Today, the market structure has grown quite complex. Suppliers commonly apply these three terms to the upper levels of the plant software space. Many in the industry tend to favor one over the other, others use them interchangeably, and some differentiate among the terms.Each manufacturing segment has its own unique requirements, and each manufacturing site is unique. The industry has matured, and a wide array of solutions is now available. Instead of focusing on specific plant-floor applications justified by providing incremental performance improvements, many manufacturers now want to manage a broad set of applications used across all manufacturing operations.Almost every industrial manufacturing segment uses MOM systems as one tool for achieving operational excellence. Segments where manufacturing complexity must be managed (such as aerospace and defense), or segments where regulatory compliance demands quality enforcement and electronic documentation (such as pharmaceutical manufacturing), make extensive use of MOM systems. Several other discrete and hybrid industry segments also use MOM heavily. Continuous process manufacturers have used MOM-type applications such as historian simulation/optimization or extended manufacturing intelligence for many years. They are now beginning to explore the capabilities of MOM systems to direct, enforce and improve operator work processes.In order to succeed in today’s dynamic, competitive marketplace, manufacturers need to pay careful attention to both operating excellence and compliance. Both can benefit from, or in many cases require, effective use of MOM systems. The path to profitability in manufacturing is changing: Costs for energy, water, waste generation, compliance and risk management are trending upward, while the available technology for cutting costs while achieving operating excellence are becoming more powerful and cost-effective.Today, manufacturing “operating excellence” means operating efficient, flexible, connected manufacturing plants that perform at a high level across several interdependent business processes. This requires systems to help optimize production schedules and efficiently execute all production steps. Inventory flow and maintenance of production assets must be synchronized with production schedules, which in turn must be synchronized with orders and business priorities. Product quality must be enforced and electronically documented throughout the production process. Any product or production issues that arise must be brought to the attention of engineering and quickly resolved. Traceability and genealogy of all products and components must be provided. Energy usage, water consumption and waste generation must be minimized. And changeovers to new products must be rapid and efficient. The precise requirements for operating excellence vary by industry, by manufacturing type and by individual plant, but it is clear that the plant must run in a more dynamic manner and with integrated business processes to meet today’s needs.Improve, don’t buildImproving the efficiency and throughput capacities of existing plants is also an excellent way to avoid building a new plant. By doing so, manufacturers can have a smaller footprint and fewer greenhouse gas emissions than they would if they needed to add production facilities to increase capacity.Compliance and governance represent a key dimension of operating excellence. The requirements of agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and others encourage excellent operation, while placing additional data gathering and reporting requirements on manufacturers. Going forward, MOM systems will also likely begin to play a key role in monitoring, tracking, managing and reporting carbon emissions.Greg Gorbach, [email protected], is Vice President at ARC Advisory Group Inc., in Dedham, Mass.