Automated software system consolidation can be beneficial, both in terms of reducing complexity and cost savings. Many companies, however, still have concerns about integrating their mission-critical systems and wonder if the benefits ultimately outweigh the risks. Systems integrators at EZSoft can help break this process down further and help determine where software convergence makes the most sense.
Technology convergence is increasing across every industrial sector. From consumer technology and the Internet of Things Devices to almost every category of manufacturing and distribution, the theme of convergence is everywhere. Our once basic mobile phones morphed into smartphones which have turned into high-powered computing and recording devices that you can build a website on or plan a transcontinental voyage.
The industrial sector follows this same path to convergence. Most notably, automation controllers were recently combined with logic controllers that support a much wider display of programmable functions from an industrial computing standpoint. Picking and packaging have similarly been enhanced through convergence after engineers found a way of connecting robotic devices with vision technologies to improve the accuracy and efficiency of production lines.
Combining automated technology in the manufacturing industry should accomplish a few key objectives. Foremost, the software or devices should realize expanded abilities above and beyond what they can achieve by themselves. In addition to this, any convergence initiate must reduce system operator reliance on the technology for valuable information. The idea is that managers and operators won’t have to cross-check multiple platforms and systems. In terms of labor and time, this is costly. The goal behind combining systems is to reduce complexity to increase efficiency.
On the administration front, the combination of Materials Requirement Planning (MRP) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) application is one good example of simplifying processes by expanding various scheduling and production planning tasks into a single cohesive tool. With that in mind, in recent months, technicians and engineers have been bolstering efforts to determine if the full integration of Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) software is a good idea or not.
Will SCADA and MES ever converge completely?
Despite so much conversation around combining Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA), two warehouse automation fundamentals, they are more likely to remain distinct programs than not. At this juncture, most analysts agree that the two will continue to co-exist closely over the next several years. Nevertheless, they don’t expect them to remerge onto a robust singular platform.
While both SCADA and MES interface with PLCs, SCADA is more orientated to the sub-second communications of these devices that attend to various sensors and control monitors of your warehouse floor, equipment, and process flows. MESs operate above SCADA, on the other hand, as more as managerial tools to support tasks like product tracking, quality control, production scheduling, and other critical operational procedures.
The two systems, in turn, are usually segregated because they are frequently deployed in distinctly different areas of the manufacturing facility. It should be no surprise, however, that many of these processes have begun to combine. SCADA is seeing more advanced enhancements to its machine learning and track and trace capabilities. Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) have likewise made several key advancements in real-time production facility monitoring as it expands with the advanced sensors upon which SCADA usually relies.
While the two platforms may not conflate as one comprehensive system anytime soon, they’re both expected to integrate more closely with each other in the coming years. The platforms will start to blur to appear as one cohesive system, even if, by technical definition, they are not. No matter how you approach it, this trend is likely to increase efficiency and improve the decision-making process at many plants around the globe.
With that in mind, whether or not the two should remain separate or converge is ultimately a moot point. The goal is not system integration but, rather, discovering the best path to reducing costs while increasing operational efficiency at the same time. This objective is much easier to achieve through a fundamentally cohesive user experience over what’s called a “single pane of glass,” as shown on a portable tablet.
The driving principle behind this concept is that operators and supervisors can find all the information they need about individual employees, equipment, and other metrics in one dashboard without having to navigate various silos of data across multiple screens.
SCADA and MES platforms blend but don’t converge
Data siloing is quickly becoming obsolete, so SCADA and MES providers have been actively seeking ways to integrate the two platforms, even if they can’t fully combine them at the moment. Some analysts mention, however, that MES and SCADA convergence is possible through Ignition server modules that utilize open industrial automated solutions like OPC UA and MQTT. This would effectively form a hub for a wide range of plant tasks and resources.
This strategy commands that MES modules must be plugged directly into Ignition as an add-on to enable a diversity of MES functions over the combined platform. In general, companies have been trying to get away from data silos because their solutions are pricey, proprietary, and restrict the ability to integrate.
Ultimately, what we’re seeing is a model that conflates along the single pane of glass concept while never fully converging. Again, the object is not necessarily finding complete software integration as much as it is organizing data on the same field for an improved user experience. Ideally, because operators aren’t required to navigate between different development environments, the margins for human error are lessened, and efficiency improves to help reduce costs.
For those seeking dependable industrial automation solutions while easing processes at their plants, unifying development environments, such as SCADA and MES, is a good way to approach these aims. Even if the two never fully cohere into a new single system, the ability to expand upon their existing features increases. Likewise, blending applications simplifies the user experience by eliminating data siloing.
Where can I find industrial automation companies near me?
Are you interested in learning more about how to integrate software programs at your industrial plant? EZSoft is a prominent full-service process control systems integrator in Pennsylvania.
Call (484) 568-5040 for a quick discovery call to learn more about how MES and SCADA solutions can benefit your manufacturing facility.