Monday, January 21, 2013

5 Ways to Leave Your MES Vendor

With apologies to Paul Simon for a “borrowing” of his song title, we continually come across customers that may have standardized on a #MES (Manufacturing Execution), #EMI (Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence), #Batch (Batch Recipe Management) or other enterprise automation (#Level 3) application. And then, for various reasons, they start to rethink their current strategy or implementation.  It could be precipitated by a management change; a hot new product line, a line or plant expansion, or a market shift.
So how do you know it’s time to look for another vendor?  Here are some tips that can help you to determine if you and your current provider are heading, or should be heading, for a separation.

Way 1. New Project. Perhaps your automation applications work fine in the current environment.  But what if you need to expand the project?  Can it handle new data types, operator interface needs (visualization, dashboards, #KPI (Key Performance Indicator) collection & analysis), application integration (to new enterprise apps such as ERP, CRM, PLM (Product Lifecycle Management))?  Is it an easy upgrade, or a rip and replace?  Do they offer services to assist you in the transition/expansion?
Way 2. New Technology. The past few years have brought us virtualization, smart device-enabled reporting (mobile apps), and the cloud. Upgrades to databases and operating systems also drive changes—for example, how many of you have Windows XP?  It’s slated for obsolescence April of 2014—are you ready for the change?  A MES/EMI/Batch provider who doesn’t support these new operating systems, databases, and have at least a roadmap that they can share for virtualization, mobility and the cloud deserves a second look.
Way 3. New Management.  New organizational needs (such as mergers, acquisitions, divestitures) can cause existing plant applications to be scrutinized for compatibility with corporate systems.  Can your automation systems be easily integrated, expanded, upgraded?  Can they provide the scalability to offer multi-plant views?  Is it cost-effective to expand, and do they offer local assistance to help with localized efforts, customization if required?
Way 4. New Competition.  No one can sit on their laurels. The Level 3 market is consistent with the entrance (and exit) of new offerings. Does a newcomer challenge your existing MES/Batch/EMI system, offering similar capabilities but at a lower cost?  Will the cost of changing out be offset by the leap in performance?  Then you might consider.
Way 5. New ERP. Any time a new or upgraded #ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system is introduced, a domino effect on plant systems occurs, especially if there’s been significant integration to bring real-time plant data into the planning system (for example, to track the “as built” status, material consumption, product quality, or shipping information).  Will the existing integration points you’ve established still work with your MES? Is there enough information being shared?  Are the interfaces clunky, hard to maintain, or broken?  It might be time to look more thoroughly at your new information needs.
So that’s a start.  I’m sure you have other instances that precipitated a review.  I’d be interested in knowing what they are—email me at

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