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Smart Production IT for Optimisation of PV Manufacturing Lines

The InFrame Synapse product family of German company Information Technology AG (acp-IT) offers all the IT functionalities necessary to manage and control a high-tech manufacturing line in the PV as well as semiconductor, electronics and automotive industries. Dr Frank Frauenhoffer, one of the founders of the company, talks about its product portfolio.

PES: Dr Frauenhoffer, could you outline your view of the Manufacturing Execution System (MES) in the PV Industry.

Frank Frauenhoffer: Looking three or four years backwards, it was very often necessary to explain the value of an MES to PV customers. Nowadays they are asking if the MES includes a Statistical Process Control (SPC) module. This demonstrates a tremendous change, which is presently going on in the PV industry. While in the past almost every product could be sold, nowadays price pressure forces the PV industry to search for higher efficiency to the lowest possible cost. It’s clear to me that MES is not the most important key to grid parity. But in order to manage and control an existing PV manufacturing line to the optimum performance and the best product quality at lowest cost in shortest timeframe, MES is an essential tool for manufacturing engineers and management.

PES: Do you really believe that all sections of the PV value add chain would need the same MES functionalities?

FF: No. It’s obvious that a cell-line might need additional other MES functionalities than a wafering or a module line, for example. But a required basic functionality is definitely tracking and tracing, for all of them. That’s an absolute necessity for warranty and liability reasons. If I were responsible for a PV manufacturing line, I would not ship any product without knowing how it was produced. All other MES functionalities have to be adapted to the needs of the customer. Therefore a modular MES concept is an absolute must to offer customers a roadmap to implement the modules according to their needs and capabilities, step by step. It would be contra productive to overload a manufacturing organisation with the full set of MES modules at the same time from the beginning. A step-by-step approach, which has to be defined by the responsible technical and business management, is much more effective. That’s one important reason, why we have realised a modular, configurable concept with our InFrame Synapse product family.

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