The API Capabilities of Work Instruction Software

By: Ben Baldwin

February 2, 2022

api capabilities

Have you ever wondered how computer systems talk to each other? Or how systems can seamlessly connect, share data, and integrate other systems? If you have, then you’ve come to the right place. All of this is done through the capabilities of APIs (Application Programming Interface).

Every day when you use an app like Facebook, make an online purchase, or check the weather on your phone, you’re taking advantage of API capabilities. You are accessing multiple systems to gain information and perform the actions you desire. What makes this all possible is the unsung hero running behind the scenes: an API. This technology is the engine driving global connectivity.

Take for instance buying plane tickets online through a third-party ticket service. The service does not own the seats on the plane but simply has access to a database through the airline’s API. This capability enables them to sell tickets and automatically update the airline’s database.

So what happens when we apply API capabilities to work instruction software?

In short, the possibilities are endless. No matter what other BI (Business Intelligence) platforms you use, our advanced API is ready to integrate VKS into your system and provide intelligent data and advanced opportunities for optimization.

Restaurant Analogy

So how do APIs work?

APIs serve to unite multiple systems to form a cohesive team of connected systems. These connections can be local or even global as they integrate, exchange critical data, and extend their functionality.

waiter example

Think of an API as a waiter in a restaurant. Imagine you are sitting at the restaurant table with a menu and you are ready to order some food. Likewise, the kitchen is ready to make it for you. Sounds good, right?

But there’s a missing component. How do you relay your order to the kitchen staff?

This is of course done through the waiter. He is the interface that allows you to interact with and experience the services the restaurant has to offer. He is the critical link that receives your order, relays that to the kitchen, and then delivers the food to your table. In this way, the waiter serves to connect and extend the functionality of the customer and the kitchen.

You and the kitchen staff are like two systems wanting to connect, while the waiter is the API. All information and services are funneled through him. This allows you to gain services and complete complex procedures simply by asking for them.

This is the fundamental concept behind API integration. Two systems are connected by a connector (API) that improves the capabilities of each system.

Enhance your Operation with API Capabilities

Now, let's apply this concept to real-world manufacturing operations with VKS digital work instruction software. The API capabilities of VKS can be broken down into 3 main camps:

  1. Integration
  2. Traceability
  3. Extended functionality

Each has an innumerable amount of potential to enhance your operation and achieve true Industry 4.0 innovation.

1. Seamless Integration with Other Systems

VKS API

The key function of an API is to allow multiple systems to connect and communicate with other systems. It is this connection and integration that facilitates the beginning of API capabilities.

Think of it like the weather app on your smartphone. The maker of your smartphone is not a weather company. But it has access to a network provided by The Weather Channel. They have sensors around the globe and The Weather Channel’s API enables your phone to have access to their database and receive weather updates in real-time.

This is the same for VKS’s API, but with much more opportunities for interaction and optimization. By connecting VKS through its API to other systems and databases, you achieve the following actions:

  • Create links to VKS work instructions: Link valuable data to your ERP (Enterprise Resource Program), MES (Manufacturing Execution System), or other manufacturing software to transfer knowledge and best practices.

  • Send work orders to VKS: Work orders created in your other systems are automatically sent and accessed through VKS. This way, operators don’t need to open multiple systems to perform their work.

  • Provide workers with valuable knowledge: Through the API, seamlessly communicate valuable information like bill of materials, tool lists, safety sheets, specifications, and more within one system. VKS pulls this data from your other systems and displays it in one convenient platform.

  • Send data from VKS to other systems: All the data captured in VKS is accessible through our API for easy integration with any other system. As operators use materials and complete their work, VKS sends this information to your other enterprise systems.

The value of all this is that it is autonomous, simple, and fast. Each program and system has its key capabilities and strengths. What the VKS API does is facilitate teamwork between all of these disparate sources of data and actions to enact a more intelligent working environment.

Complete Integration: API Capabilities Use Case

One of our customers has taken this capability to facilitate teamwork between their systems and workstations to the fullest. Every manufacturing activity is integrated and characterized by their 3 key systems:

  • ERP: Holds the master record of what is being done.
  • BOM (Bill of Materials): Tracks the use of materials.
  • VKS work instructions: Manages how work is accomplished.

Through the VKS API, these systems communicate together as a team. This has allowed them to automate an intelligent system where each system feeds off the data and intelligence of the others.

As work orders are being performed within VKS and materials are used, it is relaying this information to their BOM and ERP systems. This exchange of data is so integral to their operation that if someone misses a component within their instructions or does not mark the item as complete in VKS, their system will not allow the unit to go for testing.

Likewise, as new work orders are created through their ERP, they are automatically funneled through to VKS. Operators don’t need to open multiple systems to see these work orders. The two systems share this information through the VKS API and operators gain the capabilities of two systems in one.

pro tip

Pro Tip: Whether you are looking to connect VKS with your ERP, MES, or any Business Intelligence Platform, we provide turnkey services to build the necessary connections and integrations between your various software suites.

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2. Traceability that Makes a Difference

We’ve talked about how these systems can communicate and connect to optimize your operation. But what about providing you with valuable data? This is our next key API capability.

One major part of connecting your systems is the ability to receive and send data. When one of your operators completes a work order, there is a massive amount of data being generated. Data that can then be compiled to form KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) specific to your operation. This includes:

API traceability

  • Guidebook number
  • Work order number
  • Smart Forms data
  • Access times
  • Completion times
  • Expected quantity
  • Actual quantity
  • Worker name
  • Worker credentials
  • Part numbers
  • And so much more that it would take up several pages of this article!

But where does all this information go?

Whether using Pro or Enterprise, this data is stored within VKS and is readily available through the reports tab. But the API brings this process to a new level of intelligence and efficiency.

Simply by using our API, companies turn tracking KPIs into an automated process. As work orders are completed, the API automatically pulls this data and stores it in an SQL database. With this, you can create custom KPIs specific to your operation that will be automatically generated with up to the minute data.

VKS will also send data back to your other systems. Material usage, work order completions, production times, and anything else is made accessible to your integrated ERP or MES.

For example, when one of your operators finishes a procedure, VKS has captured part numbers and various assembly data. This data is then shared with an ERP for accurate records and tracking.

Traceability: API Capabilities Use Case

For CMP, our sister company, instead of manually retrieving data and KPIs every month, the API connector is gathering this valuable data in real-time. This helps them get the most up-to-date information that they need.

Just from this one API capability, they have been able to maintain a resilient production based on accurate data and knowledge. They make smart decisions because they have the tools that provide the highest level of insight.

pro tip

Pro Tip: All this information can be collected and stored within VKS. Access quality reports and smart form data at any time from anywhere.

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3. Extended Functionality

So we’ve seen that the API capabilities of work instruction software enable systems to gain strong connections that facilitate the exchange of critical data while also supplying you with valuable knowledge. These two factors combine to form the main characteristics of what APIs can do.

But there's one key factor that we have not yet explored.

That is the seemingly endless potential of integrating with systems across your operation and further into the supply chain.

Think of how smartphones have exponentially transformed over the years. Through API technology, this little handheld device has grown to incorporate the strength of millions of applications. Every time new technology is added, upgraded, and integrated into your device, your whole system grows more intelligent.

Now let’s apply this on an operational level. By facilitating smarter and faster communications between systems, your operation becomes smarter because you have the greatest level of insight. If we go even further to incorporate the supply chain, then we have exponential possibilities.

Imagine facilitating a free flow of information that enables your suppliers and those you supply with in-depth information on quality practices, assembly data, quantities completed, production flow, and more. This is all possible through the API capabilities of work instruction software.

pro tip

Pro Tip: Create greater stability within your supply chain with VKS Digital Ecosystem. Instantly communicate with suppliers, share processes, confirm that the right actions are taken at every step.

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This is Only the Beginning of your Smart Factory

API smart factory

The three capabilities that we’ve outlined are only the starting point of what the VKS API can do. With the ability to facilitate strong connections between VKS and other systems, there would seemingly be no limit to what you can do. More importantly, there is no limit to how far you can go in optimizing your operation. At VKS we firmly believe that there is always room to push the boundaries and achieve smarter processes and stronger connections.

From guiding workers on the shop floor and tracking KPIs, to connecting with systems and people throughout the operation, VKS is making strides to help companies achieve true Industry 4.0 excellence.

For more content on how APIs function, read our API definition. Or if you want to learn more about manufacturing in general, explore our new dictionary!

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