Weir Minerals, a part of the Weir Group plc, is a global market leader in the supply of engineered solutions and aftermarket products to the mining industry. Their customers require fast order fulfillment lead times, which are met by manufacturing products as quickly as possible within their 12 core manufacturing plants. In order to achieve this, Weir Minerals needed to be able to easily track and manage the complex flow of customer orders within their operations. To that end, they embarked on a program to replace various legacy on-premises shop floor systems across their manufacturing network with a central, cloud-based manufacturing execution system (MES) platform called 42Q, hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS).
42Q’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution
, Weir Minerals created a blueprint for digitizing shop floor operations that plant operators could quickly roll out and modify for their specific environments. The platform provides visibility into the current manufacturing process in a simple and scalable way. Post deployment results in manufacturing facilities using 42Q were very positive and included a reduction in lead times by 30 percent and a 10 percent improvement in on-time delivery. Using 42Q also helped reduce the reporting burden within operations, making shop floor personnel more efficient by seamlessly integrating reporting into the production process.
Challenge: Mining equipment manufacturer needs better data to mine
provides engineered solutions across the global mining industry. For mining companies to remain profitable, they need to reduce overall production cost per ton. This involves ensuring high equipment uptime, which can only be accomplished if spare parts are readily available. Changing ore grades and a host of other environmental conditions make predicting equipment wear very challenging. Instead, mining companies rely on original equipment manufacturers like Weir Minerals to provide equipment that has superior wear technology and to provide it in ever-shorter lead times.
To meet this need, Weir Minerals operates a regionalized manufacturing model, where 12 geographically dispersed plants manufacture parts for regional customers while still ensuring there is global capability via a linked manufacturing network. In order to continue to meet and exceed customer expectations, the company wanted to comprehensively reduce manufacturing lead times within their operations. This required implementing a central MES.
"You cannot manage what you cannot comprehensively measure,” said Patrick Taggart, Head of Minerals IS Data & Analytics at Weir Minerals. “The first step for us to improve lead times was to digitize our shop floor and, through this, to better understand where items would be held up.” Historically each regional plant used its own isolated system for managing the flow of customer orders within the manufacturing process. Many of these systems were manual and paper-based. Digital systems that were developed locally could not scale across the overall manufacturing network, and it was difficult to easily share lead time information between plants and with global teams.
Weir Minerals knew they wanted an MES platform that could integrate with their existing enterprise resource planning (ERP), and suite of analytics tools, be readily adopted by operators, and start proving value immediately. To do this, they decided to implement one global, scalable, sophisticated solution.
“We’re on a journey of simplicity, scalability, and sophistication. We chose 42Q predominantly because its cloud-based architecture allows for a fast and flexible deployment to our global locations.”
- Patrick Taggart, Head of Minerals IS Data & Analytics, Weir Minerals
Solution: Adopting a cloud-based solution enables speed and innovation
It used to be that MES only ran on-premises, which required a massive capital expenditure and process overhaul to implement. Weir Minerals wanted to avoid the disadvantages of on-premises solutions by opting for a cloud-based platform. The
platform, hosted on AWS, is the first cloud-based MES. It offers a fully featured MES that can be deployed in a few weeks without the need for additional hardware or staff. “With 42Q, your subscription gives you access to all the available modules, and you just pay for what you use. That makes decision-making a lot faster and less risky, because you can very quickly try something out, evaluate the concept, prove the value, and then refine,” said Wellington Giolo, VP Business Development and Strategic Alliances at 42Q.
Weir Minerals used this modular approach to create a blueprint for rolling out the basic functionality to individual sites. Each site follows the standard methodology, and once it is up and running the team can expand and develop as needed. “We’re on a journey of simplicity, scalability, and sophistication,” said Patrick Taggart. “We chose 42Q predominantly because its cloud-based architecture allows for a fast and flexible deployment to our global locations.”
Integrating MES with existing ERP and BI systems for richer insights
Going into this project, Weir Mineral’s decision makers recognized the company’s need to be able to mine data on the back end for operational and strategic insights and then serve those insights to people at all levels of the company. In order to achieve that kind of insight, Weir Minerals needed to integrate their MES with their ERP solution. Similarly, the company wanted to pump data into their existing analytics dashboards and reports, so that users didn’t have to learn all-new systems. “With some of the other vendors we explored, it wasn't clear that we would be able to get access to our data easily,” explained Taggart. “The 42Q MES offers open integrations and data portability as key aspects of the platform.”
“We chose AWS because it gave us the security, the support, and the assurance we needed to deliver the experience multi-national corporations need from their system.”
- Wellington Giolo, VP Business Development and Strategic Alliances, 42Q
Digitizing the shop floor to make it more operator friendly
Quite often the job of collecting data from the shop floor is the responsibility of the floor operators. While these personnel are used to working with big, heavy machinery, they’re not always accustomed to data entry. Asking them to enter data into a computer that's not designed to be on the shop floor when their fingers are likely to be greasy is a recipe for poor data collection and broken devices. The 42Q MES platform overcomes these challenges by providing easy-to-use interfaces for shop floor operators, including options like handheld scanners or RFID tags. “In terms of usability of the platform, we’ve had really good uptake from the operators with people saying how easy 42Q is to use," said Taggart.
- 30% lead time reduction after initial deployment
- 10% increase in on-time delivery
- 30% increase in throughput at bottleneck operations
A Cloud-Based Future: Scaling effortlessly on a secure AWS infrastructure
The entire 42Q platform runs on a combination of AWS services that deliver the availability, reliability, and security that global manufacturers like Weir Minerals need. “Years ago, when we first moved to the cloud, we disrupted the market. Today, we are still the only full-featured, cloud-based MES,” said Wellington Giolo. “We chose AWS because it gave us the security, the support, and the assurance we needed to deliver the experience multi-national corporations need from their system.”
Combining the flexibility and ease of use of the 42Q MES platform with the scalability and ongoing innovation of AWS gives Weir Minerals the freedom and agility they need to shape their future—both at the plant and boardroom level. “We will continue to leverage the cloud to help us get even more granularity with data that helps us better understand our operations and find new ways to incorporate diverse content to better serve our customers,” said Taggart.