Optimizing an MES implementation project

Experts say the key to a successful MES implementation is focusing on processes that serve your business goals.

Many companies still justify their manufacturing execution system (MES) implementation with traditional goals of creating local efficiencies, such as reducing scrap and labor costs and increasing throughput.

But companies should instead focus on ensuring that any change in processes drives business value and accelerates product supply, according to interviews with analysts.

Manufacturers typically use an MES implementation for materials management, information integration, and to:

  • Increase productivity, asset utilization, and right first time/first pass yield
  • Eliminate legacy IT and paper-based manual processes
  • Decrease cycle times and costs

Experts say such projects should instead aim for areas of improvement in cost and margins, capacity and growth, right first time, and compliance. MES can also make a difference in sustainability, new product launches, end-to-end supply chain visibility and coordination, and performance management.

One of the biggest mistakes, according to Greg Gorbach, vice president at ARC Advisory Group, is not planning the architecture carefully enough. Gorbach said that before starting an MES project, companies should ask, "Will a central implementation run multiple areas or will we have multiple implementations?"

MES implementation best practices

The analysts advised companies to adopt these best practices:

  • Get top business executives committed to the process as soon as possible so they can exercise change leadership.
  • Decide which business practices, skills, and metrics need to change to take advantage of the MES technology.
  • Keep the business sponsor involved through management changes and the full post-project lifecycle.

Organizations that can't move to a commercial MES package can get more value out of their present systems, according to these experts. A legacy MES contains useful information about the performance of manufacturing operations that can be mined and presented to business leaders for analysis.

Aspen Technologies offers such a data mining service to show customers the potential of MES software. The company cites longtime customer Dupont, which has a mix of continuous, semi-continuous, batch, and discrete manufacturing. According to Aspen, Dupont's MES is 80% standardized and 20% customizable, has a real-time link to SAP, and is installed in 50 plants.

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