Predicting the Future of Manufacturing Execution Systems in Aerospace and Defense

iBASEtblogPredicting the Future of Manufacturing Execution Systems in Aerospace and Defense



Predicting the Future of Manufacturing Execution Systems in Aerospace and Defense

jet engine manufacturing execution systemsBottom Line:  The potential for MES to make strategic contributions beyond the shop floor needs to start by securely scaling deep into supplier networks and across manufacturing value chains, realizing that business models are changing fast.

For many manufacturers, Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) are an essential component for linking Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), shop floor process and product change management, and a myriad of quality management processes to their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems.

Manufacturers in the past have resisted changing any of these components, with ERP being a very convincing resistance-to-change poster child.  With how quickly business models are changing, choosing to protect systems designed for strategies from decades ago is like trying to launch a cloud-based startup using tools that belong in the Smithsonian Institution.

Manufacturing systems designed for the past and shoe-horned into today’s current and future line-of-business strategies are marginally effective at best.  Aerospace and defense suppliers grapple with these challenges and attempt to grow despite the limitations of their current MES systems.  Clearly what’s needed is a future-focused roadmap.

Defining The Future Roadmap For MES In Aerospace And Defense

Based on conversations and visits with many aerospace and deference suppliers over the last few years, the following key points of the proposed future roadmap for MES for this industry are defined.

  • MES must become more agile and capable of dealing with product and process customization to the shop floor level than is possible today.  The most common complaint heard about existing manufacturing execution systems today is how inflexible they are, designed when business models stressed production efficiency over agility.  They weren’t designed for responsiveness to unique product requirements, and as a result they are slowing down manufacturing performance.  MES systems must become a catalyst of customer- and market-driven change, and that will require re-engineering them for greater supplier, process and quality integration while creating a more effective analytics and manufacturing intelligence layer of these applications.
  • Aerospace and defense (A&D) manufacturers are entering entirely new competitive market arenas where supplier enablement, quality management, compliance and collaboration can make or break their evolving business models.  The era of static supply chains that are managed hierarchically are ending fast in A&D.  Today there is much more focus on orchestrating suppliers across a global industry landscape.  The hunt is on for the most knowledgeable suppliers who scale with intelligence, not necessarily those that compete on price.  Suppliers who can get up and running quickly on a program, know how to collaborate, stay in compliance and help drive down the learning curve are in high demand.  MES applications need to step up and be the foundation for this new, more focused and intensified level of competitive performance.
  • Optimizing resources and constraints far beyond the four walls of the manufacturing center or plant to drive more rapid time-to-market and better cost controls.  Forward-thinking A&D manufacturers are taking into account maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) requirements by program, scheduling of trained workforce teams and labor, supplier quality ratings, transit times, inventory positions and machine readiness to define their supplier strategies.  Scaling far beyond the limitations of legacy MES systems is making speed and time-to-market a new feature of business models.  It’s no longer optional, it’s required for A&D manufacturers to enter new markets and succeed.
  • MES needs to scale up and support multisite, globally deployed production planning, supplier coordination, compliance and quality management initiatives that span the entire value chain.  This is where many MES systems fall short today, concentrating only on a single site and limited coverage of these areas of planning, coordination, compliance and quality management.  Extending MES beyond the constraints of existing business models so they can keep pace with evolving future ones is going to be possible when MES starts becoming more of an orchestration point across the value chain of a manufacturer.
  • For MES to deliver strategic value it must scale across multiple production centers supported by varying supplier networks, fueling a wide variety of production and go-to-market strategies.  Scaling securely across multiple production and sourcing centers requires an entirely different level of orchestrated process workflows than is available in many Manufacturing Execution Systems today.   Being able to orchestrate multiple product lines across multiple manufacturing centers, each relying on a widely divergent supplier network, requires manufacturing execution systems take on a more strategic role than they are today.  The future of A&D manufacturing is going to be much more diverse than it is today, driving greater innovation into MES as a result.
  • Manufacturing Intelligence is no longer optional.  Getting beyond analytics that tend to drive a more myopic mindset of just focusing on machine or process performance, A&D manufacturers need to be able to equate production performance to profitability.  Taking MES-level data and extracting those metrics that drive overall business performance is critical.  The future of manufacturing intelligence is going to be a solid driver of growth for MES systems, as this depth of visibility is essential for profitably managing projects daily.

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