MES-PLM integration creates clearer manufacturing visibility

Manufacturers are using MES-PLM systems integration to get a better understanding of enterprise performance.

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Manufacturers rely on any number of enterprise systems to run their businesses. Integrating enterprise applications so they interact and share information to enable visibility rather than operating as silos is the key to getting the most return from these investments.

Experts agree that companies that employ both manufacturing execution system (MES) software and product lifecycle management (PLM) systems stand to make their applications more streamlined and more beneficial by exploring MES-PLM integration options.

MES-PLM integration means better decisions, greater efficiency 

Connecting MES with the system that handles the product lifecycle from design through retirement boosts quality and helps ensure the manufacturer can efficiently execute new product designs. When designers using PLM can easily view production issues associated with a particular product line from MES, they can make sure the next generation of product avoids the problem, according to Mark Davidson, principal analyst in the Manufacturing Operations Management space for LNS Research of Cambridge, Mass.

"PLM to MES integration is becoming more common as people do digital manufacturing and need to manage the design cycle more quickly," said Davidson. Discrete industries such as automotive are leading the way with this practice, he added.

Meanwhile, integrating MES with ERP is becoming standard practice across industries. "We see ERP-MES integration across all industries, because ERP is the system of record when it comes to the customers, orders and inventories as well as what is used and how it is managed. Orders come down from ERP, are released to the factory and then the actual material consumption is reconciled back up to the ERP," Davidson said.

MES-PLM integration boosts data accuracy

The connection also ensures that business records match what actually occurred within production without manual intervention.

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Integrating both ERP and PLM to MES is part of a push to link production processes and data to broader continuous improvement initiatives, according to Simon Jacobson, vice president of research, supply chain, for Gartner Inc.

A recent Gartner survey of more than one hundred MES users from manufacturing companies indicated most were interested in leveraging MES data for continuous improvement, which aligns with PLM nicely, Jacobson added.

MES-PLM integration can yield faster product ramp-up times and a better feedback loop between design and production. "Manufacturers can accelerate new product introduction, increase quality, speed up handoffs and close the feedback loop on how the process is performing so there is alignment between the virtual design and the physical production," he said.

While any software integration is hard work, the potential benefits are great. "Some organizations have never created a formal strategy for linking manufacturing systems like MES to business systems like ERP and PLM. They need that strategy," said Jacobson. "Integrated systems are much more likely to deliver measurable value."

Follow SearchManufacturingERP on Twitter @ManufacturingTT.

This was first published in February 2014

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