Manufacturing was one of the first industries to grasp the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT). The ability to wirelessly connect and manage multiple factories and machines provides almost infinite opportunities for cost-savings and efficiency. Global EMS provider Sanmina Corp., which has linked more the 25,000 pieces of manufacturing equipment, is beginning to quantify those benefits.
Sanmina has implemented a cloud-based manufacturing execution system (MES) solution from 42Q. The product’s roots are in Sanmina’s own 20-year development of an on-premise MES. “Sanmina developed and used an advanced on-premise MES for many years, but this system had high hardware and maintenance costs,” said Srivats Ramaswami, CTO, 42Q. “They needed a solution to connect all of their facilities and equipment for management and control in real time.” Five years ago, Sanmina recognized the potential of a cloud-based MES and subsequently formed the 42Q business unit.
42Q has been deployed across 50 factories in 15 countries and acts as the backbone for Sanmina’s “instant IoT” and manufacturing automation initiatives. The solution sits between an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and the manufacturing equipment in a factory and creates a virtual representation, or “digital twin” of operations. “Sanmina now has real-time factory and supply chain visibility, providing executives with the data they need to make smart decisions,” said Ramaswami.
For example, in hundreds of production lines around the world, work in process, production rates and yields are monitored by 42Q in real-time. Real-time text alerts are sent to production staff automatically when key business indicators fall below a programmed threshold. For some production lines, raw material levels are continuously monitored by 42Q, and guided vehicles deliver components from automated warehouses to replenish workstations. Alerts are automatically sent to production staff to be at that workstation when the guided vehicle arrives. Quality personnel can trust production lines that use forced routings and components that are scanned and verified. 42Q also verifies the electronic training records for production staff when they badge scan or log into their workstation.
Additionally, there were unanticipated benefits:
- Plants self-deployed MES with no support from IT or 42Q
- Because of this, 42Q was rapidly adopted and its use expanded rapidly
- Manufacturing engineering management got an easy-to-deploy “backbone” for “instant IoT” and automation initiatives
But even as industrial IoT (IIoT) begins to take hold, many manufacturers question whether initiatives are real, gaining traction or are just hype. Sanmina’s deployment is proof that the combination of the cloud, IoT and 42Q significantly improve global supply chain visibility, real time production control and operating efficiency, according to Gelston Howell, senior vice president of marketing, for $6.4 billion Sanmina.
Moreover, 42Q doesn’t require a massive capital expenditure. As a global EMS provider, Sanmina connects with hundreds of customers and suppliers. 42Q is scalable, easy to implement and available on a subscription basis, Howell said. Businesses frequently question the value or return on investment (ROI) of MES, IoT and the cloud, and whether these technologies are embraced and advanced by leading companies. 42Q has six customers in addition to Sanmina, including one in the Fortune 100.
“In highly regulated industries,” Howell added, “ROI is important, but manufacturers also know they need MES because at some point the FDA or other agency will audit them and ask for data about their quality framework, records and compliance. It’s true that ROI is measured in dollars and cents but there’s also real value in global supply chain visibility, real time production control and visibility of key metrics.”
Manufacturers may have to make a case for the $150 billion Global Market Insights expects they’ll spend on IIoT by 2024. Spending will also increase on IoT-related security. That market is expected to grow from $7.90 billion in 2016 to $36.95 billion by 2021, according to RNR Market Research. The key trends contributing to this market are the growing virtualization of servers and increased usage of connected devices, resulting in the rise of security breaches targeting enterprise networks.
EMS companies have been dealing with data privacy and network security for decades, Howell points out, since they sometimes provide services for competing customers. Although 42Q automatically captures data from supply chains and manufacturing lines, information isn’t visible to users without permissions and security protocols approved and in place. “The idea is not to share every data point about yields and WIP, but instead make relevant and actionable data visible to the right people,” Howell said.
Implementations like Sanmina’s undoubtedly will advance IIoT in the market. “Leveraging 42Q’s cloud-based MES platform to connect automated production lines, supply chain systems, and the plant floor has led to dramatic improvements in our business operations,” said Manesh Patel, CIO, Sanmina, in a statement. SoftBank’s $31.4 billion acquisition of ARM is also an endorsement of the technology. In announcing the buy, Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO of SoftBank said “ARM will be an excellent strategic fit within the SoftBank group as we invest to capture the very significant opportunities provided by the Internet of Things.”