MES Is Dead

Jan. 2, 2017
If you haven’t already embraced everything that a manufacturing execution system can do for you, then you are behind the curve and in dire need of acting now before it’s too late to catch the next advances.

The idea that your company can gain a significant leg up on the competition by implementing a manufacturing execution system (MES) is over. If your plant is not already reducing waste, identifying bottlenecks and coordinating data across the corporation, then you are behind the curve and playing catch-up.

Over the past 30 years, advancements and improvements have been made to the simple concepts contained within the general term MES. Many dedicated applications have been developed and many companies have sprung up that are solely dedicated to providing MES solutions.

In addition to a general surge in MES concepts and technologies, there have been efforts to drive MES applications targeted at industry-specific needs in pulp and paper, power, pharma/life sciences and consumer packaged goods (CPG), for example. Of course, those are only a few of the industries. Most, if not all, of the heavy players in these industries have been involved in these technologies for years. However, many companies and industries have not stayed up to date with the adoption of new technologies and strategies, and several of them are no longer in business or at least are not thriving.

One example of an industry that did not take improving technology into consideration is the American newspaper industry. Managing editors at newspapers across the country likely cringed when Craigslist showed up on the scene with a dynamic, ever-changing classified section that was online and free. A major source of income for most newspapers went away in a matter of years. Very few newsprint organizations developed even a simple counter to this threat before it was too late. I’m sure you’ve heard stories about local newspapers across the country that folded because of the advances in technology in these and other areas.

Another example is the American auto industry in the 1970s and early ’80s. With a focus on consistency, detailed engineering and quality control, the Japanese took away the U.S. auto market from local manufacturers. It took decades for domestic carmakers to recover. Many are still feeling the effects of not being prepared and forward-looking.

With new technologies like machine learning for predictive maintenance, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and other cutting-edge technologies just beginning to enter the manufacturing space, the companies that are poised to take the next strategic leap forward are those that have already embraced and adopted the concepts of MES/MOM and advanced data solutions like dashboarding of integrated system data.

With the introduction of MES in the early 1990s, the concepts and solutions have had plenty of time to saturate through various manufacturing spaces as diverse as food and beverage through pharma to pulp and paper.

It is hard to name one major manufacturing software vendor that does not have some flavor of MES/MOM offering. Rockwell Automation has ProductionCentre, Wonderware has MES Operations and Performance, Emerson has Syncade, and so forth. The manufacturers that have embraced and adopted some version of these software products are the ones that are prepared to pivot to address market forces and customer demands and also move into the future and adopt higher-end new and improved solutions.

Surprisingly, technology is the easiest sector to research for companies that missed the boat. Many companies either ignored the new concepts and strategies in their marketplace or adopted them too late. They paid heavily for not being prepared. If you’re interested, a simple geographic information system (GIS) for “companies that missed the boat” returns over a million results.

With operating margins shrinking and the continuous quest for the best deal, it’s important to protect your company from ending up like the familiar example of the mom-and-pop business staring at the groundbreaking for a big box store in the neighborhood.

The key is to find your company’s niche or method of reducing cost or improving efficiency and then create a solid data foundation to build on. A system integrator can help you catch up to the competition and surpass them using solid proven data acquisition/MES solutions and implementing advanced data analytics and business intelligence answers. The time to act is now.

Brian Briggs is a consultant with Avid Solutions Information Solutions. For more information about Avid Solutions, a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA), visit its profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.

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