American businesses devoted more than $2.4 billion to manufacturing execution system implementation initiatives in 2017, according to analysts for Transparency Market Research.
This figure is expected to increase significantly over the next seven years as more organizations embrace MES technology in an effort to more effectively monitor production processes.
However, a good number of these forthcoming adopters are likely to encounter roadblocks along the path to implementation. Installing an effective MES solution is no easy task, an underlying reality many manufacturing enterprises learn the hard way, Control Engineering reported.
With this in mind, prospective MES adopters must carefully consider their plans and leverage implementation best practices to develop installation strategies that lay the groundwork for short- and long-term success. Here are four of the variables that manufacturers should take into account when hopping aboard the MES bandwagon:
1. Manufacturing requirements
MES solutions work in all manner of manufacturing environments. How? They come packed with numerous modules that function in workflows of all kinds. Modern solutions are equipped with several key components, including computer-aided planning, manufacturing and quality assurance tools, according to ZVEI, a German electrical industry group. Today's MES products tend to feature production data acquisition, machine data acquisition and personnel time recording modules, as well. Together, these parts form a rather robust system. However, this is just the start. ZVEI pinpointed almost 50 additional features that regularly find their way into MES offerings, depending on the industry. For instance, large industrial manufacturers might need rework management tools, while firms specializing in the process space may require alarm or laboratory information management modules. The choices are endless.
This state of affairs necessitates planning and pre-implementation evaluation on the part of adopters. Businesses in this position have no choice but to review their respective operations and figure out exactly what MES components they require. Those that fail to do so may end up installing unneeded pieces that devolve into money pits over time, or forgetting critical features whose absences derail shop floor workflows.
2. System customization
Companies in virtually every sector navigating the enterprise IT environment encounter the issue of software customization. Generally, modern adopters are advised to avoid requesting specialized components as these modules are more difficult to maintain and protect than out-of-the-box features or some of the stock add-ons discussed above. Additionally, these features increase the cost of implementation as vendor custom coding offerings do not come cheap. However, in some cases, customization is required. For example, in the event that a manufacturer wants to integrate an older, expensive backend system with newer MES software, embracing tailor-made components might not be a bad idea. That said, project leaders must monitor costs closely, according to software maker Cognizant. Additionally, it is wise to tie these tools to core components when possible. This eases maintenance and reduces the likelihood of feature disintegration.
3. Industry standards
For manufacturing firms navigating MES implementation, it might seem logical to explore the most recent, cutting-edge software offerings. After all, these solutions often come with the latest features and most effective supporting architecture. However, there is some merit to looking into earlier options that are considered industry standards. For instance, older models might see more use across the industry, meaning there are established best practices to match them. Additionally, these solutions, which have had time to stabilize, could ease compliance activities common in the food processing and pharmaceutical industries. On top of this, established MES are sometimes easier to install, reducing the manpower and financial resources required to get modern, data-backed workflows up and running. Adopters have a responsibility to consider this factor and assess whether the latest is actually the greatest.
4. Data security
Cybercriminals continue to assail businesses of all kinds. In 2017, these nefarious coders executed more than 53,000 separate attacks, with approximately 2,200 resulting in large-scale data loss, according to research from Verizon Wireless. Unfortunately, this activity is likely to proceed uninterrupted as hackers develop new attack strategies and vectors, and enterprises roll out more sophisticated technology. That said, manufacturers cannot afford to simply stay above the fray via outdated processes. Data drives the modern marketplace, meaning firms have no choice but to adopt MES solutions and other similar products. However, implementers are not doomed to absorb online strikes in perpetuity - they can fight back by pinpointing vendors whose solutions are designed to withstand the modern threat environment.
This means sourcing MES products built with security in mind, or those with the base code architecture that is tight and devoid of errors. It also involves searching for the right support services and ensuring that software providers adhere to modern physical and digital security protocols, especially those offering cloud-based solutions hosted offsite. Finally, manufacturers looking to enrich their MES environments via wireless technologies associated with the Internet of Things must take precautions to make sure all assets with system access are protected and safe in the hands of employees who understand the responsibility of handling company data in the digital age, according to PwC.
While a full-scale MES implementation can involve additional variables, manufacturing firms that consider these particular factors when adopting MES software can avoid implementation failure, attain production gains and ensure optimal return on investment.
Don't miss the chance to collaborate with peers and zero in on prevailing industry approaches to ensure manufacturing intelligence and excellence at CBI's MES conference this August.