It seems like everyone in the industrial software field wants to define their work in a unique way. They want potential customers to look at the world through the lens of their product or service offering. So, they create their own terms for the functionality they offer. It’s not just industrial software. It happens with every type of software and technology. Marketing professionals and analysts have made a living creating new terms that represent specific functionality, and they often name their products and services accordingly. It’s not a malevolent practice. It’s all about differentiation. But the unfortunate result is confusion in the user community. How does a potential customer understand what they are purchasing? How do they decipher the difference between three (or more) letter acronyms, and how do they avoid overlap, which leads to added cost and integration complexity?
Standards help, but they are often difficult for the lay person to understand and implement. I recently spoke with Eric Cosman, the new president of ISA, and he has said many times that “standards are not meant to be read by civilians.” That’s part of the reason why MESA has worked over the years to interpret standards like those from ISA. This helps practitioners to implement standards in a meaningful way.
Back in 1992, MESA published its first model to define the manufacturing execution and operations space. That original MESA model has been referenced in many publications, textbooks, and requests for proposals. It became the de-facto standard for the industry, and many companies and organizations have used it as a framework on which to design their manufacturing software implementations and educational programs in a way that aligns with industry standards.
Since then, MESA, has evolved to cover additional offerings that support manufacturing processes, including enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, product lifecycle management, and supply chain management. The name of the organization was changed to the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association, and the MESA model evolved to encompass this additional scope. The 2008 MESA model encompasses enterprise-level strategic initiatives, business operations, and plant operations and actual production. It shows how enterprise strategic initiatives drive and fund business operations that eventually necessitate manufacturing and production functions in the plant, while also illustrating how events and data from the plant drive positive financial outcomes for the enterprise. MESA’s plant-to-enterprise focus has driven significant expansion of the organization.
MESA continues to evolve, and today is at the heart of the industry’s drive toward Smart Manufacturing. Though Smart Manufacturing is driven largely by American industry, it correlates strongly with similar industrial transformation initiatives from other countries, such as “Industry 4.0” (Germany), “Made in China 2025” (obviously China), and others. MESA is now focused directly on definition and education for topics related to Smart Manufacturing. To that end, we are in the process of creating the newest MESA model, and it will be “The Model for Smart Manufacturing.” The new model will cover several intersecting dimensions, including business intelligence, product lifecycle management, value chain management, manufacturing operations, the Industrial Internet of Things, asset management, workforce, and cybersecurity.
You can be a part of the creation and vetting of the new MESA model. Participate by joining MESA as a member or sponsor, and then volunteering for one of MESA’s working groups. This will give you a voice in shaping the industry for the next decade and beyond. It will help a new generation of practitioners to develop advanced manufacturing solutions in a standardized fashion. We probably won’t be able to keep creative individuals and companies from creating new terms and three-letter acronyms, but we can surely guide them in such a way that new software platforms will be able to work together with minimal overlap and integration effort.
Even before the model is finished later this year, MESA will be releasing white papers, articles, blog posts, and other artifacts on the topic of Smart Manufacturing. This content will support and extend the new MESA model, providing a basis for discussion and debate for the industry as a whole. In my opinion, there is no better way to make your voice heard and socialize your creativity in the manufacturing software space.
>>Khris Kammer, [email protected], is knowledge committee chair and independent consultant at MESA International, www.mesa.org. In his role as MESA’s Knowledge Committee Chair, he is responsible for the creation and vetting of all technical and educational materials generated by the organization. Khris has a focus on the application of computer software and related technology to the improvement of manufacturing processes. He now provides direct consulting services for manufacturing companies driving Smart Manufacturing and Digital Transformation initiatives. Khris has been active as a volunteer for MESA since 2003.