Why does a company need a digital transformation strategy?
Today, business digitalization is not just a transition to electronic document management. When we talk about digital transformation, we mean a whole range of modern technologies that make it possible to change the approach to the culture of production and enterprise management. With digital solutions, companies around the world are improving employee or equipment productivity, better customer service, and business success faster than their less forward-thinking competitors.
Digital technologies create many opportunities, but they require skilled personnel to implement them. That is why AKFA Group has opened an IT center that works on digitalization and automation of the company. Employees of the IT center completed work on the implementation of the MES process control system at the enterprises of the Holding in the Navoi region - the BENKAM and AKFA Plast factories.
MES is a specialized software and hardware complex designed to solve problems of operational planning and production management. The system helps to synchronize, analyze and optimize the production process.
Dmitry Zhukov, IT Director of AKFA Group, told us in detail about situations in which production automation is necessary and what MES is.
Dmitriy, does the AKFA Group really need production automation to cope with the ever-increasing production turnover?
- Yes, of course, including for this. When it comes to managing a small or medium-sized enterprise, you can effortlessly keep under control issues of a technological, administrative, financial nature. But if a company outgrows itself and gains momentum, setting high production rates, as in the case of the AKFA Group, process automation is necessary and requires the use of IT technologies. The course set by the Holding's management on digitalization of processes is absolutely timely and achievable. We are working hard to implement these plans.
In terms of the application of IT technologies, I would like to learn more about the MES software and hardware complex. What is unique about it, how does it work, and why do our factories need it?
- Let me explain right away that MES is not the name of a software product, but an abbreviation that stands for manufacturing execution system, which in translation means: “production process control system”. The introduction of such systems is no longer something unique; it is rather a generally accepted world practice. Once a company grows to serious production volumes, it needs automation. In large industries, it is extremely important to consider the working production time of each machine. But we cannot assign a person to control all the machines. For this, it is more expedient to use MES. I believe that MES is required for any large enterprise because the only irreplaceable resource in the company is time. And with the help of MES, we are able to get additional production time within the allotted period.
Sounds impressive. And how does this system allow you to get that extra production time?
- I'll explain it as simply as possible. We have installed terminals at each of the production areas where products or semi-finished products are manufactured. They are connected to each of the units to establish its working hours. More precisely, the terminals record how long the machine has worked, how long it has been idle.
Then these indicators are studied and analyzed. Downtime is production, for example, due to planned equipment repairs or other actions on which the technological process depends. Also, non-production downtime of equipment occurs at factories due to a lack of material, for example. We are investigating these incidents with the plant and are allowing equipment personnel to record non-production downtime. Thus, we get a picture of equipment downtime for a certain period. Having studied such cases, we with specialists begin to fight them in order to increase the productivity of a specific section of the enterprise and equipment.
We know that the AKFA Group has chosen the MES software and hardware complex from the Turkish company Trexdcas for implementation. What was the reason for this choice? Has the Holding considered other alternatives?
- As alternatives, of course, we considered other manufacturers of MES systems - European and American. But it was from the Turkish partners that we were able to get a complete, concise and cost-effective solution, which we chose. We received from our Turkish colleagues not only stable software but also technical means by which employees interact with production equipment. The key feature of this software and hardware complex is its versatility. The work of colleagues from Turkey has flexibility of settings, flexibility in implementation, which covers all our needs.
How long did it take to implement MES in our production facilities and did you face any difficulties in this process?
- We implemented MES during a pandemic when our Turkish partners could not support us on the site, but this allowed us to gain an excellent experience. First, we needed to implement technical measures - to install terminals, connect them to machines. Secondly, we spent a lot of time working with managers and employees of enterprises. Let's say I am at a factory, work, here people who have an indirect relationship to production come to me and say: "We will tell you how to work better." And you have to spend a lot of time and effort to explain what MES is, why it is needed and what benefits it will bring. Third, we needed to collect production data. If the production is simple and of the same type, such data is collected rather quickly, within six months. And if the production is more serious and multidirectional, then the correlation of these data is achieved up to a year. The more time the system runs, the more reliable the data will be.
If we talk about time, we implemented a pilot landfill solution in six months in the Navoi region, at the BENKAM and AKFA plast factories. At the same time, we began to receive relevant data for the analysis of production downtime at these enterprises in December 2020.
I consider it necessary to note that without the help of the first advisor to the General Director of the Holding Vladimir Aleksandrovich Pipkin, this project would have been greatly extended in time. I am glad to see when a person, having no IT training, readily plunges into the project and receives all the necessary knowledge in the course of work
Are you planning to implement MES at other production facilities of the Holding?
- Of course. We have already deployed the technical part of the system at the radiator plant, practically implemented preparation for the implementation of MES at the IMZO plant, where production is multidirectional. At IMZO, the assembly of window systems is carried out manually, and therefore it will be necessary to register data not from a machine or a mechanism, but from a specific person, measure his performance, and for us this is a new interesting experience.
In addition, we are starting the implementation of MES at the Jami-2 plant, which is identical to BENKAM, and I hope that there we can easily implement the experience that we gained during the implementation of the pilot project in Navoi.
At the BENKAM plant, the system has been operating since June 1, 2020. What results did this bring to the enterprise?
- In fact, we launched the system in June. Before that, we installed the technical part there - we laid the cable systems. On BENKAM, there was more than 30 km of wires alone and all of them had to be connected.
The main result of the implementation of MES in Navoi is that the management, management personnel, as well as employees of the technical unit receive the necessary picture of the situation at the plant in order to study it, analyze it, and then, based on this data, make the right management decisions. I would like to note that MES is a block of organizational activities of a daily nature, when all managers, on whom the production part depends, gather on a daily basis, study the results of the past day in order to find out for what reasons the downtime occurred. Thus, the introduction of MES leads to a restructuring of the production culture and, in this regard, the approach to enterprise management is changing for the better.
What do you plan next in terms of optimizing production and using IT technologies?
- We plan to start the implementation of MES at a large Tashkent construction site - in Technopark. There are about 20 enterprises concentrated there. I am glad to announce that we are now preparing to sign a strategic agreement with the MES developers from Turkey. It will allow AKFA Group to be their representatives in Central Asia. We also plan to expand our partner network with manufacturers of software and equipment that we use in our work.
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