Manufacturing Focus: Our Weekly Feature Article on Topics Related to Manufacturing Management  
  - March 18, 2008 -  

Supply Chain Software: Does MES Need to Evolve to Better Support Total Material Flow?


“MES 3” Takes a More Holistic Approach to Operations Management, says ARC’s Greg Gorbach; Traditional WMS Vendors Entering the Fray



SCDigest Editorial Staff

The Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) solution profile continues to evolve, says Greg Gorbach, Vice President of Collaborative Manufacturing at ARC Advisory Group, with an increasing vendor focus on richer support for total materials management.

There seems to be growing interest in the area of “production logistics,” both from an operations perspective, and from the software needed to support a more integrated view of materials management.

“If you think about “traditional MES” solutions, it is generally true that they have not been much concerned with the flow of material into and out of production lines, but there have been exceptions,” says Gorbach. “But there is a growing recognition of the need for better managing the internal materials flow. Electronic Kanban has emerged in the last few years, and is but one example of a response to this need. We’ve also recently been hearing about the need for doing more upstream kitting in automotive, to cite another example.”

Responding to customer demand, some vendors are starting to address this shortcoming.

(Manufacturing Article - Continued Below)




(Manufacturing Article - Continued)

Tom Kozenski, Vice President of Product Strategy at RedPrairie, says they are seeing interest from a variety of industry sectors for functionality that combines MES capabilities with more traditional WMS functionality deployed on the factory floor.

“We are seeing a number of companies interested in production line replenishment and more general materials management within the manufacturing site,” Kozenski told Supply Chain Digest. “Companies want production line demand to pull components and materials into production lines and work cells, and to do that effectively they also need many of the task management and replenishment functions normally found in a Warehouse Management System.”

Kozenski says RedPrairie is evolving its WMS and related solutions to meet the needs of these production environments, moving towards more complete MES functionality in combination with appropriate WMS capabilities – though he notes that sometimes manufacturing managers don’t want to hear the term “WMS” – even if that’s what they really need.

“There was some resistance to adopting a “WMS” in manufacturing in the past, but that’s changing,” Kozenski said. “Most are very comfortable with that term now, because they understand this is part of what they need.”

HighJump Software, also a provider of Warehouse Management systems, has taken a somewhat different strategy. A couple of years ago, it released a new MES solution – but one that added a variety of material movement and other functions normally found in a WMS to better address the notion of “production logistics.”

“There has traditionally been this disconnect between the detailed management of production line activity that was handled by the MES, and all the rest of the materials management in the facility,” Chad Collins, Vice President of Global Product Strategy at HighJump Software, told SCDigest. “We’ve combined both those sets of capabilities in an integrated MES solution.”

Collins says HighJump’s MES solution meets these evolving needs of manufacturers by coordinating the material flow of the manufacturing environment with physical production and quality assurance processes.

Greg Gorbach Says:
Manufacturers need software to help coordinate production throughout all operations – from the receiving dock through production and shipping, and from product design to manufacturing process planning and production to support through End of Life.

What do you say? Send us your comments here

Entering the Era of MES 3

Gorbach says this is just the latest evolution in the MES market. He sees the first generation of MES being largely related to automation control. Next came “MES 2,” the MES solutions most of us know today, which provided much richer functionality to manage the production line process.

Today, however, “Manufacturers need software to help coordinate production throughout all operations – from the receiving dock through production and shipping, and from product design to manufacturing process planning and production to support through End of Life,” said Gorbach. “Gen 3 MES solutions support this broader conceptualization of the software solution. I refer to these as “Operations Management” solutions, because they no longer resemble the original MES applications and are much broader in scope.”

While a few years ago, many saw the MES market as treading water in terms of both market growth and functionality, Gorbach says this move towards MES 3 is energizing the market.

“I’ve been in this space since the 1990’s. I was an MES Product Manager before joining ARC,” Gorbach said. “It has never been more interesting!”

Do we need more focus on “production logistics?” Do you see the need for MES solutions to add more WMS-like materials management and task management functionality? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback button below.

Send an Email