Fairtrack: The In-House MES Transforming CFRP Recycling at Fairmat

Fairtrack, Fairmat’s in-house Manufacturing Execution System (MES) is like a compass to the ship, combining straightforward and effective technologies to help navigate the complexities inherent in the CFRP recycling process. 

This article provides insight into how Fairmat, driven by its startup spirit and a team of expert software engineers, developed an in-house solution that doesn’t just automate the factory but also makes it intelligent.

Understanding Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES)

According to IBM, “A manufacturing execution system (MES) is a software-based solution used in manufacturing to monitor and control production processes on the shop floor.”

An MES bridges Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) with Process Control Systems, for example, organizing a festival where ERP sets the overall plan and budget, MES manages real-time coordination of vendors and stages, and Planning and Control Systems ensure every act and booth operates seamlessly.

The MES acts as the eyes and ears on the factory floor, collecting data about product genealogy, performance, traceability, and other plant activities as they occur. By gathering insights from machines, sensors, and operators, it offers a real-time snapshot of the complete production lifecycle, ensuring every detail of the manufacturing process is captured and reported accurately. This not only helps in maintaining the highest levels of quality and safety but also facilitates audit trails, making it easier for companies to demonstrate compliance with industry-specific regulations.

Roadblocks of a CFRP Recycling Factory Operations

Fairmat’s CFRP (carbon fiber reinforced polymer) recycling process has multiple steps, starting with the collection and transportation of waste materials from customers to the recycling facility. This is followed by the segregation and pre-treatment of the materials, then proceeding to curing. The process concludes with cutting, sorting, packaging, and comprehensive quality control checks between the several steps to ensure optimal standards.

However, as the waste goes through many steps to turn into recycled material (the stack of Chips shown on the right in the picture below), various challenges emerge.

Certain challenges are common to general manufacturing processes, while others are uniquely associated with the recycling workflow. Among the challenges are maintaining material quality and integrity across multiple steps, adhering to stringent compliance standards, and addressing inefficiencies and bottlenecks. 

Management of varying waste sources, inventory, and levels, alongside the monitoring and reducing of waste by-products, is crucial for operational smoothness and environmental stewardship. Equipment maintenance and timely repairs are essential to avoid downtime, while ensuring worker safety at each stage is paramount. Additionally, the process must remain adaptable and scalable to accommodate evolution and expanding demand. 

Additionally, reliance on decentralized spreadsheets for data management can lead to complications in maintaining data compliance and security, providing a consistent user experience, and centralizing information, which in turn can compromise effective oversight and operational management.

 Moreover, Fairmat’s factory landscape has rapidly evolved in every aspect — from incoming waste volume and processing equipment to staff headcount and beyond. The decentralized approach was at odds with the need for rigorous quality control, efficient waste management, and the adaptation to evolving demands and operational scales outlined earlier. 

With constant change as Faimat’s only certainty, Fairtrack was developed as our countermeasure.

Fairmat’s MES: “Fairtrack”

Fairtrack is a non-traditional and incredibly effective MES, with its hybrid cloud-edge design, user-friendly APIs, and interfaces to streamline data throughout the entire lifecycle of the materials. 

Fairtrack is essentially a set of apps and APIs integrated into each operator’s workflow, which includes data entry, label printing, barcode scanning, etc. Its dashboards display real-time production data and help managers supervise, control, and optimize factory operations.

Fairtrack’s Techstack

Fairtrack’s engineering team refers to it as ‘boring technology’ because they’ve deliberately designed it to be simple yet efficient. The tech stack is also very reflective of that: VueJS for the frontend, Go for the backend, and a Postgres database for reliable data management. Deployment is streamlined with docker-compose on EC2 instances, provisioned via Terraform for consistency and scalability. For system observability, Fairtrack relies on Grafana and Prometheus, while Metabase Cloud serves to power its analytics dashboards. 

This setup allows the skilled engineering team to prioritize creating a system that maximizes efficiency and reliability without chasing trends and inviting unnecessary complexity.

Fairtrack’s Features Overview

Currently, Fairtrack’s Minimum Viable Product (MVP) provides the following functionalities:

  • Traceability and Genealogy: Tracks materials and components throughout the production process for better quality oversight.
  • Real-Time Data Collection: Gathers crucial production metrics like start and end times and quantities produced.
  • Reporting: Generates reports on production outputs and efficiency, which is useful for routine performance evaluations.
  • Production Order Management: Facilitates the creation, scheduling, and allocation of production orders, simplifying task assignments.
  • Shop Floor Control: Provides an overview of work order progress and shop floor operations, enhancing visibility and coordination.

The standout feature of Fairtrack is its future-proof design, which is capable of seamlessly integrating with upcoming automation and intelligence layers of the Factory OS.

Fairtrack addressing the challenges of CFRP Recycling

Fairmat’s MES is designed to counter the challenges of CFRP Recycling, or as our engineering experts have creatively phrased it — Fairtrack makes data Findable, Actionable, Interoperable, and Reusable. 

Here’s how Fairtrack directly addresses the roadblocks:

Fairtrack provides real-time data collection and visualization, similar to a tracking system that monitors the recycling process at every stage, allowing for immediate adjustments to ensure standards are met and material quality is maintained. 

Its user-friendly dashboards offer a clear view into each step of the process, similar to detailed maps that allow deep dives and swift decision-making to optimize performance.

By identifying performance bottlenecks and suggesting improvements, Fairtrack acts as a route optimizer by streamlining the journey from waste to recycled product and reducing unnecessary waste along the way. 

Establishing a smart factory with Fairtrack is comparable to upgrading to a state-of-the-art recycling facility equipped with the latest standards for efficiency and productivity.

Finally, Fairtrack’s capability to link physical and digital systems ensures a smooth and integrated flow of information throughout the entire recycling process, ensuring that every step is performed as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Fairmat’s Roadmap to Full-scale Factory Automation

Fairmat’s goal is to build a digitally driven, interconnected manufacturing environment — the roadmap to which is mapped out in 3 phases. Each phase is a strategic progression, making Fairtrack the cornerstone for developing a fully automated Factory OS.

Phase 1 – Establishing Smart Manufacturing Infrastructure: Implementing IoT and hybrid solutions for basic digital operations, establishing real-time monitoring and data flow control.

Phase 2 – Control and Supervision Integration: Enhancing communication and data processing, moving towards automated decision-making, and orchestrating autonomous systems within the factory.

Phase 3 – Advancing to Autonomous Systems: Developing AI for advanced decision-making and self-optimizing systems, scaling up to full factory operations for minimal human intervention.

Closing Remarks

Fairtrack showcases Fairmat’s emphasis on using innovation to tackle environmental challenges. The choice to develop our MES in-house aligns with this goal, offering systems built for easy replication and scalability. This approach helps us quickly expand into new areas, boosting our reach and impact.

Since its introduction in early November, Fairtrack has achieved a remarkable 99.7% uptime, reflecting (and motivating) our steady commitment to making carbon fiber recycling an indispensable part of the future.

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