Industry-Specific MES is the Solution to Customization Headaches

It might just be possible to use a chainsaw to prune the roses, but selecting the right tool for the task at hand might just save those beautiful blooms. Complex discrete manufacturing may seem a world away from the back yard garden, but choosing appropriate tools is just as important in either context. A recent trend toward genericized MES is short-changing manufacturers by treating every manufacturing operation as the same as every other manufacturing operation. Customized MES is the solution to manufacturer headaches caused by using the wrong tool for the job.

MES Solutions Should Be Industry-Specific

Gartner analyst Rick Franzosa pointed out that MES solutions are specific to the industries they serve. Such systems have a variety of requirements that go far beyond visibility and procedural enforcement. “The shift by enterprise vendors to configurable MES puts the onus on the end customer to effectively configure the solution for its industry specific processes and manage the life cycle of the deployment,” he said. “There is no ‘miracle configurator’ that can support a multitude of industries.”

Yet that is the pitch used today by many MES vendors. Manufacturing leaders who buy into the hype may find themselves involved in lengthy implementations, constant bug fixes and having to buy consulting services to ensure their new MES continues to operate.

For MES, Standardization Can Be a Dirty Word

Franzosa explained that MES implementations tend to be more diverse than other enterprise applications. For MES, intricacies arise from company to company and even from plant to plant within the same business.

Although there is an incredible need for MES specialization in manufacturing, the idea of a customized MES solution can sometimes go against the grain in large enterprises where standardization is the mantra. These companies may have successfully integrated five different CRM systems to produce a unified corporate CRM system. It’s understandable that top management could conclude that the same initiative would be applicable to MES. Why not have one super-configurable generic package that can be deployed across all operations?

Why Customized MES is the Solution

In manufacturing, there is too wide a divergence of processes, workflows and products to make generic MES solutions work. Those implementing enterprise-wide manufacturing solutions on generic vendor platforms, added Franzosa, do so at the risk of losing industry specific functionality.

Mergers and acquisitions within the MES space have added even more impetus for customized MES. Large vendors sometimes adopt growth strategies that consist of invading new verticals. It’s much easier for them to push generic MES than it is to acquire the decades of domain knowledge required to develop MES for a niche manufacturing market. Sadly, this burdens IT with a hefty configuration workload.

It is recommended, therefore, that manufacturers challenge their MES project teams to treat process improvements and business goals with a higher level of priority than the choice of a specific platform. By doing so, they can zero in on the platform that mostly closely aligns with overall objectives.

For those being pressured to follow the generic roadmap of a particular vendor, Gartner suggested that third-party MES providers specializing in your vertical always be included in product evaluations. Niche vendors are much more likely to provide solutions that work out of the box. By using their extensive domain expertise, they can directly meet the process needs of their own niche. This minimizes or even eliminates the need for customization.

“Enterprise vendors look for the broadest and common needs that could result in greater customization,” said Franzosa, “while niche vendors are more narrowly focused and typically require less customization.”

Customized MES Within Industry Vertical

Gartner recommends aggressively vetting implementation providers using reference customers to ensure they have sufficient expertise in your industry vertical. There is no substitute for MES experience in the proving ground of the manufacturing floor. No amount of customization is going to substitute for experience in your industry.

The iBase-t Solumina MES platform has been developed specifically for complex discrete manufacturers. Download our Whitepaper to discover which type of MES Vendor is the right fit for your next manufacturing project.

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Understanding the Uniqueness of Complex Discrete MES

Complex discrete MES is unlike any other. There is no substitute for the domain knowledge that is provided by the complexity of the products engineered for an MES of this type. This comparison becomes quickly apparent for many. In addition to a longer product lifecycle, a complex discrete MES can properly manage multiple levels of subassemblies along with the required tracking capabilities. This blog will discuss several important characteristics of MES packages when implemented by complex discrete manufacturers.

Tailored to the Shop Floor Technician

With complex discrete MES, shop floor technicians should sit in the driver’s seat. Instead of remaining on the shop floor to oversee the highly automated processes required for report completion and quality control management, a technician can work with a package tailored to their workflows and processes. This enables technicians to receive visual instruction and collect a variety of data types.

Technicians represent approximately 20-60% of the cost of assembly due to degree of human involvement, intervention and review that are required by MES application. They do the bulk of the work. As a result, the quality of the visual guidances and data collected play a high level of importance for a shop floor technician.

Low Product Volume

Consumer electronics producers deal with millions of component and products. BMW’s United States plant produces approximately 1,400 cars per day on their own. However, product volume differs drastically with complex discrete manufacturers. A complex discrete manufacturer may only produce one plane, one MRI machine or one aircraft carrier to a single set of specs. In addition, throughout production, as many as 50 engineering changes may take place. No other industries deal with this degree of change. When selecting an MES, it is important to select a package that comfortably copes with the changes in design and execution, that will occur over a long period of time, before delivering a single product.

Flexible Routing

For a complex discrete MES to be function successfully, it demands highly flexible and adaptable routing, optimized for tiny order quantities. With complex discrete MES, routing is written on a part by part basis, rather than by part number. For example, an individual MRI machine will have tailored instruction sets adapted to that particular technology. This also applies to submarines, airplanes, and helicopters. Appliance instructions vary in iteration from one step of the assembly line to the next and are subjected to many design and execution changes due to advancements in technology.

Integrated Non-Conformance and Deviation Processes

During device assembly, a unit can and will change considerably from from the original plan. These revisions in unit history contribute to how a complex discrete MES differs from as-builts. As a result, an ironclad non-conformance and deviation process that is completely linked to the unit or device has to be in place for complex discrete manufacturing.

Digital Twin and Serial Tracking

Modern discrete manufacturers now deliver a digital twin – a virtual replica of the product. Digital twins are available during the as-designed, as-planned and as-built phases. This digital companion offers the ability to model and simulate changes before they are executed in the real world. This can save enormous amounts of time during the design and execution stages, and aid in tracking accuracy and consistency.

Serial tracking of suppliers and factories is done every step of the way in complex discrete manufacturing. Materials must be tracked at a highly granular level across the entire supply chain. In many cases, units are pre-tested before they arrive at receiving and inspection. No other industry has to deal with this type of tracking and rigor.

Due to all these unique factors, a complex discrete MES provides an unexampled manufacturing solutions. iBase-t Solumina is an MES package that is tailored to the shop floor technician. It is ideally suited to the low product volume, flexible routing and serial tracking needs of complex discrete manufacturers. Digital twin capabilities are also available.

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The Five MES Groups and Their Importance in Product Selection

For companies to properly utilize MES, matching the functionality of the original MES design to its real life operations is important. By understanding the various types of MES and their differences, manufacturers can zero in on their company’s specific needs to select a suitable and effective platform. This blog discusses what the five categories of MES:

  1. Continuous Process MES

Continuous Process MES is centered around the use of multiple monitoring tools for per-second basis tracking. Recipes and process parameters are continuously monitored, demanding intimate linkage to machines for data collection of millions of data values within a SCADA system. Traceability demands, however, will go no further than a per-lot basis. Processes are hardwired into the control screens to maintain a standard.

  1. Pharmaceutical MES

While this MES type still requires per-second basis monitoring, Pharmaceutical MES also requires lot and sub-lot traceability, and highly controlled software development, testing and validation processes due to heavy regulatory demands. Documentation requirements, for example, have to satisfy the rigor of U.S FDA standards. These systems must cater to proper protocol to ensure compliance to the FDA’s right to audit and access MES records at any time.

  1. Consumer Electronics

With everything designed around circuit board assembly, consumer electronics encompass a completely different world in manufacturing. Robots work at breakneck speed, placing components on boards. Defect rates must be kept below 20 parts per million. Most of these process and functions can only be managed by this specific MES type.

  1. Automotive MES

Automotive MES is a highly specialized form. It emphasizes front-end simulation and process and tool validation. This type of system comprises of assembly lines that follow highly scripted routings moving at a much slower pace per part than within Consumer Electronics. Lines are also set up for multiple modes with variable outputs and traceability is handled via built-in production device chips.  

  1. Complex Discrete MES

Complex Discrete MES is tailored around the shop floor technician. Involving visual instruction and numerous forms of data collection, this MES category often only works with one product. Instead of working with dozens to millions of products, Complex Discrete MES will focus on only  one plane, one submarine, or one MRI machine. With this manufacturing type, many design changes are incorporated throughout the design and manufacturing processes. Serial tracking is also unique to this MES type.

Vendors operating within a vertical platform may wish to expand into other types of MES. Here, the usual approach is to generalize product and customize their manufacturing solutions to match their environment. Many enterprise software vendors seek to carry their advantage in certain markets into MES. For example, a large ERP, PLM or CRM vendor who has achieved success with generic tools will acquire a MES vendor in hopes of carrying a standardized philosophy into the new market. However, how valuable is an MES system that integrates CRM databases, yet doesn’t adequately tackle the intricacies of MES? Not very…

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iBase-t Appoints Philippe Boissat as Managing Director, EMEA

Manufacturers seeking strong foundation for Digital Transformation initiatives drive iBase-t’s EMEA expansion

FOOTHILL RANCH, Calif – May 01, 2018 – iBase-t, a leading provider of digital manufacturing, MRO and quality software solutions, announced today that the company has appointed Philippe Boissat to Managing Director of the EMEA division to help grow the company’s global presence across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Before joining iBase-t, Boissat was Senior Vice President, Aerospace and Defense – Global Leader at AKKA Technologies. Boissat also served as the Senior Advisor, Aerospace and Defense – Europe and United States of America at Deloitte. At SAS Institute, Boissat served as the Vice President of Business and Development, Aerospace. Since 2005, Boissat has been the President and Founder of 3i3s , a non-profit in the aerospace industry.

“We are excited to have Philippe, with his strong background and track record, join our team,” said Len Lisewsky, Vice President of Global Sales, iBase-t. “Philippe has an extensive knowledge of the aerospace industry in Europe, and we expect his experience will help iBase-t accelerate our market expansion and growth. Phillipe aims to closely align iBase-t’s unique and differentiated value with our client’s strategic imperatives around Digital Manufacturing.”

“I’m very excited to join the iBase-t team to help grow our global presence,” said Boissat. “iBase-t is a clear leader in complex, discrete manufacturing. and I am excited to help expand our market share in the global community.”

About iBase-t

iBase-t is a leading provider of software solutions to complex, highly regulated industries, like Aerospace and Defense, Medical Devices, Nuclear, Industrial Equipment, Electronics, and Shipbuilding. iBase-t’s Solumina software streamlines and integrates Manufacturing Execution Systems and Operations Management (MES/MOM), Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO)and Enterprise Quality Management Systems (EQMS) for operations and Supplier Quality Management. Solumina is implemented by many industry leaders in the Aerospace and Defense sector, including leading European manufacturers like Airbus and Rolls Royce.