One isolated glitch in a manufacturing process could be the difference between life and death as pharmaceutical giants race against the clock to produce vaccines to fight COVID-19.
CGI is leading the way in consulting global manufacturers - from chemical plants to dairy companies to discrete manufacturers - on how to take the next step on the digital journey towards Industry 4.0 – a move which would also ease production problems. CGI’s IT and business consultants help enterprises harvest data to create agile, resilient supply chains which are responsive enough to identify and quickly correct operating issues.
Coen Huesmann, Vice President Manufacturing of CGI Nederland agrees the pandemic is putting a strain on companies and highlights the need for manufacturers to start moving away from a silo approach to an integrated end-to-end process.
“Many customers have manufacturing sites that have been operating since the 70s or 80s and it's about bringing these in line with Industry 4.0 - lifetime of data in a manufacturing company cannot be ignored,” said Huesmann.
“This month we heard that vaccines in the Netherlands are delayed because one of the big pharmaceutical companies had an issue in their factory. And now everybody wants to know, why did this problem occur? But it's not easy to get these answers as a factory operates in a big ecosystem. Aside from the fact that vaccines contain living organisms. You have a lot of different machines, and any of these machines can lead to an error. And all that information is sitting in silos and it is information without context,” he said.
Huesmann leads a team at CGI which helps manufacturing companies optimise operations and build agile supply chains using a strong methodology called Manufacturing Atlas, providing innovative solutions to address new market realities and meet customer needs.
Bridging the gap between OT and IT
“Harvesting information from all systems is key to providing all the answers that are necessary to run a factory and is vital in helping them achieve their end-goals and strategic vision,” points out Huesmann.
“Many older factories still have a lot of labour-intensive processes in place. We help our clients to identify their next steps and support them in their journey to automate processes from order to production to quality control to delivery. Taking in processes across the end-to-end value chain including logistics, quality control and production steps, while also maintaining the equipment in a factory. Together with our clients we increasingly focus on safety and sustainability.
“For these as well as for their efficiency and productivity goals, they need to make decisions based on facts. Manufacturers want to use their data to make better decisions. Factories are the biggest generator of data, and it is hard for manufacturers to make sense of it. First you must collect it and then context it so you can unlock its value.”
Huesmann explains more about the Automation Operational process and how CGI is bridging the gap between operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT).
“We have a strong methodology for helping our manufacturing clients on their journey of becoming more mature in their processes and automation in their factories,” he said.
“An example of this is one of our chemical customers where we have built a fully integrated plant. Orders coming in from their SAP system trigger production in the plants. Every production step is executed in an automated way up until the truck that is steered in its navigation system to the right silo to pick up the finished product and deliver it to customers.”
“For this client we have programmed the programmable logic controllers (PLC’s) on the shop floor that drive pumps and valves and vessels, right through their decision control systems in the control room and in the manufacturing execution systems (MES). We are able to track and trace, weigh and dispense, learn how to improve efficiency and more. At this moment we are working to connect this to the outside world by integrating the factory with logistics.”
“That is how many manufacturing operations can improve, but only process-by-process or machine-by-machine. We try to really understand where the value of this process is from an end customer's perspective. We can really save huge amounts of money for our customers, and improve the quality of the process at the same time. If you automate processes, you automatically improve the safety.”
Manufacturing Execution Systems
But how do you go about harvesting old data over multiple sites within well-established manufacturing operations dating back 50 years?
“Factories are being renewed at a completely different speed compared to IT systems. So, we are building platforms that can connect all the data sources in a factory to a platform regardless of age and technology. These then enable our customers to make well informed decisions,” explained Huesmann.
“Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and these data platforms combined are enabling our customers to not only harvest traditional information that was already connected, but also access and harvest information from pumps and vessels and all things in the factory that were previously never connected.”
“Then we add sensors to equipment, for example for heat exchange and to measure the vibrations or flow. So, factories are never just old technology. They're always a mix of old and new technology and they communicate in various ways. We make the connections to get data, but then we also bring context to the data.”
CGI regularly checks-in with customers on their digital experience and their MES experience via their MES survey. “This autumn, we will launch a new MES survey that will enable us to explore and present the latest trends,” said Huesmann.
Key partnerships on the journey to Industry 4.0
CGI’s partnership with SAS is an important one for both parties.
Huesmann said: “The MES systems are providing core information about factories to help our clients improve manufacturing processes. SAS is a platform for analytics that is uniquely positioned. They have a process of continuously harvesting data, analysing data and improving processes through our platform.”
“AI is an integral part of their platform. When implemented in the right way this is where the real data from manufacturing is harvested. The time to play around and proof concepts with AI is behind us. We see organisations are scaling AI and for that you need a strong platform partner like SAS. What we add as CGI is our technical knowledge and business knowledge to provide the right context and create value.”
CGI also partners with Hexagon, Aveva and Trendminer. “Hexagon is one of our partners in the automation of manual processes. For example for one of our manufacturing clients, we are jointly supporting the automation of the formulation of their products. With this solution our customer is able to bring new recipes to production in a standardised and automated way, making production and product change over safer and much more efficient.”
“With Aveva we have designed and built standardised MES platforms that support standardisation of processes across factories. AI is part of this platform for more mature plants to optimise quality, efficiency and safety.”
“Trendminer is indeed one of our key partners. Self-service analytics platforms like Trendminer are designed to combine data sources in a standardised way, once data is contextualised, they provide the insights to enable breakthrough improvements. Where SAS contain more advanced options for AI and deeper analysis, self-service tools like Trendminer are for more pragmatic use close to manufacturing.”
Cyber security in manufacturing protects the gold
It is vital manufacturers not only plan for Industry 4.0 but also keep data safe, as they make the digital transition. Data is gold, so how does data remain secure during this data harvest?
“This is arguably one of the biggest themes we are active in. With our MES and analytics propositions we help clients to unlock the data from manufacturing operations. These platforms are generally well secured according to the latest standards.”
“The vulnerability resides more in the OT environment. In modern factories, almost every new piece of equipment is nowadays connected but older devices are not always secured in line with the latest IT security standards.”
“Therefore, we try to ring-fence this kind of equipment. But protecting assets may never come at the expense of usage. We have OT security specialists that help our clients with hardening of equipment. We secure devices in different ways so we can dig the gold without exposing it to the external world,” said Huesmann.
What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
Industry 4.0 refers to the transformation in the way goods are produced and delivered – moving on from industrial automation and the flexible factory towards fully connected factories, based on the application of new technologies.
To have a competitive edge, manufacturers have recognised they must leverage digital technologies post-covid-19. New technologies are developed at an increasing speed; Enabling ways of working that were not possible before. Technologies also enable each other: self-service analytics, IOT, AI, cloud, mobile, quantum computing, 5G, combined with a strong vision and process will enable and enforce manufacturers to become more agile and more responsive.
As an example, a secure wireless connectivity in connection with affordable sensors enables it to retrieve data from manufacturing segments that were never measured before. Feeding back the information to PLC’s, empowers factory automation, making industrial automation possible on a much larger scale which will in turn increase productivity and performance.
With the computation power of the cloud, AI algorithms can analyse vast amounts of data and create learning from these data in an automated way. This learning can be used to optimise processes in factories in a way that was not possible up until several years ago.
Huge gains await industries that go digital - in manufacturing, it enables flexible production by allowing smart factories to rapidly changeover production lines to shorten lead times and quickly identify glitches.
To accelerate smart manufacturing, digital twins of machines and operations will be a necessity for safe simulation and intelligent optimisation, as will factory automation and real-time control of equipment and tasks.
Insights you can act on
In the year CGI marks its 45th anniversary, with new tagline, Insights you can act on, Huesmann gives his predictions for 2021.
What is your top insight for 2021?
“Interaction between people and meeting on the shop floor will come back but not 24/7. Manufacturing is still key with new manufacturing operations built in each region.”
What new technology do you think will have the most impact on manufacturing?
“I see the perfect storm for a range of new technologies to take off at this moment. This was confirmed last year just before the pandemic during a web summit attended by opinion makers, scientists, students, start-ups and politicians like Tony Blair and top CEOs and entrepreneurs. AI has been around for years but it is now being brought to a whole different level, enabled by other maturing technologies such as cloud and IOT. Quantum computing is not that big yet, but the amount of investment is huge and this will have an even greater effect on AI. We are about to see some very exciting things enabled by all of these technologies.”