7 Tips To Consider When Selecting an MES Solution

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) enable supply chain networks and manufacturing to stay synchronized, scale and flex to fluctuations in demand. The best MES implementations bring greater accuracy, control, scale, and speed to shop floors and are one of the strongest growth catalysts any manufacturer can have.

Selecting the right MES solution improves product quality, on-time deliveries and make the most challenging new product launches a success. Compromising on an MES decision leads quickly to mediocre manufacturing performance, poor quality, and lost customers. In the hyper-transparent world of today with lightning fast responses on social networks, no one can afford to be mediocre at anything they’re doing in manufacturing.

MES Isn’t A Band-Aid It’s Powerade

It’s time to quit looking at MES like it’s a manufacturing Band-Aid applied to the many symptoms of an inefficiently-run production operation. That’s a quick path to manufacturing mediocrity because it doesn’t attack the core reasons why a given manufacturing operation isn’t reaching its potential. Breaking out of that cycle needs to start by looking at MES as being an integral part of the broader business strategy of producing exceptional products at the highest quality levels possible. MES is powering new digital business models too, orchestrating supplier networks and production centers to deliver smart, connected products. IQMS is defining MES as including planning & scheduling, production reporting including analytics & Business Intelligence (BI), Quality Management and Shop Floor Control System.

That Awkward Moment When You Realize 70% Of Factory Data Isn’t Being Used

Legacy MES systems built and customized for mature products aren’t scaling to support next-generation smart, connected products that are dominating global manufacturing. One needs to look at the exponential demand for voice-activated assistants including Apple Siri and Amazon Echo to see the crest of the coming digital wave of smart, connected products. MES systems and platforms need to be able to flex for this next generation of products now if manufacturers are going to be able to grow. In conversations with many of them, they’re saying up to 70% of factory data isn’t being used in their legacy MES systems for new products. That awkward moment often leads to a discussion of what factors need to be considered in selecting a new MES that can keep pace with next-generation smart, connected products.

MES Solution Selection Tips

The following seven factors need to be considered when selecting an MES system that will power growth, not just be a Band-Aid:

  1. Domain expertise in your specific area of manufacturing is a must-have and insist on speaking with customers who are live. There’s no substitute for experience when it comes to any given MES providers’ systems being able to meet the unique, complex needs of your specific area of manufacturing. Get beyond the PowerPoint slides stuffed full of logos and meet the companies relying on the MES to power their businesses today. Visit the manufacturers in your area running the MES systems you’re interested and walk the production floor to see how the system is working out.
  2. MES vendors vary on how well they understand new, emerging digital business models, select one with a solid track record making them successful. One lesson learned from visiting with many manufacturers running MES systems across their shop floors is that smart, connected products require an entirely different series of MES options and application customizations. Be sure to see how well any MES systems you’re evaluating can flex to support smart, connected product production.
  3. An analytics and BI series of applications that can quickly create new product and service taxonomies while being flexible enough to provide new metrics and KPIs. MES vendors have in the past looked at analytics and BI as an afterthought, integrating into commonly used 3rd party reporting apps. Look for MES vendors who have analytics and BI applications that can scale for the massive amount of data manufacturing and IoT-enabled machinery and products produce. Forward-thinking MES vendors are providing support for Hadoop, MapReduce, and advanced machine learning algorithms to gain greater insights from massive datasets.
  4. A broad base of data management options that can provide data to analytics and BI applications in real-time, enabling advanced reporting and predictive analytics. MES systems in the past forced manufacturers into predefined and rigid data taxonomies that made support for complex new products a challenge. Look for an MES provider who can provide data management support at the platform level including integration APIs to enable legacy and 3rd party database support. All of these product areas need to be on the product and services roadmap of the MES vendors your company is the most interested in working with.
  5. A proven integration technology stack and strategy that allows every manufacturer to scale production across the legacy supply chain, ERP, and CRM systems. Cloud integration technologies need to be part of any MES vendors’ integration technology stack as new digital business models require new suppliers, distribution channels and partners, and services providers. Look for an MES vendor who has delivered their technology stack to help manufacturers deliver smart, connected products or next-generation IoT-enabled devices. As services and software revenue become more important to manufacturers, having a solid technology stack supporting MES systems is a must-have.
  6. Provides product component traceability, genealogy, and integration with process history, where required for regulatory compliance. Any effective MES will be able to provide track-and-trace functionality, with those designed specifically for food & beverage, pharmaceuticals, and life sciences products have the most advanced trace-and-traceability and product genealogy support as defined by government compliance requirements. Ask to see demonstrations of track and traceability, product genealogy and process history to see how well a given MES’ application design fits with your company’s specific needs.
  7. Any MES available today needs to integrate with Supply Chain Management (SCM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) from the same database platform to enable faster revenue growth. When an MES system shares the same database as the core applications, it relies on; manufacturers get a 360-degree, lifecycle-based view of product configurations. Manufacturers who are dominating the build-to-order, configure-to-order and engineer-to-order sectors of the manufacturing markets they serve are combining PLM, ERP, CRM, and MES to get a perfect view of product configurations as they progress from design to first customer delivery. Key to dominating any sector of the manufacturing market served is being able to flex fast and deliver customized product configurations before competitors can.

Bottom Line: Selecting the best possible MES gives manufacturers the data and insights they need to excel and stand taller in the markets they compete in daily.  Looking for additional tips on selecting and MES solution?  Download the complete guide now.

20 Evaluation Tips for MES Solutions

Louis Columbus

Louis is currently serving as DELMIAWorks Brand Senior Marketing Manager. Previous positions include Director Product Management at Ingram Cloud, Vice President Marketing at iBASEt, Plex Systems, Senior Analyst at AMR Research (now Gartner), marketing and business development at SaaS start-ups.