I found this article on Automation which may be of use to you so I decided to re-post it here
It can be difficult for a manufacturer to reap the benefits of automation that has been implemented in the production part of the company if there is no way to efficiently gather the information that is available from operations. One of the production automation integrators can help with this. How can the management of a company create more effective way to produce products if there is no timely information about rates, speeds, and volumes? Employ the skills of one of the effective production automation integrators. As the production process runs there should be immediate results about how well the current, new processes compare with those processes that existed before the automation was added to production. A company must carefully plan the implementation of automation by using one of the production automation integrators so that when the automation is operational it will yield statistics that can help to optimize the automation to its most productive level.
Management should identify in the planning phase for the addition of automation what information will be necessary as feedback once the new processes are up and running. This is the kind of information that should be given to one of the production automation integrators. What are the kinds of data that management would need to make better daily, real-time business decisions about operations? In what forms and at what rates should this data be returned to management? These are questions that need to be answered during planning, so that the proper mechanism can be put into place to supply the required information from production. This data and the decisions that will be forthcoming because of it will affect equipment utilization, quality control, production rates, shipping schedules, and many other company-wide essentials. Management should make one of the production automation integrators aware of these needs. In order to be able to get the needed information in the forms required it will be necessary for management to have the correct vendors in place that can deliver the right mechanism for producing this timely data.
Support staff in the company will have to define in the greatest detail in what form the data needs to be supplied. The form can vary from text to spreadsheet to database. How will management best be able to access and understand the data supplier? Answering this question will help to determine the data form. As part of the planning process operations personnel and management should have meetings to discuss what types of data might be available once automation is in place. This should be a good beginning point for defining the data form and data content that is needed.
Usually an automation vendor is adept at designing and implementing an automation system for manufacturing operations. Most of the time these companies do not have the expertise for translating the production data that is available from production into a form that management will want for business analysis. Most of the time there will be a requirement to translate the data into various levels of summary and detail to make it useful. These vendors will utilize the abilities of another company to perform the task of conversion. This option of selecting this translating vendor may or may not be acceptable to the manufacturer that requires the automation and its resulting data. More than likely this selection should be made by the management of the company needed the work.
Conversely, the companies that do data translation of the raw data that comes from production into useable formats, do not have the expertise that automation vendors will bring. An enterprise resource planning company, as these vendors are sometimes called, should be selected for their expertise in creating the required data format from raw production data.
It will be important for management to select both the automation vendor and the data conversion vendor to be compatible with one another. It is best to have companies that are familiar with each others operations and personnel to do these jobs. This will remove any learning curve that might require by two companies that have no familiarity with one another.
In some cases an independent company might be located that has expertise in both areas that can do an effective job. If a company is found that has both types of expertise, it should be necessary for the vendor to have a complete understanding of the client company’s production operations and the results that are required from management. This is usually the best of the production automation integrators. There should be an in-depth understanding of the capabilities of data formats and the database systems into which data may be ported. The solutions offered by such a vendor must be specifically applicable to the requirements of the hiring company. Such a vendor would have to have broad industry understanding or have a narrow vertical market understanding in the area in question. It would be necessary for the vendor to be able to meld the production automation requirements and the data conversion process into one contiguous system that fulfills high level expectations. Having a vendor that can deliver a seamless implementation of automation and data availability would be an optimum solution.
John Mitchell, the author of this article, is President of Provision, Inc, an online publisher of information about the uses of automation in manufacturing. The company website, http://www.provinc.net, allows companies to obtain quotations for automation to make operations more efficient. Requests for quotations can be submitted to automation specialists.
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