The FIS project helped MiaSolé shorten time-to-volume; improve product quality and reliability; and rapidly develop, roll out, and enforce best known methods.
Factory information system gives solar panel maker a boost in race to lower costs
Like many other makers of solar panels, MiaSolé is in a race to deliver what is known as grid parity solar energy, meaning energy from solar panels that is at least as inexpensive as that delivered by the conventional power grid. MiaSolé means to do this by 2012 through high-volume manufacturing of low-cost solar modules.
To get there, the maker of copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) thin-film photovoltaic solar panels launched a Factory Information System (FIS) that is allowing the company to better leverage resources, lower costs, and deliver higher product quality and performance. The system has already helped MiaSolé cut production costs. And it was the reason the company was selected as a 2011 PM100 Award winner in the Operational Excellence category.
For the FIS project, MiaSolé deployed a manufacturing execution system (MES) from Camstar Systems Inc., equipment data collection services, and operational dashboards. The FIS project helped MiaSolé shorten time-to-volume; improve product quality and reliability; and rapidly develop, roll out, and enforce best known methods across new lines and plants.
The project included automated data acquisition and dashboard visibility for production throughput, WIP visibility and management, failure-reasons Pareto charting, analysis of first-pass failures, and root-cause analysis and remediation.
With the FIS project, MiaSolé improved the ability of design engineering, production, quality, and delivery services to meet rapid growth and product performance goals.
“We have visibility and consistent control over our manufacturing processes and resources,” says Amiya Ranjan, senior director of IT at MiaSolé. “We applied a proven, phased, rapid deployment methodology and brought the solution into production in just 60 days, starting with resource and WIP tracking. We then added integration with process equipment controllers that allows automatic collection of very-high volume data and transactions. Instant visibility into equipment states, work-in-process, and genealogy helps us meet or exceed target product quality, productivity, and cost goals.”
Thus far, MiaSolé has met or exceeded its goals for FIS, including significantly reducing the cost of its current operations and bringing new, more cost-effective technologies to volume more rapidly.