“By 2025, 60% of new MES/MOM solutions will be custom-built by end-user manufacturers or implementation providers using composable enterprise technology platforms, applications and processes.” Gartner

Implementing a MES/MOM platform is a complex endeavor, with the perspective about MES applications changing from that of plant-specific execution application to that of an enterprise level platform. MES forms the very foundation of digital transformation/Industry 4.0 and makes a supply chain connected end-to-end, potentially delivering the agility and resilience which are highly coveted in the current business environment. 

Most MES vendors offer off-the-shelf solutions and industry-specific functional coverage. With MES becoming an enterprise application, IIoT capabilities, Advanced Analytics, AI/ML and Integration with other enterprise applications have become highly sought after features. While the MES application itself might provide a detailed and specific functional coverage, the need to have an enterprise level integration and deep insight into inter-functional/departmental dependencies, coupled with the skills gap that may exist within the organization, paves the way for implementation providers to come in and help implement the MES/MOM application across the enterprise.

This post explores the market guide put out by Gartner which gives a detailed analysis of third party implementation providers for MES platforms and what companies need to look for in their implementation partner.

Gartner’s Segmentation of Implementation Providers

Table 1: MES/MOM Implementation Provider Segmentation (Source: Gartner (December 2021))

The MES/MOM implementation market offers customers a diverse choice of partners which possess the capabilities and skill-set that may be lacking in the company’s internal IT organization. From defining the project to determining the business cases and from vendor selection to application development and lifecycle support, implementation providers offer a wide range of services.

Global Consulting and System Integrators

As the name suggests, these companies provide process, talent and technology consulting and cover large enterprise level deployments. These companies are typically better used in global projects and may have partners for certain technical aspects of the project, ranging from systems integration to automation.

Business and Technology Services

These are IT-centric companies, better suited for technology engagements. While they may not possess the global, all-encompassing coverage provided by larger players, they can handle business process and technology- related change management.

Plant Automation and Engineering

These companies are focused on plant automation and provide anything from equipment to software installation services, and may even provide MES implementation support. Integration of plant equipment to the MES and enterprise applications like the ERP with a MES/MOM platform might also be an expertise these companies bring to the table. 

Market Direction and Analysis

The MES/MOM market is driven by the need to have global projects, faster deployments, standardization across the board, the lack of internal skill-set and complete (functionality, integration and application, wise) off-the-shelf solutions.

Due to the aforementioned factors, companies look towards MES implementation partners, to bridge skill gaps and ensure the MES application chosen delivers the requisite value in terms of visibility, efficiency and overall business value.

The need for MES/MOM platforms to evolve from plant-specific applications to those which connect the whole enterprise in a way that each manufacturing plant becomes a part of a larger well-connected network, creating value through increased supply chain wide collaboration and deeper actionable intel shared across the board in real-time, is a major driver for organizations to seek outside expertise.

Implementation providers historically shied away from vendor and application selection, but all that is now changing, with MES/MOM vendors creating a platform approach, which delivers on the needs of integration and analytics, and implementation providers providing augmentation to traditional applications to create similar platforms. The implementation providers have also begun to use low cost automation tools and platforms to improve project costs and bridge technology gaps which may exist depending on the choice of application made by the customer. 

Market analysis reveals that almost all implementation providers include analytics and IIoT in their service delivery portfolio, but there has been an uptick in low-code/no-code capabilities as a part of solution development. This increase in awareness and adoption of low-code/no-code platforms indicates a trend where implementation providers will be seen combining their own capabilities with MES vendor’s low-code/no-code platform offerings.

The need to modernize manufacturing execution technology and remove legacy systems, which are no longer scalable increase operational and security risks to production processes and are hard to support or maintain, seems to be a major driver for the enterprise- wide implementation of a new MES, coupled with need to modernize and standardize manufacturing operations such that supply chain wide visibility and collaboration can be achieved. The ability to bridge technology gaps and collaborate across manufacturing sights to instill agility into the operation is shaping the MES/MOM platform implementation market.

Vendor Landscape & Technology Gaps

Most large enterprise vendors have domain expertise of PLM, ERP or OT areas. They are expanding their offerings by either acquisition of or strategic partnership with MES/MOM vendors. Their goal is to create a larger platform which not only covers the MES/MOM functionalities but extends to, and blends, with their own areas of core competence, forming a sort of ‘one stop shop’ for customers.

The pure-play MES/MOM vendors on the other hand come with specific industry expertise, at times differentiated by their implementation technique and process. Implementation providers collaborate and bridge gaps with players in this sector. They address gaps in lack of internal resources, expansion into new geographies or at times the lack of implementation resources at the MES vendor’s end.

Finally, there are the software toolkit vendors, providing the basic foundation for MES capability. These vendors offer IIoT enabled, cloud-based, low-code/no-code, PaaS type “MES-lite” solutions. Implementation providers have a unique opportunity to use these vendors to further their agenda of the ‘one-stop-shop’ solution they envision.

From a technology gap perspective, Analytics and IIoT still dominate implementation, closely followed by AI/ML and supply chain wide collaboration. The high preference for IIoT from customer base and the fact that these capabilities are lacking in many MES vendors creates the gaps which may require assistance from third party implementation experts.

Figure 1: Top Technologies Implemented With MES/MOM (Source: Gartner)

Where analytics is concerned, there is an evident need to expand analytics beyond vendor silos, and use manufacturing intelligence created to synthesize it with enterprise data, creating wider, more impactful results across the supply chain. This reflects the need for integration which MES/MOM vendors need to address, either directly or through partners to ensure the customer’s enterprise vision is made a reality through their application’s deployment.

Key Findings & Recommendations

As an enterprise application, MES implementations are generally driven by corporate and manufacturing leadership within a value chain. More often than not, these leaders lack the resources and structure to successfully execute a MES implementation project without assistance from an outside ‘expert.’ This is where third party implementation providers come in, bringing agile implementation practices, pre-designed implementation templates and third party integration platforms.

Implementation providers work to extend the core MES functionalities and deliver this through a broad range of services, ranging from analytics tools to a low code/ no code platform. The main source of revenue for these providers is the ability to plug gaps which require application development and are not covered within the service spectrum of the MES/MOM vendor.

Gartner recommends companies choose their implementation partner by carefully aligning their smart manufacturing strategy, scale and scope of the MES implementation with the provider’s capability to deliver. Ideally, companies should request industry specific references provided by the potential partner and ensure their approach and knowledge base matches one’s own goals and risk tolerance. Another extremely important factor to consider is the ability of the implementation provider to close the skills gap which exists in the organization and their ability to train internal teams to the extent that future implementations may be executed smoothly.

Finally, and most importantly, the implementation partner chosen should be capable of extending the MES vendors’ off the shelf application to meet customized requirements of the entire company, through their implementation expertise and technological prowess.

Conclusion 

The Gartner report also explores in detail the capabilities of 14 implementation providers. It includes their areas of operation, strategic partnerships with major MES vendors and geographical location of their customers. One such graphic representing the strategic partnerships is shown below. Bear in mind that the choice of implementation partner and the MES/MOM platform vendor will depend on your own supply chain complexities, business cases and strategic goals in contrast to your industry competitors. Often times, the MES/MOM vendor and implementation partners may need to collaborate on certain aspects of the MES implementation aside from their established partnerships to ensure the project remain on track. These areas can be filling technology gaps, application development needs, deployment needs, automation related challenges and integration across the enterprise. 

Table 2: Implementation Providers — Top Five Vertical Industry Matrix (Source: Gartner)

In conclusion, it is extremely critical to realize that implementation partners from different segments, large one-stop-shop type companies, large MES specific vendors and automation and system integration experts all have their own unique value propositions. The choice of your MES/MOM application and the partners which help deploy it across the enterprise should be a result of thorough analysis, where organizational needs are matched with the vendor/s capabilities and the best fitting partners are eventually selected.

https://www.criticalmanufacturing.com/mes-for-industry-4-0/the-iot-data-platform-for-manufacturers/