MESA-WBF Merger: Promoting IT-Shop Floor Unity

MESA WBF MERGERThe convergence of corporate IT and software capabilities is a major catalyzing factor in today’s shift toward enterprise-wide manufacturing operations management. LNS Research has a strong interest in this topic, as we’ve previously noted on the importance of taking a global approach to optimizing manufacturing operations.

With this week’s announcement of a merger between Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association (MESA) and WBF – The Organization for Production Technology, we see this as a step toward closing the gap on corporate IT and MOM software. In this blog, we’ll be discussing what this merger means for the two associations, as well as for the MESA and WBF membership community.

***Full disclosure: I am not an impartial observer of this announcement, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is an exciting merger. I’ve in fact worked with MESA and had a positive relationship with the organization for more than five years now, which really means I've been fortunate enough to experience the good, bad, and ugly of working with the group.***


While both MESA and WBF are nonprofits and offer members in the manufacturing industry a platform for sharing, learning, and connecting with one another, each organization has a different area of focus.

MESA provides a space for manufacturers, industry leaders, solution providers, and system integrators to foster and improve technology applications and best practices in manufacturing operations by leveraging their collective knowledge. WBF has created a similar information community as MESA, but focuses on process automation and is tailored more toward the technical shop floor aspects of manufacturing.

An interesting point in this merger is in the demographics of the active membership of both groups. In the past, MESA has had the reputation of having a majority of active members being from vendors, but over the past several years there has been a strong move toward more active participation of business leaders. WBF, on the other hand, has a reputation of a strong end-user population in process manufacturing; although it has generally not been as focused on business or corporate IT issues. The combined organization should help move both groups toward more end-to-end coverage across process automation, Manufacturing Operations Management, and corporate IT.

Joining Forces

As IT and manufacturing software converge, users are starting to consider how they can fully utilize the functionalities of solutions at an enterprise level. This is in stark contrast to how business has been done in the past few decades. Without the capabilities of interoperating systems previously, many manufacturers used to (and sometimes still do) set up proprietary IT systems for single plants, then deal with the adversities of aggregating data and managing operations with disparate systems.

The merger will allow members access to both MESA’s and WBF’s resources. Most importantly, though, it will create a new space for WBF’s considerable end-user community to interact with MESA’s community. This should open up the door to collaboration on best practices, standards, and ideas; facilitating conversations that may not have happened naturally without the merger. WBF’s strong process manufacturing presence will also help MESA penetrate that market, which the organization has been focusing on moving into more recently.

We think this is a very favorable step in the convergence of corporate IT and manufacturing software, and hope to see more interactions—mergers, acquisitions or partnerships—of this kind in the future.

Looking to the Future

The benefits of taking a global approach to manufacturing software implementations are vast and continually growing. Companies that have managed to converge IT and manufacturing software, even in small amounts, are able to better manage operations. MESA’s strong membership of business leaders and vendors coupled with WBF’s large shop floor end-user base and technical expertise should aid the changing industry. In the future, we would like to see a membership bump at the new MESA in corporate IT, from both end-users and vendors, to fully round out this conversation. Nonetheless, it will be very interesting to see the impact this merger has on the space and conversations to come.

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All entries in this Industrial Transformation blog represent the opinions of the authors based on their industry experience and their view of the information collected using the methods described in our Research Integrity. All product and company names are trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of their respective holders. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them.

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