Jared Evans, Product Manager & Co-founder
Amidst the whirring and clanking of machining and assembly operations, manufacturing executives stare hard at the chaos of numbers on the spreadsheets before them. The frowns of concentration on their faces reflect the complexity of the task before them. Manufacturers often undergo large scale ramp-ups, installations, overhauls, and downtime analyses. These initiatives have plant floor decision-makers looking for a single point-of-contact solution to easily access Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in their factories so they can confidently make critical decisions with immediate results. Working with customers in the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), automotive, aerospace, and industrial supply markets, MAJiK Systems delivers exactly this.
“Our engineers have collective expertise in manufacturing, automation control, PLC, and FIS, and this helps them in understanding the requirements of both the operations and the IT functions of the customer”
The Waterloo-based innovator provides direct connections to the machines’ Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), ensuring that fault occurrences are recorded while operators can focus on operations alone, with real-time actionable factory information at their disposal. The company provides an MES software that directly communicates with the equipment on the plant floor and captures broad-level production and downtime data, apart from custom parameters such as temperature, pressure, and vibration that are critical to specific manufacturing operations.
Secondly, the software integrates with existing systems such as PLCs, quality databases, Maintenance Management Systems, ERPs, HMIs, and other operator input methods, drawing in contextual information as well. Combining these inputs to open up a window into the production performance, MAJiK Systems’ MES essentially functions as the “central nervous system” of the plant floor.
MES for all Scales
The software is segmented into three distinct configurations: it allows the customer to ‘Monitor’ their equipment for effectiveness and production attainment; ‘Analyze’ downtime, processes, and workflows for areas to improve; and ‘Optimize’ the production at the line, workgroup, and factory levels. During the ‘Monitor’ stage, customers exploit the basics of the MES software, with tertiary sensors that connect to legacy or retrofitted equipment such as the conveyors of a system.
We are seeing a major shift of focus in the manufacturing world, with boardroom discussions around Industry 4.0 and IIoT becoming more commonplace
Evans says the ‘Analyze’ module, is where most of MAJiK Systems’ customers fit, leveraging in-depth equipment information analysis for modern automated equipment, new equipment ramp-ups, and ongoing continuous improvement studies. Encompassing the full extent of MAJiK Systems’ MES, the ‘Optimize’ configuration provides a full virtual model of the shop floor’s mission-critical equipment based on its machine telemetry data, complementing a digital transformation that defines the bleeding-edge manufacturing climate of today.
“We are seeing a major shift of focus in the manufacturing world, with boardroom discussions around Industry 4.0 and IIoT becoming more commonplace,” substantiates Evans. “We believe that an essential component of those competitive initiatives is giving everybody in the plant an unrestricted view of all their equipment and processes in a brand-agnostic way.”
A Well-Fitted Communication Channel
MAJiK Systems provides integrations that are compatible with the existing network infrastructures, PLCs, and other Factory Information Systems (FIS). Moreover, by taking information from data ‘tags’ on the equipment in real time and molding it into a stream that fits the MES, MAJiK Systems eliminates the need for installing additional hardware or reprogramming of controls. The company has an expedited delivery model with pre-built libraries that communicate uniquely with major OEM brands and software vendors in the market. Rockwell, Siemens, and Beckhoff are among the many PLCs supported by MAJiK Systems, while SAP, MS Dynamics, and EPICOR are the major ERPs that the MES software integrates with. MAJiK Systems offers its own Operator Input tool, while also streaming data from third-party HMIs and tools like ARCX.
“People often ask how our software is different from an ERP or a SCADA,” says Evans. “Our MES is a level-3 system that ties together data from automation platforms (L1), SCADA (L2), and ERPs (L4).” Considering these connections with critical systems, MAJiK Systems ensures that security and data integrity are at the top of the agenda during operation. The company works with their customers’ existing security measures, creating an encrypted system with secure end-points, application-level security, and on-site security during implementation. The company also conducts regular webinars that inform their customers and interested manufacturers, about Industrial Information Security. Moreover, MAJiK Systems has been an active member of the MTConnect Technical Advisory Group since 2014 and works on the open source tools and security sub-committees of MTConnect.
The ‘Human’ Element in Technology
During and after the implementation process, MAJiK Systems works closely with its customers in order to provide what’s most valuable to them from a technology perspective and to continually improve their software through feature requests, configuration changes, and regular software updates. At the onset of a customer project, the company assigns a Field Applications Specialist or a Field Applications Engineer who conducts training sessions, quarterly case studies, and analyses on how each user is using the software, features that they value, and opportunities for improvement.
On the IT side, the company’s integration engineers work with their customers’ IT teams, communications networks teams, and automation providers to implement the data collection and system integration on-site. “Our engineers have collective expertise in manufacturing, automation control, PLC, and FIS, and this helps them in understanding the requirements of both the operations and the IT functions of the customer,” says Evans.
Built to Innovate
Reminiscing on the origin story of MAJiK Systems, Evans notes that the team’s ability to partner with the customer and build a co-constructive relationship has roots in the way the company was founded. Working on their last co-op term at the University of Waterloo, four management engineers were struggling to consolidate production line reports in spreadsheets from four different corners of the globe. In a stroke of simple, yet elegant brilliance, the future co-founders of MAJiK Systems found it easier to capture data in real time during the actual production itself, making crucial information available to decision-makers on the plant floor. Realizing what this could mean to manufacturers, who strive to be competitive in the data-driven pathway forward, they institutionalized their idea in an end-to-end MES software that today, spearheads the data-driven approach for customers like Blount International, Mother Parkers, and Magna Qualtech, to name a few.
“Predictive analytics using big data is going to shape the manufacturing industry in the next ten years,” corroborates Evans. “Programs such as Germany’s ‘Industrie 4.0’ and the ‘Made in China 2025’ program illustrate how governments are responding to this technology and pushing national initiatives.” To that end, MAJiK Systems is working on experimental projects with customers to predict equipment wear and failure based on sub-second machine telemetry readings. The road ahead will also involve using these signals as well as aggregated information from similar machines that is fed back to the equipment itself so adjustments to its operating parameters can be made in real time. Scheduling, machine replacements, and peak-time usage for each machine, based on predictive models, are a few possibilities that will be explored by MAJiK Systems in the near future. With a thoroughgoing, vendor-agnostic, and cutting-edge MES software to offer, MAJiK Systems is set to usher its customers into the golden age of manufacturing.