Tuesday, August 21, 2012

ERP to MES—Still?

I’ve been in the automation business now for over 27 years, and it seems that for the past 20 of them, we’ve been wrestling with the concept of #MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) to #ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning).  And it amazes me that we are still having these conversations.  Why?  I have my own ideas, and since this is my blog, you get to find out what they are!

The ERP market is shrinking.  Yes, SAP and Oracle and the rest are selling products, but they are also acquiring new technologies and new software providers at a healthy pace.  These ERP providers are widening and deepening their offerings, so that they are not fully dependent upon the “traditional” ERP offerings—venturing into CRM, BI, PLM, SaaS, you name it. 

The MES connection comes when ERP reaches down into manufacturing, to extend their framework into BOM management, track and trace, quality, and other functions that have normally been the purview of the more focused and specialized MES community. And the confusion comes about when you have two seemingly different offerings both touting the same functionality and product delivery.

But there’s an important distinction between the two providers, and it comes down to the data model. On the ERP side, everything is driven by financials—how much something costs, how to buy more, how to improve the quote to cash cycle.  On the MES side, it’s all about manufacturing efficiencies and operational excellence: how to refine, standardize, visualize, and improve the actual, physical building (or processing) of something—some tangible entity—that includes materials, labor, equipment and people—to initiate that transformation process.  MES is meant for real time transactions, not batched processes that may take hours or even days to complete.  The data model comes in because most MES providers have either a strong or at least glancing connection to the physical processing world of the automation equipment themselves.  So the way that the product is physically manufactured can be modeled within the MES itself.  This tight relationship, using the same definitions, concepts, and modeling tools, means that the underlying foundational structure that is based on the “real time” world is proliferated and used within the MES for execution and control, using the inputs and outputs and data capture of the automation equipment.

The actual data integration then becomes almost secondary—everyone has a variety of ways now of sharing data, be it web services, HTML, or direct connect.  But it’s the model, and the way that the products behave, that create that distinctive advantage for using a pure-play MES.

No comments:

Post a Comment