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January 26, 2016

Over the years, just like other business functions, manufacturing too has evolved. Its no longer a single entity function, but a collaborative ecosystem comprising suppliers, customers, partners, and other stakeholders. Its also an amalgamation of tightly integrated business layers – input and output (devices), control and automation, manufacturing execution and enterprise resource planning, which connect the plant floor with the enterprise.

This changing reality and evolving collaborative model highlights the need for the manufacturing intelligence coming from the manufacturing execution systems (MES). MES, combined with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), drives intelligence – through the seamless integration of shop floor operations with business systems and the supply chain. As discussed in my earlier blog, Assuring the Lifeline of the Assembly Line, intelligent decision making can only be as authentic as the accuracy of the data coming from the MES. Not surprisingly, assuring the MES is the critical foundation. We discussed assuring the lifeline of the assembly line by ensuring availability of the right production data, at the right time. But in manufacturing, the role of assurance goes far beyond mere data validation or verification. We need to facilitate successful implementation with end-to-end Business Process Testing (BPT).

Not Just Smart, But Also Safe and Sustainable

The BPT approach deploys dual harnesses and quality check points at every phase; functional tests to ensure the desired output as per specifications, and non-functional checks to reduce production risks emanating from security risks and poor performance. With easily configurable test packages comprising pre-defined business scenarios and data templates, the approach relies on reusability to deliver accelerated manufacturing cycles, agility, and reduced cost of manufacturing. Below are four quick guidelines for your next BPT project in manufacturing. These are also discussed in greater detail in this point of view paper.

  1. Standardized testing: An industry standard, accepted integration approach that spans business functions, this enables testing from a process perspective, rather than from individual, entity level silos
  2. Optimized test processes: Handpick best practices from similar engagements across industries, then apply deep techno-functional understanding to adapt them to your business situation
  3. Customizable template driven approach: While standardization may be the norm, the one size fits all approach cannot work, because every business is unique, and requires customized, right-fit strategies to succeed. Adopt a template-driven, customizable test suite, to assure varied business processes
  4. Automate and re-use: Adopt in-house automation tools and frameworks, and re-use testing and process assets to reduce manual effort and ensure faster speed to market

Manufacturing today has taken the next big leap – Smart Manufacturing, which is built atop a foundation of the right data, integrated with the right processes, to enable proactive and intelligent decision making in a dynamic environment. With an assured MES, there is strong integration between the plant floor and ERP, the historians and the ERP databases.

Governments across the world, through public-private partnerships, are investing in innovation driven smart manufacturing, to prepare their economies for global competition. The innovation-driven, interconnected shop floor is not just a production environment, but a smart ecosystem, where the sum of parts is greater than the parts individually. The QA-assured combination of automation, technology, information and intelligence, not just makes manufacturing smart, but also safe and sustainable. Its the key to improving business bottom-line, creating employment, fostering safe work culture, and ensuring workforce well-being. Why should your business be left behind?

Sasmita Swain is Consultant for Presales and Solutions with Assurance Services. She has contributed to Enterprise package implementation, roll-outs and MES implementations as well as solutioning and consulting assignments for end to end QA program implementations, next generation assurance and Digital assurance offerings creations. She has over four years of experience in IT and three years in the Manufacturing and Energy and Resources domain.


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