Is ‘Manufacturing It’ The New Erp For The Shop Floor?

1210 words - 5 pages


Frequently exasperated over the letdown of the Manufacturing Execution Systems or MES brand recall during presentations, I had reluctantly opted to use “ERP for the shop floor” as my go-to elevator pitch but deliverance may soon be near. Often bemoaned for the great difficulty in explaining what it entails, MES is making a comeback of sorts rebranded under the moniker of ‘Manufacturing IT’. Logically grouping ERP, office IT operations & infrastructure under the ‘Admin IT’ banner & cobbling together an alliance with the rapidly evolving shop floor automation, integration & intelligence IT applications, this brand stimulus could perhaps be the jolt that MES badly needed after years of dreadful neglect in corporate boardrooms. Fortuitous circumstances have dealt it a superior hand too: robustness of the Industrial Ethernet from enterprise to the factory floor, user acceptance of OPC for exchanging industrial data, powerful industrial automation players enhancing their MES stakes, ease of web technology tools to enable real time decision making & lastly the dawning realization that ERP just cannot get its feet wet on the shop floor. Dare we now proclaim that it is finally time for MES to reclaim its rightful seat at the annual IT budget discussion table?

With nary a harried glance at the shop floor when they set out to conquer the “Admin IT” market, the ERP slugfest left in its wake a veritable graveyard of small ERP’s & the MES vendors & system integrators (SI) who depended on them. Unlike MES, many ERP projects have the luxury of being much more flexible & open ended. The ERP roll-outs in the last decade also consumed much of the IT budget & resources leaving MES vendors & SIs alike, in disarray. Ironically it is the ERP’s apparent nay acknowledged lack of success on the factory floor that has enabled Manufacturing IT to get a second chance at the shop floor piñata. Some MES vendors have survived, managing to find champions who could justify MES projects citing compliance, customer and/or competition. ERP though, has done such a brilliant job of marketing itself as the application for the enterprise that MES credentials never got a serious look in, MESA1 efforts not withstanding. The CXO types always seem more comfortable discussing ERP or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software having likely tinkered with financial or order management systems. With global commerce entailing far flung plants, the corporate crowd has lesser chances of interaction with the shop. Besides, why poke the ant hill when your legacy mish-mash shop track system has not broken down completely? Many a shop supervisor has lost faith trying to replace a homegrown shop tracking or manual system unable to comprehend the dynamics of the MES implementation with its data acquisition, hardware & redundancy challenges. Scott Whitlock2, a Manufacturing IT blogger & SI CEO says, “MES implementations are often the toughest because they touch IT, operations,...

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