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Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) Case Study:  Yomax Composites.

Challenge:  Yomax Composites manufactures high end composite components for aircrafts.  Currently the processes have a lot of manual components, and they are still paper based. The manufacturing processes at Yomax Composites require tight control and monitoring of key process variables (temperature, pressure, vacuum, etc.).  Current monitoring systems are not synchronized with the control systems resulting in possible discrepancy between reality and measured values. This violates Yomax compliance requirements. The physical configuration of the current monitoring systems require a multitude of PCs running outdated operating systems (Windows XP) to be present on the factory floor. For many reasons this is not desirable or sustainable. The file management and format of the data provided by the current monitoring systems requires a lot of “massaging” after it is collected to determine if the process executed within acceptable process parameters. Yomax would like to provide floor operators with real-time feedback of the process being executed as to its performance with respect to operational limits. This empowers the operator to know that the part being manufactured conforms to the required parameters while the part is processing rather than have to rely on manufacturing engineers to analyze after the fact. Much of the data collected requires some form of manual intervention. This introduces the possibility of errors and would make customer audits problematic.

Assumptions: Monitoring

There are multiple ovens, autoclaves and other process equipment in use at YoMax

This equipment runs in a batch mode for a given part or group of parts

Sometimes various pieces of equipment are combined to perform one process

Matrix desires to monitor values for temperature, pressure and vacuum in real time

Process parameters measured:

  • Temperature: Thermocouple outputs are available
  • Pressure: A voltage representing the pressure range is available
  • Vacuum: A voltage representing the vacuum level is available

It is desirable to have “real-time” monitoring of the process and to notify the floor operator if the process is trending out of control or is already out of control.

Data Storage and Reporting

The monitored values, along with time stamp, need to be stored on a server associated with each batch/work order

The monitored values need to be compared against process limits to ensure that the process was performed properly

Reports need to be produced from the stored values for each batch/work order.

The reports have both graphical and text information related to the work-order under which the process was performed.


Temperature profiles for all the heating equipment is controlled with Watlow, Protocol, West or equivalent PID controllers.

These controllers have multiple profiles loaded (soak, heat and cool) which are pre-programmed by manufacturing engineers and manually selected by an operator at runtime.

At some point in the future, YoMax desires to attain better control of processes, either through direct control of process equipment or through communication with PID controllers within the process equipment.

Proposed System

Key Features

  • Brings a legacy system, regardless of vintage, into a standardized, modern and reliable monitoring and control system.
  • Uses industry standard, robust components (National Instruments).
  • Uses industry standard software (LabView) to monitor, collect and store data.
  • Human resources are widely available with know-how in this hardware and software
  • Uses robust digital data communications with host computer (Ethernet).
  • Labview software provides capability to collect data, but also to monitor process in real time and alert operators/shop floor supervisors of process health.
  • System can be expanded to control processes (in addition to monitoring) with only the addition of analog and digital output modules to proposed data access points (multi-slot) and LabView software modules.

The Labview system provides a central control and monitoring point for all processes on manufacturing floor
  • Each process center on the floor has a control panel in Labview (virtual control panel)
  • A process center can be one piece of equipment (e.g. autoclave) or a collection of equipment (e.g. epoxy heater, oil heater and high-pressure mold) working together.
  • The control panel can contain one or more IDAPs representing each piece of equipment within the process center
  • Each control panel can have have one or more process recipes which define (as a function of time) what specific process variables are read and what control signals are sent to the equipment through the IDAP(s) associated with the process center.
  • Each control panel has a set of process control limits associated with the process recipe.  These limits are entered into the panel for each process variable monitored (temperature, pressure, etc.) from the IDAP(s) as a function of time and saved as a process profile.
  • Both the creation of the process recipe as well as setting of operating control limits are one-time setup steps performed by a manufacturing engineer.
  • The status/control panel displays the monitored values in real time in numerical and graphical format.
  • The status/control panel stores the monitored information for reporting and further analysis.  Analysis tools are part of the process panel software.

A master panel shows the status of each process center on the manufacturing floor at all times.

An example of the process recipe implementation is described BELOW.

Example operational sequence controlled by Labview

  • Manufacturing engineer select the process recipe on the status/control panel of a process center
  • Manufacturing engineer enables the process recipe to start monitoring the IDAP(s) for the start of the process on the process center.
  • The process recipe flashes the green light on the IDAP(s) while its waiting for the process to start.
  • The operator starts the process at the process center. The start of the process is indicated by a digital output or contact closure on the process center. Many of the thermal controllers (e.g. Watlow PID controllers) have this capability. This is an important factor. It means that the process is always started at the machine by the operator. This can be the case even in the event that the process recipe “controls” the process.
  • The process recipe detects the start of the cycle. The green light goes from flashing to solid.
  • The process recipe outputs the proper settings to the process center IDAP(s) in real time
  • The process recipe reads the process variables from the IDAP(s) in real time
  • Key process variables are stored for later reporting/analysis
  • The process recipe compares the read values with the stored process limits, previously entered by the manufacturing engineer, and determines the health of the process.
  • Depending on the process health, the operator is alerted of the process status. A problem is indicated by the green light going to flashing red (nearing process limit) or solid red (exceeded process limit).
  • When the process is successfully finished the process recipe changes the green light from solid to flashing. Reports can be printed at completion of the process.

Regardless of the status of the process completion, the operator or manufacturing engineer can get more detailed information from the process panel on the LabView computer.