While many suppliers of manufacturing execution systems (MES) are offering capabilities in the cloud, a new company called 42Q, announced the general availability of its pure-play multitenant cloud-based MES software. The value-add of the subscription-based software includes rapid deployment, reduced cost— as there is no on-premise hardware or software to maintain, and the flexibility to fit with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
42Q is actually a division of Sanmina Corp., an electronic manufacturing services company, which began working on its own MES system in the 1990s. In 2010, the company migrated its MES to the cloud, and in 2012 the rest of the manufacturing industry started to take notice.
“We had people asking us for our MES and our initial response was ‘no,’ as it is part of our core capabilities within Sanmina,” said Bob Eulau, CEO of 42Q and CFO of Sanmina. “But then we realized we have something special and we should make a business out of it, so we launched efforts to commercialize the solution.”
Today, the 42Q MES is implemented in over 40 facilities around the world—most of which are Sanmina plants—but the system is also now being used by aerospace, automotive and medical device manufacturers. Oh, and the meaning behind the name of the company: “In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the answer to everything was “42.” And “Q” is the question,” Eulau said.
According to Srivats Ramaswami, CTO of 42Q, the cloud-based MES is very appealing to regulated industries that have to comply with FDA certification or 21 CFR Part 11 compliance. That’s because companies with on-premise MES must qualify the installed systems, but 42Q is already in compliance and is able to make the certification test scripts available for the customer. In addition, think about the large, global manufacturer that has 70 factories to manage. An on-premise solution means maintaining 70 instances of the software, but the cloud-based system can track company-wide data. Plus, all data is encrypted and secure. “We’ve built a proprietary technology into the architecture,” Ramaswami said. “Even in the cloud the customer is protected.”
But the real reason other companies are implementing 42Q MES is the functionality, which includes real-time visibility and work instructions. “We’ve had paper off of our floors for years,” Ramaswami said.
The 42Q MES also combines what is happening in upfront batch manufacturing with packaging, which is helpful in the medical devices industry, for example, which needs transparent traceability.
As for integrating with other systems, 42Q MES has built-in connectivity to Oracle enterprise resource planning (ERP), with SAP and NetSuite connectivity coming soon, as well as integration with product lifecycle management (PLM).
And, in the cloud, MES can act as a catalyst for IIoT.
“42Q, as a proven, high speed MES running entirely in the cloud, has the potential to jumpstart Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) initiatives and disrupt the $2.8 billion discrete industries MES market,” said Matt Littlefield, president of LNS Research. “More than 60% of manufacturers today have already started working on Industry 4.0 or Smart Manufacturing. The technologies enabling these digital transformations include connectivity, cloud, big data analytics and application development.”
The 42Q monthly subscription fee is based on the number of sites, the number of I/O points, and the number of seats from an administrator standpoint.
“We believe this cloud solution will be disruptive to the market, which, today is fragmented with legacy software and homegrown solutions,” Eulau said. “We can change the paradigm and enable new customers to implement our system.”