As the digital transformation of the automotive sector accelerates, manufacturers across the industry need to be more agile and efficient than ever. Companies need to turn process data into business insights and smart decisions in real time, making adjustments across a plant—or across the enterprise—nimbly and rapidly. A cloud-based Manufacturing Execution System (MES) such as SAP Digital Manufacturing can deliver.
Cloud-based MES is the competitive edge you need
What’s cloud-based MES?
Cloud-based MES solutions provide similar functionality to their traditional, on-premises MES counterparts. Manufacturers can use cloud-based MES to monitor and control the production process and collect and analyze data from machines on the shop floor—so far, so similar. But putting MES in the cloud offers several important advantages.
Benefits of cloud-based MES
As a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering, cloud-based MES enables companies to do without the local data centers and physical infrastructure required with more traditional solutions—or the same level of IT support at each plant. This saves companies the costs associated with on-premises MES implementations and frees them from having to compete for hard to find (and sometimes hard to afford) IT talent. But more importantly, cloud-based MES solutions significantly lower the barrier to entry for companies, enabling them to harness the power of modern MES more easily and cost-effectively and across various geographies.
Speed to value is another advantage of cloud-based MES as all data captured is normalized in a central environment. This centralized repository is readily available at the fingertips of operations for tactical views of operations and also at the higher-level in the organization to quickly identify strategic opportunities for their business; specifically centered around reducing in losses and schedule attainment. Implementing technology updates or upgrades across the plant or enterprise no longer requires months of upfront planning and on-premises execution: instead, the updates and upgrades are pushed out automatically, everywhere, via the cloud. This additionally helps to synchronize various production supporting processes (such as planning, logistics, quality, maintenance, sustainability, safety, etc) to also leverage this information in real time without multiple point to point integration projects.
Scalability is likely the most significant benefit of cloud-based MES solutions. The cloud makes it far faster and easier to create and distribute new product templates to every plant, enabling seamless change across the supply chain. Learnings and experiences gained in one plant can be rapidly shared across the enterprise, keeping every facility at the company’s leading edge. When a new plant is brought online, or an older one is upgraded, a cloud-based MES can quickly adapt to the larger demand and the plant can be instantly integrated into the company’s overall operations and supply chain.
At a time when the automotive industry is changing fast and the transition to EVs and other zero-emission vehicles speeds up, cloud-based MES solutions such as SAP Digital Manufacturing enable automotive manufacturers to continuously adapt to new demands, products, and technologies.
Cloud-based MES isn’t just for new machinery
Modern manufacturing machinery is built with Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity capabilities by default. These machines are ‘plug and play’ in terms of cloud-based MES solutions: companies simply need to connect them to the system and a set of industrial (traditional OT) standard protocols around this are provided. SAP Digital Manufacturing provides companies with a standard array of required data models as well as analytics that deliver the insights that are useful and valuable to the business.
Older manufacturing machinery may not support IoT connectivity, but there are still ways for automotive manufacturers to digitize their older equipment and link it to a cloud-based MES. Companies can retrofit sensors to older machines in order to collect at least some data, and some data flowing into the MES is better than no data. The challenge for companies is to ensure that the data collected from older equipment is data that the business needs—data that can have a meaningful impact on process, plant, or business decisions.
These signals from production are readily mapped via a Low-code/No-code (LCNC) environment in SAP Digital Manufacturing call Production Process Designer. This is a stateful workflow environment that ensures that the state of the MES is easily mapped and maintained over time to a wide range of production signals that ensure accuracy of the MES and ease of use for the operations team(s).
Signs that it’s time to move to cloud-based MES
Traditionally, automotive manufacturers have been slow to embrace change. That’s not surprising in an industry that requires such significant capital investment to expand operations or upgrade equipment. Yet there are certain telltale signs that a company has reached the point where change is needed. For example:
• Do your people regularly need to go “above and beyond” simply to get regular, day-to-day work done?
• Is gathering data about your business, plants, or production lines an onerous, time-consuming task?
• Are you having quality or production efficiency issues at a plant or across the business, but you’re not sure why?
• Are you and your teams working with a lot of paper day-to-day? Does investigating an issue inevitably send people down long, winding paper trails?
• Does dealing with exceptions tend to require the involvement of a sizeable team?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, moving to a cloud-based MES could you’re your company overcome these challenges and unlock new ways to improve productivity, operating costs, and more.
Interested in cloud-based MES? Here’s what to do next
You’ve decided that adopting a cloud-based MES solution like SAP Digital Manufacturing would enable your business to achieve the agility and efficiency it needs to adapt and thrive in a fast-changing automotive sector. So what now?
The first step is to speak to a trusted advisor—one that not only understands the MES solution, but your business and the automotive manufacturing industry overall. An advisor that knows manufacturing is better positioned to advise on and deliver what your company truly needs and to ensure the implementation proceeds quickly, smoothly, and cost-effectively.
The next step, and arguably the toughest, is to persuade the leadership team to greenlight the investment. Here, it’s important to understand the factor or factors that guide leadership’s decision-making: costs and profitability are common drivers, but there may be others. How do those factors influence leadership’s decisions around capital or operational investments? When you know this, you can better demonstrate—with the help of your trusted advisor—how implementing cloud-based MES can have a positive impact on those decision drivers.
For instance, you could show how adopting a cloud-based MES solution could lead to better uptime and throughput, improving profitability. Or how improving quality and reducing waste—or doing away with local data centres—could reduce costs. Or how being able to switch production lines to new products at the push of a button, across the enterprise, could improve the company’s competitive positioning. And those are just a few examples of the value that cloud-based MES can deliver.
For instance, you could demonstrate how the implementation of a cloud-based Manufacturing Execution System (MES) might enhance both uptime and throughput, thereby bolstering overall profitability. Alternatively, emphasizing enhancements in product quality, waste reduction, or the elimination of on-site data centers could contribute to substantial cost savings. Additionally, showcasing the agility to swiftly transition production lines to new products with a simple button push could significantly enhance the company's competitive stance. These are merely a few examples of the benefits that a cloud-based MES can bring.
Ultimately, the decision to implement cloud-based MES has to be made by Operations—because solutions such as SAP Digital Manufacturing are all about addressing companies’ operational pain points. Cloud-based MES may involve IT, but adopting it isn’t an IT project.
Cloud-based MES is a key part of the auto sector’s digital transformation
The automotive sector is changing fast amid digital transformation and the rise of EVs—and automotive manufacturers all along the supply chain need to embrace digital production in order to stay competitive. Cloud-based MES solutions, like SAP Digital Manufacturing, can transform the way your company operates from the shop floor to the top floor, with better insights, better quality, better productivity, and the agility today’s automotive industry demands.