This blog is dedicated to open, interoperable manufacturing software and the coolest, latest and greatest things I see every day while conducting business under the banner of Inductive Automation.
Hello, my name is Steve Hechtman and I am president of Inductive Automation. During the span of one day there is more excitement, more discovery than I can possibly keep to myself. This blog is, therefore, my outlet. WARNING: This site is highly biased in favor of the most powerful, affordable manufacturing software in the world - Ignition by Inductive Automation!
What's wrong with MES?
What is MES in the first place? Otherwise known as manufacturing execution system, it's a collection of applications sitting just above PLCs on the plant floor and just below ERP systems like SAP, JD Edwards, or Oracle eBusiness Suite. And therein lies the problem; as a "collection of applications," each one has its own data silo, data format, user interface and support requirements. These are apps like scheduling, production tracking, downtime tracking & OEE, quality assurance, recipe management, genealogy, maintenance maintenance management and a host of others. If you could just get them to play together it would be great.
Most of these applications have been developed by different companies, so getting any sort of consistency and interoperability is nearly impossible. That is especially true of the big "we have it all" vendors because nearly every one of them got their applications by buying smaller companies. So in actuality, each of the parts are incompatible.
Consider for a moment what it would be like if these did play well together. Maintenance management would know what production scheduling was up to and vice versa. If QA was putting product on hold then scheduling would know right away so that they could schedule something else until the problem is fixed. Line operators would know what is planned for the day. There are endless ways to gain efficiencies when every app is seamlessly interconnected by a common data store, common data format, common user interface and uniform support requirements.
A kludge of heterogeneous MES apps is also expensive to install and maintain. Attempting to make apps talk to other apps could cost months of labor for integration, testing and debugging. The IT support required afterward would be beyond burdensome because no app is like any other from a technical standpoint.
When selecting MES software it would be wise then to look at the big picture. First, consider all the apps that your organization could ultimately benefit from and then ensure they form a suite of products designed from the ground up with a common data store, uniform data format, uniform user interface and with uniform support requirements. The payback to your company could be handsome if this simple guideline is followed.