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Manufacturers Are Adopting MES To Increase Productivity


Leading semiconductor makers were among the first to use manufacturing execution systems (MES) to achieve Industry 4.0 efficiencies. Small and medium-sized companies are also considering this as a means to automate manual processes, eliminate disparate legacy systems and make data collection actionable. The MES experts at Critical Manufacturing describe how the process benefitted IC manufacturer Vishay Passives that expects to replicate its success at a US plant across many global locations

VISHAY is a leading global manufacturer of passive components and semiconductors. The company was seeing increasing demand in volume and diversity in its product line-up, so it made the decision to accelerate its move towards Industry 4.0. After deploying the Critical Manufacturing MES at a pilot site in Yankton, South Dakota (USA), Vishay is already seeing the benefits of its initial steps towards a smart manufacturing future.

The production of semiconductors (both actives and passives) involves the most complex manufacturing processes anywhere. The rising costs of bringing new chips to market, increasingly complex customer requirements and demands for higher quality, lower cost products are creating challenging times for the industry. Disconnected sites and siloed information make it difficult for companies to implement continuous process improvements, reach efficiency targets and maintain increasing demands for higher quality. Indeed, increasing the production of semiconductors of all types has become an international priority. Supply chain disruptions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and manufacturing inefficiencies all point to a tremendous need to rethink how these vital devices are made.

Vishay manufactures one of the world's largest portfolios of discrete semiconductors and passive electronic components. While this portfolio breadth delivers benefits to its customers, it also brings enormous diversity and complexity in the manufacturing IT landscape, production processes, and ways of working.

Vishay Passives has over 30 plants located throughout the world with more than 50 legacy manufacturing systems. Alongside the need to reduce the incredible IT support overhead needed to maintain these systems, Vishay's decision to standardize and harmonize information systems across these sites was based on its need to increase automation and intelligence, reduce costs, handle increasingly complex products and processes, increase production efficiency, and enhance the company's business agility to respond to changing customer demands.

The primary requirements Vishay had while selecting the vendor for its new MES included suitability for complex electronics / discrete manufacturing, ease of multi-site installation, scalability, ease of use, flexibility, and configurability without the need for IT support for day-to-day changes over the long term.

Following an in-depth selection process which began at the start of 2017, the first of the new MES systems at Yankton is now fully operational and being hailed a huge success.

About Vishay Yankton
Yankton is one of Vishay's mid-size plants, employing around 300 people. It has four distinct product lines and processing styles covering standard inductors, medical inductors, custom magnetics, and connectors; it also produces its own powders for standard product housings. Its shop floor needs to handle a remarkable diversity of products ranging from new innovations to the support of products with a 50-year history.

The site at Yankton had a ‘home-grown' legacy system and its plan to roll out Critical Manufacturing's MES involved a gradual replacement of this system's functionality with a new digital backbone provided by the Industry 4.0-ready MES. One key factor that made the conversion process more challenging than most instances was a requirement that system deployment could not stop production for more than a few days; the pilot system was installed with only a minor, temporary impact on productivity.

While completely replacing a complex manufacturing plant's entire core IT systems would no doubt have been a daunting prospect 10 or 15 years ago, Critical Manufacturing's CEO, Francisco Almada Lobo, said the rapid conversion with little to no down-time is feasible today for MES vendors that work extensively with complex infrastructure such as Critical Manufacturing.

“This is becoming more mainstream. Companies realize the need for more aggressive digital transformation programs, and the need to map physical and business processes as granularly as possible (creating digital twins) is essential to be able to monitor and control these processes, beyond using the data generated for traceability and for creating value-added insights. When corporations have multiple plants, then such a program reaches a completely different order of magnitude. It is necessary to account for the differences between the plants and to create templates that can be applied across the different plants - otherwise the transformation program could easily take decades to do,” said Lobo.

Adam Schilousky, Vishay's Senior Director, Global Operations, Inductors Division, Custom Products, said, “We never had an instance where we shut production down or could not get something resolved within a day.”

Using agile project management methodology, Critical Manufacturing supported the entire system set up at Yankton with 36, two-week agile sprints to completely implement the system across four distinct areas of production at the facility, each with their own processing style.

“Technology has evolved a lot and it's possible today to introduce automation and processes step by step to replace existing systems or introduce them where they don't exist yet. This doesn't require massive teams, and actually the key is to involve the persons being impacted by the introduction of the system. This is critical because although there's no impact from the perspective of bringing the factory down, there is impact in terms of processes. If a company operates in a manual mode using less optimized processes, just connecting them to a new software programme is a digitization (aka paper on glass), but that alone is not a digitalization or a digital transformation, which requires transforming the processes to become more efficient or to gather data to allow better business decisions,” Lobo observed.

From the ‘Stone Age' to the 21st century
Commenting about the immediate impact of the MES, Schilousky said, “It has created a profound change in our operations and a radically new way of working. It affects many areas in the value stream, including planning, purchasing, accounting, production, inventory control, quality, and engineering. The difference is so dramatic, it would have been difficult to calculate a true ROI.”

Vishay has already seen multiple benefits of the new MES. The system provides them with complete data transparency for divisional operations and an effective solution for raw material quality inspection, something that was not available before. Controllers and planners have visibility of all work in process (WIP) materials and products as well as the production status of each running order.
The new MES further reports consumption of person-hours back to the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system at each production step, providing detailed and accurate data for product costing management. Further, tracking and tracing the yield of each production step, as well as for the total line has many purposes, including improving customer satisfaction in highly regulated industries. Vishay reports that the automatic archiving of all data greatly streamlines audits; the smooth material flows from incoming quality checks to production release has eliminated job delays and plant stoppages completely.

The MES handles incoming material quality disposition and only releases an order when all material is available. This greatly increases overall equipment efficiency (OEE) and has eradicated the delays because of material shortages.

Advanced integration
Based on decentralized logic, the future-ready MES enables communication between intelligent machines and products. By connecting systems, materials, and products together, manufacturing efficiency is enhanced, and capability added to enable the rapid production of highly customized products. The MES provides the vertical integration needed to ensure corporate processes are enforced and the horizontal integration to provide complete visibility across production processes throughout multiple factories, wherever they are located.
Vishay's new MES not only integrates machines and processes, but it is also tightly integrated with Vishay's ERP platform and the time and attendance portion of the old legacy system. All material movement data is sent to the ERP, which owns the bill of materials (BOM).

Next steps
The successful deployment of the MES at the Yankton site has been followed by installations at two other Vishay Passive divisions in a new plant in China, where the system has been successfully installed; it has gone partially live and is in the final phase of roll out.

Dr. Thomas Amrein, VP Planning & Systems Passives, is responsible for the global MES implementation program at Vishay Passives; he said, “As a new greenfield site, the new plant in China is more highly automated. As a result, this will test the automation layer of the MES more completely. As we expand to all our plants around the world, we will see how quickly we can complete installations using the same template and with more and more standardized processes. In addition, we will increase the number of features we use in the MES, like machine maintenance or planning and scheduling.”

The modularity and configurability of the new MES means it is inherently flexible and adaptable to individual site requirements and changing business needs. It will provide Vishay with much more data, insight and analysis about its products and processes to support strategic decision making. Vishay expects to measure improvements once the system has been operational at Yankton and other sites for at least a year.

What makes a digital transformation successful as a useful investment for a manufacturer? This of course depends on individual goals and how the new hardware and software components work together to meet the customers' needs, according to Lobo. “A true digital transformation might include converting both software and hardware. From a purely equipment standpoint, it is important that it captures essential data, requiring different levels of sensorization, as well as the ability to provide such data to software solutions.

From the computer hardware standpoint, the evolution is going into a mix of edge solutions, running closer to the machines to ensure low latency and short feedback loops, and centralized data storage solutions, which could be public or private clouds, or even shared data centres. From a data standpoint, once central solutions are used, this data is much more easily mined and learned from, creating true value-added insights,” Lobo remarked.

With its new MES backbone, Vishay is on the path towards Industry 4.0. Ultimately, the new system will replace over 50 legacy systems and, as well as giving greater visibility and tighter process control, will free an enormous amount of IT resource to innovate and concentrate on value-add activity.

Only time will tell how quickly Vishay will realize its full ROI, but it is already seeing huge benefits. Indeed, the excitement about the potential of the new solution means its other sites around the world are vying for position as to which one will be next in the global rollout.

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