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MES Migration - the necessity.

August 04, 2015

MES Migration - the necessity.

The goal which almost every organization of the world shares, irrespective of their segment, size and location, is to continually improve and develop into something bigger and better. The maturity of an organization and the evaluation of both as-is and to-be states have now become somewhat a science.

The key learning here is that any improvement which is desired can best result from efforts made simultaneously, throughout the organization, encompassing each and every functional area. IT is one of the most critical functional areas for any manufacturing organization and has been one of the key drivers for change towards continuous improvement.

Today, we will discuss whether or not there is a need to migrate from the current legacy systems being used in plants worldwide to the newer MES applications, which are being rolled out in best-in-class plants. Few points to note before we proceed further:

1. With the fast changing technology and market space, manufacturers worldwide are looking for more flexibility, cost-effectiveness, higher quality and visibility from their plant operations,
2. IT is believed to be a key contributor to improvement, along with the organizational structure, business processes and people,
3. For an organization to become more flexible it is critically important to have an integrated value chain, where information travels in real-time and decisions are fact based, which depends on obtaining data, harnessing the information and acting based on analysis of the obtained information.

So why replace something that isn’t broken?

First and foremost, is to analyze the status quo from the industry perspective. In industries where the technology isn’t evolving rapidly and where demand is somewhat stagnant, where there are limited opportunities of disruptive changes and growth, one might just be able to survive without even considering migration. But most industries in the world are experiencing a sea change in how things are done and the way consumers react, here too the impact of internet/IT is massive, and if the industry to which your organization belongs is also evolving at a fast pace then this article is totally worth a read.

Typically legacy MES systems are tailor made applications, designed to execute a particular production process, for a specific location/plant, capturing all nuances of that production process. These applications are generally on-site installations, which result from a high initial investment made in both the software and the hardware, not to mention the need to have on-site IT personnel for managing any issues with the software.

These applications lack the capability to change and to accommodate any process change, either because of the way they have been designed or because of the fact that changing their current functionality would cost more than replacing them. While tailor made software was considered the in-thing till the last decade or so, it can very soon become a liability if it is incapable of change. In-fact considering the fast pace of change in manufacturing, rigid, tailor-made applications have the potential of hindering continuous improvement efforts.

Legacy MES have a few very serious limitations.

One is the fact that they are incapable of providing the end-to-end visibility/connectivity, now highly valued by manufacturers. This is because of their inability to integrate with higher level applications, which might have come on board after the application was rolled out, say the ERP, or CRM or SCM.

Second, since the application is already functional, changing a particular part of the application or updating it to accommodate few enhancements would lead to both down-time and costs, as new coding might be required. Third and most important they make the process rigid, where the process depends on the application, whereas the ideal situation should be the exact opposite. Imagine not being able to commission a machine into your plant’s operation because the MES won’t allow it.

Migration to a newer more modular and more flexible MES application becomes a necessity, when the manufacturer begins to realize that the opportunity costs associated with maintaining status quo with the legacy system are increasing to an unacceptable level.

So how exactly do you know that it’s time to change?

There are some key gaps that may help. First and very important again is to see what is happening in the industry. What are the best-in-class plants up to? Are they upgrading their process technology and IT? If business necessitates flexibility then the legacy system must go. It is important to look at the company’s own strategy; if a gap is sensed, which points towards the current MES, it is an indicator that a change is imminent.

Next is to look at the actual business and use cases which would be gauged by understanding the way in which process technology is evolving and also how process owners would like to improve the process to make it more lean and effective, if the current system is not able to accommodate these cases, it must change.

Finally after being able to establish that sooner or later the legacy MES application currently operating your fab has to go, the next question is how, and this is a critical question. We will explore the ‘how’ in our articles to come next.

Coming up!
New White Paper release:

September 3, 2015

MES Migration Strategies

MES Migration Strategies.

By Critical Manufacturing

A MES migration project represents a big endeavor for any organization as it involves a significant amount of time, cost, risk and it involves many stakeholders within the company.

Critical Manufacturing has created a white paper that covers the topic of MES migration strategies to facilitate this process in the companies that are considering changing their existing system.

Stay tuned for the release of the MES Migration Strategies White paper!

Meanwhile you can still enjoy the read of our article published in Future Fab International (Issue 43): "MES Migration An Absolute Need or a Utopia". Click below to download the paper.


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