6 Most Asked Questions from the 1-2-3 to Digital Transformation with MES Webcast

On Thursday, October 19, LNS Research hosted the webcast, “1-2-3 to Digital Transformation with MES: Manufacturing Operations, Maturity, Platform.” The presentation explained how to accurately assess and benchmark MOM against the ISA-95 model, plus other proven strategies to determine the right Digital Transformation jump-in point with manufacturing operations management.

Q1: If you are coming from a world with no MES in place, how do you decide where to start – should I go for level 1 or aim high for level 5 or 6?

A1: The answer depends on your corporate strategy: if you have or are planning a Digital Transformation initiative then it is undoubtedly worth considering a manufacturing execution system (MES) that serves the higher lives and will fit in with your Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) plans. However, that's a big commitment for manufacturers that are taking the first steps into MES; many will prefer to go with a mature product closer to lives 2-4. The reason is that you can choose the functionality to suit your needs while the impact to the rest of the organization will be less.

Seven Lives of MOM

Q2: If I am choosing an IIoT platform, do I need to consider the MOM capabilities delivered by the vendor of the platform? Which should lead, IIoT or MOM?

A2: Of course, if you can choose a single vendor for IIoT platform and MES functionality that meets all your needs, you will be happy. However, today that is probably impossible and certainly will limit choices. If you have a clear Digital Transformation plan and have projects other than MES in the pipeline, then an IIoT platform decision should probably take precedence over manufacturing operations management (MOM). It's probably easier to let MOM lead when it's the first project, but you must seriously consider the MOM vendors' development and architecture plans. Many MOM providers will, in time, directly support apps on the mainstream IIoT platforms. That will start to give access to multi-vendor solutions that, as I briefly discussed in the webinar, the original ISA-95 standard envisioned.

ISA-95 and MOM/MES Alignment

Q3: Do you have an opinion on MOM/MES related to Digital Twin?

A3: The Digital Twin is defined in so many ways that it is hard to give a generic answer. If you consider that the Digital Twin includes how something is made as well as what it does, the MES will be a vital part of the virtual manufacturing process. You will be able to "make" a product using the virtual production line and control it from the MES system. One can imagine using an MES to try out new virtual manufacturing with a Digital Twin – exciting times ahead.

Q4: Do companies with no MOM need to transition through all lives in order, or can they skip lives?

A4: No! Indeed, I would strongly suggest that you plan which steps you need to take before you start. Some will choose to start with a more traditional (monolithic life #2 for example) MES system and then later move to an IIoT-based MOM when they have become more mainstream. As MES systems mature, some of the steps will disappear. For example, a vendor might keep a level 2 MOM while getting rid of 4 and 5 when it has a full set of apps running on a pure IoT platform (life #6). It is hard to make general predictions, but when making an MES decision today, understanding your vendor's roadmap will help a lot.

Q5: Do most manufacturers understand the difference between Digital Transformation and digitalization? Some seem to view MOM as a means of achieving digitalization versus Digital Transformation. What’s your perspective?

A5: I find it hard to tell the difference between digitalization and Digital Transformation. It is a bit like MES and MOM – we could define them differently, implying that one is a superset of the other. I prefer not to get into semantic debates. As I said on the webinar I find the word "digitalization" hard to type and even harder to say in casual conversation. In some ways, I prefer to think of industrial transformation. The digital part is a given – the real move to digital manufacturing started with Industry 3.0 when computing technology came to the factory. Now Industry 4.0 is bringing much more and yet we still refer to Digital Transformation. Given my aversion to semantic debates, I'll just stop there!

Q6: Users and solution providers seem to be unclear about the difference in functionality between ERP and MES. Can you clarify?

A6: I don't think there is a lack of clarity but there is a substantial overlap. A few years ago, the difference was obvious. Today MES suppliers are pushing up from the plant (especially in areas such as supply chain, asset performance management, and quality management) while ERP vendors are pushing down (manufacturing intelligence, scheduling, even execution). This makes the choice of vendor for some of these systems difficult. Many manufacturers have the attitude that they will buy functionality from their main ERP vendor wherever possible. The world of IIoT will not instantly negate that but LNS Research hopes and expects to see the market for industrial software opening to a wider range of app developers. There will be plenty of opportunity for all with Industry 4.0.

Wrapping up, thank you to all who attended our webcast and, for those who could not attend, we invite you to listen to the recording.

1-2-3 to Digital Transformation with MES

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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