Lean Digital Thread: Streamlining the internal supply chain

By Zac Elliott

Electronics manufacturers are increasingly turning to digitalization and automation to help cope with labor shortages and improve factory productivity. They may have been using Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and automated production lines for many years, but when automating new processes and connecting existing automated lines to the full factory, many manufacturers find themselves stymied by significant challenges and pitfalls.

One reason is that the internal supply chain is often like an alphabet soup in which ERP, MES, MRP systems all exist in the same environment but there is little or no connection between them. In most cases, only “front office” business processes, such as customer orders, planning requirements, shipping goods, and taking payments, are automated in the ERP system, while the steps executed on the shop floor are managed by the Manufacturing Execution System (MES). This can cause multiple problems.

For example, when there is no feedback from the shop floor to the ERP about inventory usage and spoilage, there can be huge gaps between stock levels according to the Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP) system, and the actual usable materials. As products become more complex, such disconnects become increasingly problematic.

Such issues are exacerbated as automation increases. For example, automated vehicles and warehouse control systems are increasingly being used transfer raw materials to the manufacturing cells and store work-in-progress (WIP) products between each process.

The goal is to enable a flexible, self-organizing manufacturing flow, but this needs an unprecedented level of coordination between each system and robot to avoid starved lines and excess WIP buildup.

In a new article for I-Connect007, Zac Elliott, Technical Marketing Engineer at Siemens, describes how an intra-plants logistics solution can enable manufacturers to overcome those issues, and more, enabling them to realize a full return on their ERP system investment.

Read the full article over on I-Connect007>>

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at