From my perspective, marketplace activity is on the rise: As a system integrator in Ontario, Canada, Brock Solutions is experiencing record levels of both direct and indirect activity. Existing and potential customers are visiting our offices and our website to better understand manufacturing enterprise solutions (MES) and manufacturing operations management (MOM) software as a way to upgrade, replace and/or transform their real-time systems. As this month’s cover story article (page 30) concludes, the software is moving from the early adopter stage to the level of stable, works-as-advertised product. Companies that have deployed commercial office the shelf (COTS) MES/MOM software are experiencing measurable benefits. For those organizations contemplating such a change, the question they almost always ask is, how do we get started?
I wish I could give a simple one-line or one-paragraph answer to this question that would bring clarity, but that is simply not possible. “It depends” is the best I can do. As you would expect, a number of factors will determine how an organization gets started on the real-time transformation journey. Whatever your motivation to consider new solutions —whether there are no more parts on eBay, or the one person who knows a mission-critical application is retiring or there is a strong business case to completely overhaul existing systems—we think that there is a critical step that should be considered. Get educated.
As I mentioned in my inaugural column for Automation World, the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association International (MESA) organization has launched a global education program designed to fill the knowledge gap that exists in the market. Why? The simple answer is that the real-time solutions market is in flux, and change is the only constant. The best example I can provide is from a Manufacturing Execution Survey I recently read: There are literally hundreds of MES systems in the market. And it seems that not a week goes by where we don’t read about a merger, acquisition, joint venture or partnership in this space. It’s similar to the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software market in the 1990s.
So what is the MESA Global Education Program all about? With members in 78 countries, MESA is an independent, objective community of end users, integrators and solution providers working together to make operations more reliable, capable and profitable. This initiative is the first step in filling a noticeable void in industry—the lack of independent competency training in the operations management arena. This lack of wide-scale knowledge and alignment is recognized as a significant barrier to plant and supply chain optimization and global operations excellence.
Streams of learning
The program consists of two streams—a two-day Certificate of Awareness and four-day Certificate of Competency program. Details can be found on the MESA website: www.mesa.org. Upon completion, participants will be equipped to face-off against the challenges of MES/MOM implementations including having a much clearer understanding of the marketplace, tools to help in the decision making process and tools to participate in a shared MES/MOM vision—all maintained and delivered through a community of industry professionals.
Something else to consider is that education shouldn’t start and end in the classroom. The MESA global education program is ideal for base learning but, going forward, organizations considering MES/MOM should reach out to other end users that are living the journey. Get ‘street smart’—learn what others have done, how they are using the tools, what they would have done differently and how they addressed major issues and challenges. That is what the MESA community is all about. We look forward to you joining us.
John Southcott, firstname.lastname@example.org, is Co-Chief Executive Officer of Brock Solutions, a system integrator in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada and Chair of the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association (MESA) International Board of Directors.