Grantek Showcases MES Best Practices

15-minute video  //

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Grantek MES Best Practices

Jesse Records: [00:10]
Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Sepasoft virtual event. This is the premier educator showcase. My name is Jesse Records. I’m one of the MES design engineers here at Sepasoft. I’m joined today by Nate from Grantek.

[0:24] Hi, Nate. Why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself?

Nate: [0:26]
Hi, I’m Nate. I’m an MES engineer at Grantek Systems Integration. I’ve been with the company for about four years now. I’ve worked specifically under MES for just over two years.

Jesse: [0:44]
Thanks, Nate. We’re going to roll onto some questions we have for you centered around how Grantek manages their projects, makes them successful for their customers, and helps them realize ROI from the MES projects built on Ignition. First question, what is your process for collecting your customer requirements?

Nate: [1:06]
It depends based on the customer and where they are already in their process as we work with a fair amount of customers. There are different stages of the process.

[1:18] If we’re starting at the very beginning stages of the process, we’d start normally with an on-site discovery where we meet with the stakeholders, who’s going to be using it, operators, line leads, managers, and so on.

[1:36] We’ll define what they’re looking to get out of it, what’s their business goals, maybe certain problems they had with the system, what maybe operators are doing wrong, and what they would like to improve on in their system. We’d also maybe look at their PLC and HMI and maybe get a feel for where they are and also get a feel for what their process is like in manufacturing.

[2:03] After we do our on-site discovery, we move into a URS phase where we work with them to develop user requirements that encompass all their business goals and what they’re trying to get out of the system.

[2:21] Once we develop that URS with them, we’ll move into the next phase, which we call vendor analysis where we’ll try to figure out what software and tools will best give them the system that they need, such as Ignition and Sepasoft. Once they have a vendor selected, we move forward with an FRS, which is defining all the functions required in order to satisfy all the requirements in the URS.

[2:55] Once we have the FRS finalized, we then move into the final phase of design and implement a pilot where we’ll have the customer select one, two, three lines at their site of varying systems or processes if they have different processes at the site. We’ll develop a pilot system for those two or three lines. We will design the system with them and then implement that for the couple of lines.

[3:28] We let that system run for X amount of time, two, four, six weeks, and let it mature. Once it’s at a mature state and maybe any kinks are worked out, we go into a roll-out phase where we’ll roll out the system to all remaining lines at the site.

Jesse: [3:49]
That’s excellent. It sounds like there’s a lot of moving parts there to implementing that MES project.

Nate: [3:59]
More than that.

Jesse: [4:03]
Absolutely. It’s interesting. You folks take a requirements-centric approach. You’re not going to just say, “Here’s the tools we have. Make it work in your plant.” You take all the requirements, whether they’re from the user interface all the way to down on the plant floor. Then taking those and finding the right solution to fit in there.

Nate: [4:32]
When we’re working with the customer for user requirements, a lot of times custom needs come up such as the user being able to have multiple users log into a single client and tracking labor hours. A lot of times, that plays a big role into what vendor we choose.

[4:57] Ignition and Sepasoft are very flexible with where we can implement their MES but also have very custom solutions built around it but still using their platform as the base. Generally, if the customer requires very custom and niche solution, Ignition and Sepasoft are very vital solutions for their needs.

Jesse: [5:25]
As we’re talking about having successful projects, the development side of that has a big part to play. Also, the customer has the big part to play in if that project is successful. What attributes of a customer help influence a successful MES project?

Nate: [5:46]
There’s a few. One of the biggest ones for me or for Grantek is customer involvement. That ranges from senior leadership all the way down to the operator and having a senior leader who sees the return on investment and is willing to put in the effort to give us the information we need.

Jesse: [6:20]
Getting that internal champion is a big deal. How does Grantek increase that engagement and get the buy-in from the customer?

Nate: [6:33]
Some things we like to do is have weekly or semi-weekly meetings with the customer where we’re going over maybe any questions we might have, demoing a certain piece of the system, making sure that it’s what they’re expecting so they’re constantly in the loop.

[6:56] Another aspect from a customer that builds success is having experts on their end that can…If we’re doing something with ERP, if they have an expert in ERP, it helps us greatly with defining what data they’re going to pass us and how they’re going to pass us the data, and what the data’s going to look like.

[7:22] It helps tremendously, as well as having experts in their process, as well as knowing their PLCs very well is a very big plus, and things of that nature. If they have experts at all levels as well, it’s a huge help for us so we can better integrate the system with them.

Jesse: [7:49]
It sounds like getting the right people involved at the right time is critical for that project. That’s on the positive side. What customer attributes make things difficult for that implementation?

Nate: [8:07]
Customers that are unsure of where they are or what they want can pose a challenge. Some of these systems can get pretty big pretty fast. It might get confusing for a customer where they may not know what they want or need yet because they don’t have anything in front of them. If a OEE is very new to them, they might not know how they want to define everything.

[8:40] Another challenge would be if the environment that we’re integrating with is constantly changing, that can pose challenges as well. It is something we’ve done before where a customer was updating their SAP system while we were integrating the MES system. We were able to do it successfully.

[9:07] No matter what the challenge is, Grantek is able to work with the customer in order to still provide a good, solid MES system.

Jesse: [9:19]
It sounds like, back to the original, getting the right folks in the right place at the right time can help mitigate those issues early in the project.

Nate: [9:32]
Some other mistakes that a customer might make is not realizing that an MES system is not a hardware installation. It’s not something that Grantek will come and install in one swoop and leave. It is something that we can iteratively update.

[9:57] It’s better to start small, and get a nice base MES foundation set up, and then build off of it, and add in custom solution. Better yet, if we have a very simple base solution implemented, it gives the customer a better picture and a better idea of what they want.

[10:22] Instead of trying to define a huge system with a ton of requirements and a ton of moving parts, it’s much simpler and easy to maintain if we start small and build off of it. That’s the beauty of an MES software solution is that it’s not a one-and-done. You can build off of it. If the foundation is strong and solid, it’s much easier to build off of and it’s much easier to maintain.

[10:57] You might come in, you add just OEE, very, very basic OEE where you’re just setting modes. You get basic states from the line. You get counts. You get that going. You get your operators used to that new process flow. Off of that, maybe you add on SPC. You integrate that with the OEE piece you already have.

[11:24] Now that you’ve been running OEE and SPC for a bit of time, it’s much easier for the customer now to say, “We really want to see these modes, these states because we want to see the data in this way and break it down this way.” It’s much easier to go in and add these new modes, add these new states. The system’s already in place.

[11:48] We’re essentially configuring it. Off of that, you can continue to build more and more stuff like a custom solution like tracking labor hours. You can also add recipes. You can add in ERP integration where ERP comes down and schedules all production orders.

[12:09] You’re reporting all your counts back up to SAP. Then you move into next phase and next phase. You break it up into chunks, so you get little by little. It’s a lot easier to also track the requirements for each little piece.

Jesse: [12:28]
It sounds like Grantek’s purchase starting small, helping to realize the value quickly, and then incrementally scaling up from there, adding more value over time.

Nate: [12:40]
Different stakeholders that the customers tend to get involved, when they see the system implemented, they want to add data points that they think would be useful as well. As a system grows and grows, more and more people at the end user side will start using it and start seeing its value. They’ll start putting in their two cents.

Jesse: [13:06]
That gets back to that customer buy-in. Maybe you didn’t have all the stakeholders at the table but now they see the value and benefit and they grows and matures from there. That’s great.

Nate: [13:24]
Once we implement that final system, one way to help show return on investment is looping back to our discovery phase and showing maybe what requirements we met, what old practices we helped eliminate. If everything was tracked on paper and it’s no longer done that way. I see a lot of times operators are double recording in their ERP system and some other maybe paper and pencil OEE system.

[14:03] Now, in their new system, their ERP and MES OEE is all integrated into one. The operator might not even have to keep track of counts anymore if their PLC is reporting the counts. Now, the operator doesn’t have to do that anymore. Things like that are big helps in helping the customer seeing a return on investment as well as the large amount of data that they easily have access to now.

Jesse: [14:33]
Excellent. Nate, thanks for giving me an inside look into Grantek’s process there from collecting requirements to developing and deploying the project, your best practices, what customers can do to help you and help themselves realize a successful project, as well as showing some of the ROI you guys are bringing to the MES project.

Nate: [15:01]
Thanks for having me. I enjoyed talking about Sepasoft and Ignition. Thank you for the opportunity.

Jesse: [15:13]
Thanks, Nate.

In a recent Sepasoft virtual event, Jesse Records, an MES Design Engineer at Sepasoft, sat down with Nate Spangler from Grantek Systems Integration for an insightful discussion on MES implementation.

About Nate Spangler

Nate is an MES engineer at Grantek Systems Integration who has spent two out of his four years at the company working specifically on MES.

Grantek’s MES Implementation Process

    • Requirement Collection: Depending on the customer’s process stage, Grantek usually begins with an on-site discovery to understand stakeholder needs, goals, and challenges, and to familiarize themselves with the client’s current systems.
    • URS Development: Post discovery, they proceed to the URS (User Requirements Specification) phase to capture the client’s business goals in detail.
    • Vendor Analysis: Grantek ascertains the best software and tools for the project, often leveraging platforms like Ignition and Sepasoft.
    • FRS and Pilot Implementation: With the URS in place, the Functional Requirement Specifications (FRS) are developed. Then, design and pilot implementation are carried out on select production lines.
    • Roll-out: After the pilot has been tested and matured, a complete system rollout takes place across all the client’s production lines.

“Since implementing Sepasoft’s products we’ve been able to…not only reduce downtime across all of our automation equipment and manual lines, we’ve also been able to drastically reduce the scrap across the organization and prevent a lot of unecessary overtime, and we’ve also been able better to quarantine our products that are non-conforming.”
―Scott Corbett, Manufacturing Systems Manager


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Factors for Successful MES Projects

Jesse and Nate also explored critical elements for successful MES projects:

  • Customer Involvement: Commitment from senior leadership to operators plays a significant role.
  • Frequent Interaction: Grantek’s practice of weekly or bi-weekly meetings ensures clients are continuously looped in.
  • Expertise: A smooth integration process requires experts on both ends, whether it’s about defining data transfer methods or having in-depth knowledge about PLCs.

Challenges in Implementation

Nate discussed potential obstacles, such as clients being uncertain about their requirements or environments that are in flux. He emphasized Grantek’s adaptability and commitment to delivering a solid MES system, regardless of challenges.

The Value of Starting Small

Grantek’s approach is iterative. By starting with a basic solution and progressively enhancing it, clients get a clearer picture of their needs. This methodology offers flexibility, easy maintenance, and allows stakeholders to see and contribute to the system’s value.

The ROI of MES Projects

Nate also addressed the tangible return on investment clients can expect. From eliminating old, inefficient practices — from double recording to having access to a wealth of data — the value of a well-integrated MES system is apparent.

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