Real-time supply chain management for industry 4.0

June 27, 2017 //By Gelston Howell
Real-time supply chain management for industry 4.0
Automation in factories is often the first thought people have when they consider Industry 4.0. While manufacturing automation can be the most visible aspect of Industry 4.0, it is also making a significant impact on inventory and supply chain management.

Supply chains for complex products are often global with components manufactured in different countries, sub-assemblies in others and finished products in yet another location. Delays and technical issues encountered at the component or sub-assembly level can impact the finished product quality and on-time delivery.

Risk in managing global supply chains can be reduced if you have real time visibility throughout the supply chain. WIP level visibility can indicate whether sub-assembly and product manufacturing have started on-time. Yield data is a good indicator of component and sub-assembly quality and whether there are any technical issues with the manufacturing process. Knowing this information in real-time has real value to operations and supply chain management. It prompts them to allocate resources to resolve issues as they occur, maintaining quality and on-time delivery performance. Here are some examples of how Industry 4.0 has been applied to provide visibility and control to complex, global supply chains.


Simplifying real-time global factory management

Industry 4.0 uses cloud technology, interoperability and machine-to-machine communication to automate manufacturing, quality control and supply chain management. Integration across the production floor using cloud Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and machine-to-cloud communication enhances supply chain visibility. This integration ties together each aspect of the manufacturing process, machines and shop floor data collection systems, which eliminates human error and provides real-time visibility into production lines and supply chain dynamics.

One example of this is Sanmina’s Operations Management System (SOMS), which converts data from the Manufacturing Execution System (MES) into a visual representation of the factory and production. These "virtual factory floors” can be accessed by supply chain managers and operations executives from anywhere in the world using a browser to see the status of component inventory, production problems and delivery schedules.

Large electronic manufacturing facilities may manufacture hundreds of different products using a dozen or more SMT (Surface Mount Technology) lines and many custom-designed system assembly lines. Each production line could have 10–15 different assembly and test stations generating pass/fail and parametric data. Data generated throughout the manufacturing and test process is collected in the cloud MES and is used to measure and manage yield, throughput, WIP ageing, labor efficiency and productivity. Managing and analyzing the volume of data collected is extremely complex.

The MES data is converted by SOMS into visual signals. The visualization provides real-time status at product, workstation, production floor, plant, regional and global levels. The system monitors yield, throughput, work-in-process (WIP) ageing, labor efficiency and productivity against predefined targets. In the event of an issue causing an interruption to production or yields falling below target, the system sends real-time alerts to technicians. If a problem is not solved within a defined time period, automatic text and email escalation messages are initiated. SOMS is currently deployed in over 50 factories worldwide at Sanmina. It enables more efficient and cost-effective management of complex manufacturing processes, with real-time data visibility anywhere in the world.

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