to current process or legacy systems would not exist.

Practice 4: Applied ISA-95 to keep integration simple but ensure enterprise quality

Today enterprise application ecosystem is complex, application rarely works in isolation. Business operation tend to be backed by separate applications & services, inside or outside the enterprise. Integration with application and services remains challenges even with many integration platforms like MuleSoft and Oracle Service Bus are widely used.

In manufacturing industry, ERP integration, MES integration, PLM integration is not a new story, but a lot of common pitfall still can happen. During system design, data model should be developed carefully and correctly to make sure that data flow between both parties is simple, precise and no conflict will be introduced. Keep the integration model simple to reduce both short and long-term risk. The ISA-95 Standard Enterprise – Control System Integration provides a framework within which a system should perform what functionalities and the key data exchange that would occur between interfaces. When developing interface for both parties in the integration process, always follow the methodology laid down by industry standards.

Related: Smart Factories of the Post-Pandemic Future

Practice 5: Learning Dictionary & Knowledge-based Articles

It’s not in short time for enterprise to finish their Smart Factory adoption journey and Global project roll-out tend to be last in 3-5 years. Tracking and sharing lesson-learned can help program management team saving efforts for similar problems and keep the program on track. All the issues, risk, technical challenges are resolved at one site can be logged and store in a central portal that other site can leverage them at their sites.

Moreover, for enterprises to retain knowledge and keep improving the successful likelihood of a global roll-out project, needs of enrich enterprise knowledge base and digitize project experience are very important.

Practice 6: Modelling for MES is not just a data input process

The modelling is the development of the plant process within the MES which typically divide to Master Data and Master Batch Record Configuration.  Master Data includes products, materials, equipment definition and work center locations, while the Master Batch Record includes workflow, work instructions and data collection. The development of this model has a very significant impact on later efficient operation of the plant. It determines the benefits which the MES will bring when implemented. If this model is not optimally developed, it may result in the full potential of the MES system not being realized. Moreover, errors made in the modelling at this stage can be very costly to remedy retrospectively once an operating history is established.

Generally, modelling specialists should be the one who understand both the system capabilities and the business knowledge. These modelling specialists typically bring best practice in this area as they will have likely encountered similar process in previous projects. The absence of modelling specialists can lead to the risk of the development of a model that does not promote the most efficient configuration and may be inflexible in dealing with future products and plant expansions.

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Author Le Tran Nguyen