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Building a Battery Gigafactory? Start with MES.

Company: Rockwell Automation s.r.o.

Speed time-to-market with a holistic MES that optimizes end-to-end performance – from raw materials through cell manufacturing and delivery

The growth in lithium-ion battery cell production is astounding. To support increased electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing capacity, battery cell demand is expected to reach 9.3 terawatt hours by 2030 – up more than 1,600% over 2020 levels.

While Asia continues to lead the way in production capacity, currently 38 new battery cell gigafactories are planned in Europe and 13 in the United States. And more are announced nearly every day.

For EV producers seeking to secure battery cell supply closer to vehicle manufacturing, bringing these facilities online quickly is a critical imperative. So is consistently delivering a quality product – and minimizing CapEx spending and operational costs.  

Aggressive Schedules. New Challenges.

Quite literally, every electric vehicle is built around the battery pack, and therefore battery cells. And despite continuing advances in technology, the battery pack still represents about 30% of vehicle cost. Given the primacy of this component, any interruption in battery supply – or a delay in gigafactory commissioning – can quickly derail EV production plans.   

To meet market demand, manufacturers have significantly compressed the time frame for a battery factory launch. Not long ago, a 24-month launch schedule was considered aggressive. Today, producers are working to shorten schedules even more.

An ambitious implementation plan is just part of the equation. Simultaneously, producers face increasing sustainability regulations calling for responsible raw material sourcing, CO2 footprint declarations and traceability capabilities throughout the battery lifecycle.



Enable End-to-End Connectivity with MES

If you’re part of the gigafactory launch team, how can you meet regulatory demands and execute a successful launch?

One of the best ways to meet your objectives is through a manufacturing execution system (MES) that enables end-to-end connectivity and visibility. A gigafactory utilizing MES and other smart, connected technologies can drive operational excellence, demonstrate regulatory compliance and enable workforce productivity.

In fact, we believe MES is the cornerstone of successful gigafactory operations.

Positioned between business systems and the plant floor, an MES integrates and shares information to manage production orders and key quality issues. Despite the complexity of battery production, an MES can establish a digital genealogy for each battery cell and then track and trace it beginning with raw materials and through the electrode, cell assembly and activation processes.

Of course, many people think of MES as a way to enforce adherence to established manufacturing processes and rules. And that’s true. But at the same time, an MES system can boost workforce productivity with integrated analytics and digital visual support tools, like augmented reality (AR).

An MES also supports extraordinary agility and flexibility when used with modeling and simulation tools to test “what if” production scenarios offline.

Make MES Functional Requirements Your First Move

How do you start down the path toward a timely MES implementation? More often than not, the customers we work with ask for an MES quote – and provide a document outlining their expectations. Although extremely helpful, these documents rarely provide the specificity we – or any MES supplier – needs to recommend a cost-effective, best fit solution.

To lead customers down the path to success, we require explicit answers to operational questions, such as:  

  • Exactly how do you plan to implement order creation?
  • How will you define what is owned by the product lifecycle management (PLM) system and what is owned by the MES?
  • What do you mean by “quality management” – and how will you enforce it?
  • What is your preferred deployment method – cloud, on-premise or hybrid?

We have found that one of the best ways to gather this type of information is through a functional requirement specification (FRS) workshop. The sooner this workshop is held – and MES, IoT and network and infrastructure requirements are defined – the better.

Impact to Procurement Cycles

We all know a timely gigafactory launch often comes down to whether equipment vendors can meet aggressive procurement deadlines. That’s why machine and line builders must also be brought to the table early and in parallel with the MES definition process.

It may be tempting to “jump start” the procurement process – especially given ongoing supply chain issues and significant equipment backlogs at key suppliers. But doing so can cause significant issues that can impact the launch – especially during the commissioning process.

For example, without clearly defined MES requirements, you risk receiving systems that lack inline quality testing capabilities, lines with manufacturing networks that inhibit proper data flow, and machine logic that does not include key parameters needed for the MES system to operate – and more. Of course, there are likely workarounds to solve these issues, but all take time and increase costs.


Tags: Sustainability |

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