The smart factory trend is picking up speed. The automotive sector is a clear forerunner in this area, according to the "IT Innovation Readiness Index 2013"1 from analysts PAC. As early as 2013, this study states that 80 percent of the surveyed automotive suppliers were using intelligent production systems as a basis for Industry 4.0, which is more than twice as many as in mechanical and plant engineering. Asseco Solutions, the ERP specialist for mid-sized companies, will be presenting its new solution for the smart factory exclusively for CeBIT 2015 from March 16 - 20 in Hanover. It will enable the utilization of more efficient and productive processes in complex application scenarios for automotive suppliers in particular, but for general use as well. An integrated MES system and extensive parametrization options are highlights amongst the new functions of APplus. With this solution, Asseco Solutions is also laying the foundation for the exchange of machine data in the cloud - respective customer scenarios are already being tested at the moment. The new solution can be seen at Asseco Solutions' CeBIT stand in Hall 5, no. F16.
"For nearly two years, together with the Institute for Industrial Management at the RWTH Aachen University or the Industry 4.0 Application Center at the University of Potsdam, among others, we have been researching the interplay of the various levels of smart factories from machine control in the production hall, via detailed production planning up to strategic company management through business intelligence. We integrate the results of this research work directly into our product development and new releases. We are not only talking about Industry 4.0 and the digital factory of the future, but we are also delivering solutions today with which this vision is made reality. Our new APplus version is a milestone on the road to the smart factory."
Due to its complex production processes, which have to be coordinated not only in terms of time, as well as the variety of necessary components, there is a high potential for productivity in automobile manufacturing that can be realized through the use of automated production methods with regard to Industry 4.0. An important technical foundation for this is the connection of production and machine data with the planning and analysis functions of an ERP system. With the new APplus solution, this is integrated in the standard product in the form of a manufacturing execution system (MES) from Asseco partner N+P Informationssysteme. The MES module directly connects all machines to the ERP system, whereby current machine information can be provided in the system at any time and corresponding time and quantity bookings can be generated automatically.
In the so-called "MES Master Cockpit", the user gets a clear graphic presentation of all MES machines and workstations and can view the current status and information on the current operation as well as the pending worklist of the individual machines at any time. All recorded data is collected and condensed in the system and is available for evaluations and further analysis at any time. Ultimately, the processing engineering core of the solution is the "MDE terminal", in which all production control channels converge. Machine events such as quantity, status reports or faults are automatically recorded and processed here. Even the beginning and end of an operation or a staff change can be posted easily and conveniently. The system also analyzes all created quantities and classifies them automatically as "Good", "Scrap" or "Rework". Among others, the system supports expansion with RFID or bar code scanners for easy data collection.
Information is the lifeblood of the smart factory
An extensive collection of data creates the basis for automated processes. Because only if materials, products and processes are recorded with as many parameters as possible can they be automated by machines and processed efficiently, which is a central requirement for smart factories particularly in the automotive sector due to the variety of required components and the complexity of production steps. For this reason, the new APplus version contains several comprehensive functions for parameter recording and management. Different recording rules can be defined when creating a parameter in the system. For example, it is possible to configure that, when receiving a steel plate for further processing, the responsible employee is requested in a dialog window to measure and enter the corresponding material thickness, which is tested for compliance with previously defined target values if necessary. Not until the data record is complete is the system enabled for further automated processing.
Expert users are more in demand than ever
A higher degree of automation means more added value of employees, which is a decisive competitive edge for companies and specialists as well. Instead of operating only one machine, in the future it will be possible for one expert user to oversee, manage and operate entire groups of machines. The new APplus version with its functions for multiple-machine operation satisfies this changing profile of requirements: In the personnel master data, it offers the possibility to referring to employees as "multiple-machine operators" and thereby supports not only the representation of a single person, but also several people which operate a single group of machines. Every posting of an operation therefore now results in two separate cost rates: the machine running time and the staff working time. This makes it possible to calculate and evaluate the two items separately. In cases in which machines can run completely without human assistance, the pure machine costs can also be recorded by creating a virtual machine employee.
Pilot projects use machine data in the cloud
Asseco Solutions is already laying the foundation for future developments with its new solutions for the smart factory, such as the exchange of machine data in the cloud. This makes is possible to not only exchange machine data during the production process, but also to send information back to the manufacturer when using the finished product at the customer's site - the next step to a completely networked factory. Respective customer scenarios with APplus are currently being tested in actual use: The delivered machines send data about their status as well as usage and maintenance information to the cloud server from their operation site. Asseco manages this process to ensure reliability and security. Both the customer and manufacturer profit from the data collected, as does the responsible maintenance service provider. If a machine reports the failure or the pending end of the lifetime of a component, this information is automatically forwarded to the maintenance technician so that he/she can plan and execute service including necessary spare parts and tools, and in the event of a warning message, take action before the machine actually fails. The manufacturer can also analyze the data for particularly vulnerable parts, thereby improving future models. The customer himself receives extensive operating data as well as statistics on material use from his machine and is therefore capable of determining potential for optimization and reordering necessary materials in a timely manner, either manually or automatically.
Extensive innovations for comfortable use and efficient processes
The innovations of APplus 6.2 include:
- Convenient versioning of master data
A new version of master data - e.g. items, BOMs or work plans - can be generated by simply copying the connected data records, whereupon both versions, old and new, can be edited and used in parallel. Furthermore, every item can be assigned a workflow status and a version type (such as "pre-series", "series", etc.). This makes it possible for users in the automotive sector, among others, to manage various vehicle models in a simple and user-friendly manner and reliably fulfill their different requirements.
- ePOS smart – graphic product configurator for APplus
The new APplus version extends the solution to include the ePOS smart product configurator from Asseco partner ACBIS. This makes it possible to completely generate and maintain a configurator and its sets of rules in a graphic user interface. No programming knowledge or specific symbolic languages are necessary to do this. The integration with APplus ensures that all configuration options which correspond with the master data in APplus are available in ePOS. Finally, APplus interprets the configuration results and adapts order and sales BOMs and work orders.
- New SharePoint WebGrid - a personal dashboard for any user
With the new SharePoint WebGrid, users always have an overview of all information relevant to them. The new WebGrid is compatible with SharePoint 2013 and enables users to create individual grids in which they can have any data displayed, such as all currently pending orders. The data is refreshed in freely-definable intervals without having to reload the complete page. Depending on the values displayed, individual rows can marked in certain colors; for instance, critical values can be highlighted in red, making them detectable at first glance.
- Automatically determining optimal customs treatment
A preference calculation can determine whether an order item can obtain preferential customs treatment when being delivered to a certain country. Depending on the countries involved, different criteria apply. The new APplus version 6.2 offers users an interface to the ZWF preference calculation, whereby a possible customs preference based on the master data saved in the ERP system such as order bills of material, delivery country, customs tariff, etc. can be determined. The result can be used automatically in text blocks for invoices and delivery notes. With the preference calculation, incoming supplier long-term declarations for all relevant items can be conveniently managed. Supplier declarations for shipping can also be created in this way and managed and monitored in an audit-proof manner.
- Data warehouse – business intelligence without loss of performance
The new data warehouse enables users to execute complete analyses and reports without impairing the performance of the productive system. In addition, the data warehouse offers a separate database into which the APplus data can be transferred for analysis purposes and further processed there separately from the productive system. After successful modeling, the data can be prepared to answer concrete questions such as with the business intelligence solutions from Asseco partner aruba informatik.
- Ergonomic online help with full text search in entire infopool
The extended online help of version 6.2 supports users with optimized user-friendly functionality: It now opens in a separate browser window so that users can execute help measures in parallel with the APplus screen without having to interrupt the actual work process. In order to find information on a desired topic even quicker and easier, the system now features a full-text search which integrates both information from the actual online help tool and further references in the online infopool. In this way, questions based on a comprehensive pool of information can be answered quicker and more flexibly.
The smart factory you can touch at CeBIT 2015
In the vein of the "smart factory you can touch", the experts from Asseco Solutions will be presenting all innovations of version 6.2 live at Asseco stand F16, Hall 5 at this year's CeBIT in Hanover from March 16 to 20. The integrated solutions from nine Asseco partners will also be on exhibit there, which together with APplus cover the entire smart factory spectrum from a single source.
1Pierre Audoin Consultants (2013): „IT Innovation Readiness Index”, http://www.freudenberg-it.com/fileadmin/Data/IRI_Studie/IRI_2013/it-innovation-readiness-index-2013-studienreport.pdf