The next generation: New MES platforms support global business models
Manufacturing execution system (MES) vendors are embracing the idea of being able to use a single MES across the enterprise—even if the enterprise has multiple facilities with varying modes of manufacturing.
Jim Fulcher, contributing editor
A manufacturing execution system—or MES—is the system of choice in many industries for managing production. But it's always been difficult for an MES to suit all of a company’s plants, which is why there is no enterprise standard, says Simon Jacobson, senior analyst with Boston-based AMR Research.
“The situation [magnified] in recent years as manufacturers shifted to globalization strategies,” Jacobson says. “Manufacturing needs to be more tightly integrated with the enterprise, but plants are spread around the world, and they follow different business models.”
AMR says what's needed is vendor adoption of its Manufacturing 2.0 conceptual model that promotes use of manufacturing service-oriented architecture (SOA) and emerging Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 patterns, Jacobson says. The result would be an almost on-demand manufacturing solution for demand-driven companies.
AMR advisors aren’t the only ones with such a concept in mind. Some MES solution providers have been making significant strides, and have launched next-generation solutions. Case-in-point is Visiprise, which targets aerospace & defense, high-tech, automotive, and medical device manufacturers; and counts BAE Systems, Celestica, Lockheed Martin, Philips Lighting, Solectron, and Thales Avionics among its customers.
Visiprise Manufacturing 5.0 MES, which launched this past fall, incorporates features and technology today’s users would expect. Its Production Operation Dashboard (POD), for example, features Web 2.0 platform characteristics and includes a new Java-based user interface configured to display additional manufacturing data for analysis.
On further exam, however, what really stands out isn’t so much its presentation, but rather the solution’s support for discrete manufacturers’ multimode manufacturing operations—something Carter Johnson, a senior VP with Visiprise, calls essential.
“Manufacturers have spent considerable time and money addressing the supply chain. Now they are turning their focus back to manufacturing and the need for an enterprise-standard MES,” Johnson says. “But the reality is that all manufacturing facilities across an enterprise don’t do the same thing, and often employ vastly different manufacturing models.”
With that in mind, Visiprise Manufacturing 5.0 is engineered to enable manufacturers to capture complete component traceability, end-item configuration management, and regulatory compliance from a single application used in a multimode manufacturing environment. That’s particularly vital when considering that an aerospace manufacturer, for example, wants a standard MES, but some of its plants build circuit boards, others produce subassemblies, some build systems, and others do final assembly of satellites and missiles, according to Johnson.
“Visiprise Manufacturing 5.0 gives them the ability to leverage one solution to handle both high-volume/low-mix make-to-stock operations and low-volume/high-mix build-to-order assembly manufacturing,” he says.
Another vendor taking a similar approach is VIA Information Tools. While perhaps best known as an MES supplier to the automotive industry, VIA also serves medical device & equipment, electronics, and aerospace & defense manufacturers.
VIA’s MAN-IT solution serves as an enterprise-standard MES that replaces countless other manufacturing solutions across an enterprise, and offers the means to improve visibility and traceability, and deliver process enforcement, says VIA Information Tools CEO Gregory DeLaere.
“Across an enterprise, some manufacturing facilities may produce a wiring harness for automotive suppliers on a sequenced JIT basis, and other plants may produce textile products for automotive suppliers," says DeLaere. "But what makes the situation more complex is that more than half of our customers run a different part down the production line every time. MAN-IT is extremely flexible so manufacturers can deploy it across the enterprise to meet demands—not just from plant to plant and line to line, but also from part to part—while maintaining visibility, traceability, and process enforcement.”
That’s done by allowing end users to graphically change the business process by adding, removing, or rearranging what VIA calls “Business Atoms” within the business map. These Atom changes can be done in real time without programming knowledge to ensure the intended changes actually are made, DeLaere says.
AMR's Jacobson believes both solution suppliers are on the right track.
“Visiprise and VIA have the goals of Manufacturing 2.0 in mind,” says Jacobson. “Their solutions promote the idea of being able to use a single MES across the enterprise as a standard—regardless of what each plant is doing—giving plants and employees the functionality they need.”
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