ERP and Industry 4.0

ERP and Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is the fourth industrial revolution, an epochal change based on the technological innovation involving the production systems and the dialog between companies, chains and the market.

All production processes are interconnected and controlled, thanks to the use of new digital technologies, low-cost sensors and wireless connections that also interface them with company management software.

Using second generation ERP software (ERP2), all the management processes, including those of an administrative, logistic and commercial nature, are integrated in real time with the entire production and distribution chain, and therefore with the market, the dealership, the external technicians and the entire supply chain.

Revolution or evolution?

Today, just how competitive a company is depends on the speed at which it executes its processes, and on the flexibility of its sales and production operations. Indeed, there has never before been such a need for organizational models and IT systems that help to streamline the procedures and optimize all the flows, both within and outside the company.

The process that transforms the company into a “smart factory” must therefore begin as soon as possible, but it can also take place gradually and progressively. This is a very important aspect for countries in which the industrial fabric is composed mostly of small and medium-sized businesses, and in which investments must also create short-term results and successes.

The management of the Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS), and the perfect integration of the ERP with MES, FCS, MRP and WMS, is a prime practical example of how all companies can embark on and gradually follow the pathway that leads to Industry 4.0.

The ERP ready-made for Industry 4.0

For years, Centro Software has been committed to providing its customers with an ERP that is the company’s IT backbone, capable of managing and controlling all corporate processes.

Centro Software is perfectly aligned with the principles of LEAN Manufacturing, which provide maximum process integration and progressively eliminate all activities that cause waste and delays. It has also gradually introduced into its own SAM-ERP2 all the functions traditionally managed by departmental software, spreadsheets, or even paper calculations, which interrupt the flows and do not ensure that all the information is shared.

This philosophy has enabled Centro Software to advance progressive process digitalization and show that Industry 4.0 can be achieved easily and gradually, simply by applying the new technologies in a ready-made environment.

Indeed, Centro Software was one of the first players to also integrate several technological functions and devices that enable the user to build direct dialog with the production systems into its own ERP.

A fully integrated second generation ERP software ready to be linked to production systems is not only the IT backbone required to digitalize the company, but also instantly improves its efficiency and productivity, allowing greater control over all the company functions and the possibility of executing them more quickly.

There are no discontinuities in the flow of materials and information

In the Centro Software multilingual ERP, all processes are perfectly integrated because system development was based on a single design, with a single optimized database structure and one functional engine, which was already compatible with continuous technological evolution.

The Black Box C4 board

The Black-Box C4 board was designed and developed by Centro Software and is one of the tools that allows industrial production systems to dialog in real time with the company management software, SAM ERP2

The device is software programmable and connects directly to the MES module (Manufacturing Execution System) to monitor production in real time. It monitors and manages electrical signals from the various industrial systems: piece counters, measuring equipment, sensors, etc.

The Black Box C4 board also enables a very large amount of information to be collected in real time via the ERP. This data is not only used for operational production management, but with “big data” development methods, it will also provide analytical keys for integrating predictive maintenance techniques and further process optimization.

Using the Black Box board, the SAM ERP2 system can interact with information directly from the systems to carry out predetermined functions and activate other devices, also through the board.

For example, using the board, the system can turn on tower lights located on the machine, the colors of which identify the machine/cell status (alarm, working, pause, maintenance, testing,…).

Alternatively, it can simply control a lamp activated by the Quality module sampling plan to notify the operator when to take measurements.

Computerized maintenance management system (CMMS)

Using the “Black Box C4” board, the CMMS can create conditions suitable for establishing direct rearl-time dialog between the ERP system and the production systems, so it can be a first step towards Industry 4.0.

The CMMS software (Computerized Maintenance Management System) manages system and equipment maintenance, proposing the required servicing, replacement and repair work before any malfunctions occur.

In this way, it is possible to plan plant maintenance downtime in advance and schedule it for the most appropriate time, thereby optimizing plant and resource use in full compliance with the WCM (World Class Manufacturing) directives.

Therefore, CMMS methodology for system maintenance ensures production process quality and continuity, allowing specifications and delivery times to be met.

Preventative maintenance can be managed on 2 levels, depending on the specific requirements and characteristics of each company and the data it has:

  • Cyclic Maintenance: regular maintenance scheduled according to a time-based plan established according to the technical indications provided by the system manufacturers and/or based on operating cycles (times, services or other limit values, both analog and digital).
  • Predictive Maintenance: maintenance carried out with the aid of real time measurement of one or more parameters (continuous analyses of lubricants, thermography, ultrasound, absorbed currents, vibration measurements, etc.) and mathematical models that analyze variations with respect to normal working curves, to predict an increase in degradation and the likelihood of failure.

The CMMS can operate with both models and shows the importance of integrating all the processes in the ERP software and is one of the first steps towards fulfilling the objectives of Industry 4.0.

The benefits of building the CMMS into the ERP.

For each process, the Centro Software CMMS module records the operating times of each production unit (system or production line) declared with the MES (manufacturing Execution System) or included in the standard cycle for each single Production Order (PO), and compares these with the time between two maintenance activities performed on the system. When the indicators signal that a maintenance job is due, it can turn on lights or automatically send “warning” signals to the maintenance technician (by text or email, or by entering the maintenance job in the person’s “To Do” list).

The “Black Box C4” board is the electronic device that measures the times and the number of pieces processed for each phase. In this way, it can monitor production order progress (MES monitoring) and simultaneously provide the CMMS with the data needed to perform a countdown to each maintenance job.

When the set limits are exceeded, the CMMS system proposes or issues a Maintenance Order (MO), thereby involving the Planning and Production modules.

The MO contains a basic maintenance sheet with all the information required by the maintenance technician to get the spare parts and carry out the work (e.g. description, spare part number and code, lubricant type and quantity, piece dimensions, estimated time needed for the work, technical specifications, notes, images and drawings in pdf and jpg files or links to websites or web pages), as well as a declaration issued by the person who carried out the maintenance.

Entering the MOs automatically into the MRP 1 planning process ensures correct procurement and the relative management of spare parts warehouses and consumables required for the maintenance.

The MOs can then flow into the scheduling plan (FCS) together with the normal production orders, since they use the same resources and availability (production lines and/or equipment under maintenance). Therefore not only is it possible to view the calendar of the maintenance interventions in a specific report, but also within the same Gantt chart, with the possibility of editing it using the interactive drag & drop function. Maintenance technicians will see the MOs for which they are responsible in their TODOLIST and can begin the maintenance activity and consult the documentation and photos or images available on line directly from their smartphones or tablets.

The work schedule is then sent and checked using the MES, which verifies that the MO for each system (production unit) has been executed.

The quality control system can also be linked to all of the maintenance activities. Indeed, the maintenance activities must also be performed in line with pre-defined, measurable, quality criteria.

Integrating the system fully into the ERP also enables it to be linked to the Management Control module, ensuring that the maintenance is correctly charged, also according to type (ordinary, extraordinary, …), with a detailed account of the materials and in-house and external labor employed.