End-user Upturn Highlights 2005 MESA Conference


Orlando, FL —The largest end-user turnout in the event's history underscored MESA International's 2005 Plant2Enterprise conference, September 26-29. According to Kevin Roach, chairman of MESA International and president of Rockwell Software, this year's conference hosted 240 attendees, up from 138 in 2004. "Forty-three percent of this year's attendees are end-users," said Roach, "three times more than last year's show and the most ever at a MESA event."

Roach contends that the sharp increase in end-user attendance over last year underscores an increased interest in manufacturing execution system technologies that link manufacturing shop floor operations to enterprise business systems.

In addition to session tracks on "plant up" and "enterprise down" methods of integration, the 2005 MESA conference also featured presentations from Paul Martin, CIO, Rexam plc (one of the world's largest consumer package goods companies); Cheryl Bogenschutz, CIO, and David Klepak, chassis systems IT manager, ZF Lemforder Corp. North America (a Tier 1 automotive supplier); and James Tobin, President and CEO, Boston Scientific (a medical device manufacturer). These end-user presentations focused on the drivers behind their plant-to-enterprise integration experiences and the cultural and technological challenges they faced during implementation and, in some cases, still encounter.

Keynote speaker Martin noted that Rexam's plant-to-enterprise integration revolves around the company's vendor-managed inventory operations. "PLC data is integrated with the SAP enterprise system to show materials usage," Martin said. "This triggers automated production and accounting in our SAP system. Suppliers are also tied to this system."

Rexam began exploring this plant-to-enterprise integration project in 2001, driven by competitive pressures, when it brought in 35 senior leaders from its North American operations to be part of a steering committee lead by the senior vice president of manufacturing, Martin, and the CEO. The committee examined key opportunities that could be used to transform the business. "We didn't look at technology during these sessions," Martin said. "We focused on what we needed to do to improve the business. When we agreed on those key components, then we looked at available technologies."

"There were some turf wars between IT and engineering," Martin said of the project, "but clear roles and responsibilities were identified and driven by the steering committee." However, operators and engineers played a key part in specifying, developing, and designing the system that was ultimately deployed. "Manufacturing and engineering were big leaders on this project because their efficiencies were impacted most."

According to Martin, Rexam saved $3.7 million across 17 plants during the year following system rollout (rollouts began in 2002 and were complete in 2004). Since then the company continues to benefit from greater efficiencies, less spoilage, and cash flow improvements.

For more information on MESA, visit www.mesa.org .

David Greenfield, editorial director, Control Engineering , dgreenfield@reedbusiness.com

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