Enable floor to enterprise integration


Greater visibility

Brandl said BYOD is the visibility piece of the puzzle, where mobile devices are evolving to be assistants with awareness of what you want, even before you know it. People will carry around situational awareness, workflows, standard operating procedures (SOPs), event tracking, and logging, appropriate for the person who walks up to machine. Devices and the software that power them increasingly will hear and see things before we do, with major impact on people’s productivity. Vendors are working on such interfaces. Software becomes even more important as hardware functionality becomes more of a utility. With corporate level systems in place, Brandl explained, MES and MOMS can feed the needed information, and the relevant details can remain hidden. Site level details are needed more on the plant floor, so there will always be requirements for localized knowledge.

Yost said things have changed, as business leaders generally no longer believe ERP vendors’ promise that ERP software can do everything. MES/MOM firms are having the same discussion. IT and operations are often divided and in trouble. They must force conversation about what the ultimate objective is and work together to align the appropriate technologies and solutions, Yost said. Are MES/MOM vendors experts in their domain? Yes. Are enterprise vendors experts in their domain? Yes. Can they be experts across both domains? Together, however, they can be.

While MES/MOM systems can improve ERP, and manufacturers are glad for it, given the investment in ERP, it’s not the primary function of MES/MOM systems, Yost explained. “However, the two worlds have their own, unique value propositions. A challenge manufacturer’s face is knowing where and how to draw the lines between the two worlds and who to trust to help them do that. That’s another challenge the MESA community embraces and helps companies solve.”

Yost said, “MESA is preparing to launch a new Guidebook within the next few months specifically around ROI and cost justification to help address this challenge.”

Often MES solutions are put in while those involved are kicking and screaming, although most issues, Yost said, are not technical but more operational, educational, or political. Language can get in the way, as chief information officers (CIOs) get varied messages from different groups. The same terms can mean different things for operations and IT. Quality management may not mean the same things to each.

Education, collaboration

MESA, founded in 1992, continues to educate and help members and others integrate systems to get the best value from existing systems and data, Yost suggested. Those working under the MESA umbrella, Yost said, have a charter and purpose to collaborate. Plus, outside of their plants, it’s not IT versus manufacturing. Brandl said the MESA Americas board is trying to bring the needs seen in marketplace into the MESA organization, and MESA offers a unified voice for the best practices and approaches for addressing those need.

Brandl said both sides need to know something about manufacturing. To help with that, MESA is evaluating offering “IT for Manufacturing” and “Manufacturing for IT classes”, as well as industrial cyber security―how to set up policies, procedures, and training, capturing best practices along the way.

MESA also offers white papers and talks geared to helping manufacturing and IT understand each others’ needs. For instance, IT needs to understand they cannot reboot a plant floor system just to fix it. More dialog needs to take place, so each understands the others’ values, issues, reasons, structures, and policies.

Yost said the MESA Global Education Program (GEP) helps IT and operations to better understand the other’s perspective. That cooperative vision also is apparent with MESA working groups, allowing discussion on important issues that might not be addressed in the same plant. With MESA, IT and operations can, in a less threatening environment, share best practices, have discussions, and return to their company better prepared for changes that will benefit each.

In addition, MESA offers libraries of standards and best practices, Brandl said, with more than 800 documents in the MESA library, including guide books and talks resulting from the merger with World Batch Forum (WBF) 2 years ago.

Yost said all that information is available for premium members, and the organization plans to continue to grow that. Those who join now begin on a foundation of 21 years of collected experiences, bringing new experiences and topics to a proven foundation of methodologies and people who have had a few bloody noses along the way, Yost said.

A new area for MESA is enterprise recipe management, building on WBF efforts, defining industry best practices, helping major companies and other members (http://www.mesa.org/en/aboutus/aboutmesa.asp) roll out new products more quickly.

Yost said one of MESA’s goals is to help companies provide justification for the kinds of investments to make them more productive and profitable more quickly. One company was working for months on justification for an MES investment to help with asset performance maintenance. IT purchased a huge number of Apple iPads for use in the plant, less of a solution than the right MES installation would have been, and funding for the MES project went away.

MESA membership is available at the basic level for individuals, and premium company memberships are scaled by company size―small, medium, and large. Premium Manufacturer/Producer Company dues provide credits against educational costs. “We’ve put a model together to make this relevant to businesses. More manufacturers are getting involved at the leadership level,” Yost said. MESA is renowned for being noncommercial. Brandl added, “We’re all trying to make the pie bigger,” rather than argue over the size of the slice.

- Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering and Plant Engineering, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

Key quotables

  • Using standards-based architectures and best practices is key to efficient and effective integration to get the best corporate value.
  • Big data without context cannot provide information. MES provides context that helps transform data into information.
  • The same terms can mean different things for operations and IT.
  • Mobile devices are evolving to be assistants with awareness of what you want, even before you know it.

Control Engineering November 2013 coverONLINE

The article above expands upon what appears in the November print and digital editions. Also read the cover story about plant to floor integration--see the article links at the bottom of this post, along with additional links about MES, MOMs, and related topics.


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