Founded in 1998 as a spin-off of Bosch’s telecommunications division, iTAC Software AG is one of the world’s leading MES providers. The iTAC.MES.Suite is a cloud-ready Manufacturing Execution System that is used worldwide by companies in different industry sectors such as automotive manufacturers and suppliers, electronics/EMS/TC, medical technology, metal processing, and energy. Additional services and solutions for the implementation of the requirements of Industry 4.0, such as the iTAC.IoT.Suite, round out the portfolio. ITAC’s philosophy is connecting people, data and systems. The iTAC.MES.Suite is currently installed in over 200 factories worldwide across more than 75 customers.
iTAC is now part of the Dürr Group. What does this new ownership structure mean for iTAC as a company?
Being acquired by Dürr has been a great boon to iTAC. When we were a standalone company, our long-term financial viability was always a concern to our larger customers and prospects. Now that we’re part of the Dürr Group – a large multinational corporation with roughly €3.5 billion in annual revenue – that concern has been removed. Our customers can take comfort knowing that the mission-critical technology they have come to depend on will not be going away.
Also, iTAC is playing a key role in Dürr’s “digital@Dürr” strategy, which is aimed at taking production optimization and control to the next level using digital technologies. This is a win-win for both iTAC and Dürr. iTAC provides the core technology platform that is essential for achieving this vision, and Dürr provides access and exposure to additional industries and applications to help round out iTAC’s overall solution offering. Having access to Dürr’s global infrastructure and network will also be of great benefit in helping iTAC to make inroads into these additional market verticals.
What differentiates iTAC from other MES software providers on the market?
One of the iTAC.MES.Suite’s major advantages is that it a true enterprise IT system. It includes its own application server and middleware, including a proprietary high-speed communication protocol that delivers millisecond response times. Also included are high-availability features such as automatic failover and load balancing, and on-board application server monitoring, enabling 24 x 7 uptime. Finally, it is a cloud-ready system, and can provide data sharing and reporting for the entire organization. These features allow the iTAC.MES.Suite to support a true enterprise manufacturing landscape.
Another unique feature of the iTAC.MES.Suite is its ability for deep shop-floor integration across the entire manufacturing process. This of course includes support for the full range of SMT equipment, where iTAC has partnered with the majority of equipment vendors to embed our software directly into theirs. It also includes extensive support for back-end processes such as robotic assembly, conformal coating, test, PLC-driven applications, mold injection, and even metal works and wire-harness production. Added to our material logistics functionality, such as incoming goods receiving and finished good shipping, this comprehensive support allows the iTAC.MES.Suite to manage and optimize the full manufacturing process from end-to-end.
What is the Industry 4.0 initiative, and how does it impact iTAC’s product development roadmap?
Industry 4.0 refers to a vision of the future of manufacturing that involves utilizing emerging information technologies – machine learning, cloud computing, Big Data, etc. – to create smart factories. In these smart factories, equipment and software will operate more autonomously to manage and optimize manufacturing operations, requiring less intervention by people and delivering greater efficiency and quality. The vision was first defined in Germany by members of the government, industry and academia, and has since spread around the globe.
Being a German-based company, the Industry 4.0 concept has been a part of our “corporate DNA” for several years now, and is a major driver behind our long-term product development roadmap. The iTAC.MES.Suite already has several of the connectivity and data-management features that are the foundation for Industry 4.0 – in fact, the Experton Group recently selected iTAC as an “Industrie 4.0/IoT Leader Germany”. In the coming years, we will complement the iTAC.MES.Suite with the iTAC.IoT.Suite, which includes several new features and technologies that align with Industry 4.0, such as machine-learning and predictive analytics engines, augmented-reality apps, and additional big-data processing capabilities.
iTAC is a cloud-ready system. What value does this add to manufacturers?
Being cloud-ready means that the iTAC.MES.Suite can be deployed centrally, with multiple sites connecting to a single instance. Centralizing the deployment in this way requires a smaller IT footprint – fewer servers, fewer operating system installations, etc. – and can therefore result in cost savings for larger customers compared with a decentralized deployment. It also makes it easier for customers to consolidate data on an enterprise-wide level, rather than having to contend with individual instances in each location.
I should point out that, while we do have smaller manufacturing sites connected to our solution through the public cloud, most of our customers who opt for a central deployment of the iTAC.MES.Suite choose to do so in a private-cloud environment. This means that they own the infrastructure and install the software behind their firewall. Due to security and performance considerations, most customers are not comfortable having their MES deployed on the public internet at this point.
Which new features and products will iTAC be releasing in the next year or so?
In the coming year or so, iTAC will be enhancing our material management capabilities by introducing a new Continuous Replenishment Planning (CRP) module. This module will provide near real-time material replenishment based on actual usage, including management of material transports between warehouses and the shop floor. Our Advanced Planning & Scheduling (APS) module will also be enhanced to permit production scheduling based on this new CRP methodology.
Toward this end, iTAC has recently acquired DUALIS, a leader in production planning and scheduling software, which has been providing the engine for our APS module to date. This acquisition will allow us to align the development of our APS technology more closely with the overall iTAC roadmap. We will also release the first Big Data service to efficiently manage both real-time production data and longer-term historical production data. This service will balance the performance needs of the core MES database in Big Data environments, while ensuring that data is replicated for long-term retention and access.