Shop Floor Automation – Manufacturing ERP’s Next Frontier

The next frontier for IQMS is bringing bringing shop floor automation and erp together in one systemIQMS was in the business of manufacturing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software long before it became known as ERP. In the 22 years that I have been in this industry, I have seen the footprint of ERP applications expand at a steady rate. It wasn’t that long ago that applications like Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Preventative Maintenance or even Forecasting were not part of the ERP landscape. There were (and in many cases still are) pure play vendors that provided these additional applications that were either stand-alone (islands of automation) or had dedicated interfaces to popular ERP systems. Today, the market is demanding that more and more of these necessary applications be included or available in the main ERP system for many good reasons, including built-in operability and reduced training and maintenance costs.

As an example, nine years ago I attended a so-called “final” demo with a potential customer in Arizona with one of our previous sales people. We sat down at the table with the first group of stakeholders to discuss what our system could do for them. The first group happened to be the Quality Department. The manager said, “OK, show me your quality module.” At the time, IQMS did not have our own quality module. Things didn’t go well when I tried to explain to them why a native quality module is not part of an ERP system. Needless to say, we didn’t get that business but it was a learning experience for me.

Beyond ERP with Shop Floor Automation

Today, IQMS has many native application modules that are typically not part of competing ERP systems. They include complete automotive and medical device quality systems, CRM, supply chain managementwarehouse management, RealTime Monitoring, inbound/outbound EDI (including translators), project lifecycle management, time and attendance and web portals for customers, suppliers and employees. We’ve also developed web-service based mobile applications for smartphones and tablets including CRM and shop floor control. All of these optional modules give our current and future customers the ability to avoid the nightmare of maintaining multiple databases, interfaces and maintenance contracts.

Over the past two years, we have had a dedicated team working on developing our shop floor automation framework, which is the heart of our RealTime Process Monitoring system. The framework was developed with an eye toward using it in all kinds of different automation projects and is based on 64bit .NET service technology that gives the kind of robustness required for these 24/7 mission critical applications. Our latest development allows either the integration of existing automation networks such as SCADA or ModBus TCP/IP or the creation of automation networks including PLC, DCS, HMI, I/O, devices and sensors. Practical applications include projects to monitor and control conveyors, vision systems, scales, tote joggers and robots, as well as controlling non-automated machines with our single board IP-based PLCs.

At IQMS, our current development frontier is all about shop floor automation. By bringing ERP, MES, WMS, HMI, SCADA, PLCs and I/O devices under a single system, we allow our customers to realize the awesome power of integration without having to deal with multiple third party vendors and difficult to manage interfaces.

Randy Flamm, IQMS Chief Product Officer and Chairman of the Board, founded IQMS in 1989. Prior to IQMS, Randy held various technical positions at California manufacturing facilities such as GE Plastics.