How to plan for a successful POC

Companies involved in a proof-of-concept (POC) project or phased adoption approach typically begin by connecting a single system to the network and enrolling it into a manufacturing operations management system. The success of such a project relies heavily on following the right steps for deploying and commissioning the machine, along with establishing a clear framework of objectives.

Regarding large-scale information systems, network topology plays a crucial role. It encompasses layers 0, 1, and 2, determining the system’s performance, security measures, error detection capabilities, and resource utilization. To ensure an effective topology, it is important to assess and create it carefully, considering factors like performance, security, maintenance, scalability, and management.

Choosing the right machine asset(s) for a POC or phased plan requires clearly understanding the desired outcomes. The objectives may include automatically capturing operational events, and specific process data, enabling operator interaction based on operations, and even auto-creation of jobs, error reason code identification, and operator response lookup. It’s also important to consider machine-specific capabilities, such as multi-spindle functionality, pallets, tombstones, multi-part count, high-speed part count, and its position in the value stream. Is it a finishing machine determining the throughput for a group of operations? Or is it a constraint machine that collects data to assist in resolving constraints and adopting a continuous improvement methodology?

Selecting the appropriate information system for manufacturing operations involves evaluating various options. From legacy systems like SCADA and process mapping to MES, batch-run systems, and emerging operations and monitoring systems, stakeholders must prioritize their desired functions and features. The challenge lies in identifying deliverables and quantifying unexpected aspects, especially with numerous products making similar claims. Factors to consider include the system’s services, distribution capabilities, scalability, expandability, productization, breadth of intellectual property (IP) across manufacturing, IT, system integration, engineering, vendor stability, and longevity.

An essential aspect of successful adoption is the collection methodology. A system that preprocesses events by normalizing and storing them as events into a single source type proves highly efficient, reducing the need for extensive post-processing. On the other hand, systems that collect raw data events as states often face efficiency and performance issues due to analytics and metrics calculations being performed after collection.

The chosen data storage methodology determines the flexibility of the information system. Storing events as sourcing pattern events enables answering both the “what happened” and “why” questions, tracking jobs through operations, recording multiple events over time, and benefiting from an event sourcing patterns approach. Additionally, calculating metrics globally rather than individually for each object in the system reduces complexity and ensures congruent results.

Job management is a critical feature that should be supported by the system, allowing for sales orders, work orders, part numbers, product standards, and operation steps processes. These elements provide granular job-specific information, metrics, and operational states. A structured product management feature should be considered for effective job tracking.

Adaptability is another crucial aspect of a manufacturing information system, enabling the expansion of event categorization and the addition of operational and process states as needed. This flexibility is essential for continuous improvement efforts and tracking new constraint sources or non-conformity reasons.

Once the topology is established, machines are selected, and the information system is chosen, it’s time to plan and execute the roadmap for the POC or phased plan. The roadmap should consist of specific, measurable, and qualifiable objectives that can be successfully applied to the rest of the plant. Internal champions should be selected to allocate necessary production, engineering, and IT resources. Finally, a kickoff meeting with the vendor should be arranged to assess their action plan and determine the distribution of responsibilities.