Sanmina identified that, within its own global manufacturing digital transformation, it was able to repackage its manufacturing execution system (MES) into a stand-alone cloud-based service called 42Q. The company is its own reference use case, having to deal with the manufacture of 250 million products a year across 700 OEMs. Its presentations at the Santa Clara IoT World and Hannover Messe shows helped to illustrate the changing nature of Industrial IoT (IIoT) to impactful applications.

The evolution of manufacturing has caused companies such as Sanmina to build up significant IT systems. An MES is a key component in delivering results from production lines and combing product output across factories. Sanmina was seeing an increasing problem in maintaining its custom systems, so it rewrote its MES as a cloud-based common system that it is also able to provide as a service for other manufacturers with 42Q.

The 451 Take

The concept of taking a global business and unbundling the IT support in a cloud environment to form a new set of services is a good pattern to follow, as we have seen with Amazon's creation of AWS. 42Q has a strong case study to draw upon with Sanmina's complex operations at a global scale. It is also already linked with many OEMs that can benefit from its function. Starter kits enable any business to experiment cheaply, in the same way IoT starter kits draw people in. Its partnership in the Nokia Factory in a Box gives it a new route to market in greenfield manufacturing, as well as its initial audience – those people already running multiple MES. The opportunity to be able to reach small factories easily offers a very large addressable market. IT and OT companies will gradually be pushing into what is a new market, and its presence can help assure reticent organizations of the benefits of cloud. 42Q in an important evolution of the traditional MES, and indicates that IIoT is moving up the stack from the basics of connectivity and platform to useful functions for running a business.


Sanmina was formed in 1980 and is based out of San Jose. It is a tier one contract manufacturer with 50 manufacturing facilities globally, building 250 million products a year and working with 700 OEMs. The company reported revenue of $6.78bn in 2017. It has about 45,000 employees across the 25 countries it operates within. The company is applying its experience in the digitally evolved factory to solve its own problems with a cloud-based MES, which it is now also selling as a service product to others with its product division, 42Q. This is an instantiation of the digital twin concept applied to factory production.



42Q is a cloud-based solution based on what would traditionally be an on-site MES. It provides functions for a digital factory. The company offers this MES as a service with several entry points. Due to the service-based nature, it does not require a customer to instrument everything in one go. A single problem or trial can be run, and then expanded as needed. Bundled as a Digital Factory Starter Kit, it suggests that a solution can be up and running within two weeks. This starter kit provides inventory functions with order and cycle time and process routing. Additional features, such as work instruction flow and employee verification, form part of the package. Tracking, tracing and provenance also fall under its remit. Further functions relate to quality control, such as planning, and defect or repair management. Packaging and labeling are also handled by the system.

Business reporting elements deliver visualization of the real-time data feeds, and workflows allow notifications and escalations. With the cloud interface, access to real-time information is possible anywhere in the facility. The system delivers compliance in strictly regulated verticals such as aerospace and defense, medical devices, and automotive – in addition to discrete manufacturing.

Two other starter kits are defined. Rapid IIoT is concerned with shop floor connectivity, collection and storage of data, and statistical process control (SPC). The second is Rapid eDHR (electronic device history record), a set of functions for medical device manufacturers to maintain the level of records needed by the FDA in the US, delivering 21-CFR part 11 compliance. The claimed two-week implementation time of the starter kits is due to sets of common templates and tooling that the company has built based on its needs and experience running its own facilities.



Nokia led a group of 12 companies in bringing together a Factory in a Box, delivering the wireless communication and its own industry 4.0 experience. 42Q is the MES in that consortium, along with companies including DHL, Fuji, MTEK Consulting and Viscom. This was demonstrated at the recent Hannover Messe industrial show.



Honeywell Process Solutions is helping to move manufacturing services from the shop floor to virtual platforms such as cloud. Companies such as Siemens, Schneider Electric, ABB and Bosch are heavily engaged in digital transformation across the board.

Ian Hughes
Senior Analyst, Internet of Things

Ian Hughes is a Senior Analyst for the Internet of Things practice at 451 Research. He has 30 years of experience in emerging technology as a developer, architect and consultant through key technology trends.

Jeremy Korn
Research Associate

Jeremy Korn is a Research Associate at 451 Research. He graduated from Brown University with a BA in Biology and East Asian Studies and received a MA in East Asian Studies from Harvard University, where he employed quantitative and qualitative methodologies to study the Chinese film industry.

Aaron Sherrill
Senior Analyst

Aaron Sherrill is a Senior Analyst for 451 Research covering emerging trends, innovation and disruption in the Managed Services and Managed Security Services sectors. Aaron has 20+ years of experience across several industries including serving in IT management for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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