MES: Build vs Buy

Every manufacturing operation requires communication and the sharing of data. In the past, data was manually recorded with pen and paper and shared at the walking speed of an operator.

The industry has come a long way since then, with forward-thinking operations undertaking digital transformation journeys to unlock greater efficiency, visibility and the capabilities required for continual improvement and profitability in the contemporary manufacturing landscape. 

However, not all approaches yield the same results. While point solutions for individual functions to provide new capabilities in your manufacturing operation may seem a sensible way to begin a digital transformation journey, there are a number of issues to consider. 

Building MES functionality with point solutions requires careful consideration. The pitfalls are all too common, resulting in delayed progress and increased costs versus a single platform.

If you were to consider the data flow in your operation like plumbing in a house, concerns about differing approaches would soon become apparent. As numerous plumbers from different companies arrive to distribute water and heating around your home, difficulties reconciling differences between pipe diameters, connectors and joining mechanisms would result in burst pipes and water everywhere. 

Amongst the issues that come with composite systems is security. While plumbing together these systems, how do you consider cybersecurity with due diligence? Should you experience a cybersecurity threat, a growing and tangible danger, which vendors would you call for support? 

Vulnerabilities can reveal themselves when disparate solutions take diverging paths, at an incongruent pace, through their product roadmaps. The result is a constantly changing landscape in which your platform can continuously fall out of sync with its various component solutions, requiring constant attention and maintenance. That is not to mention the security risks of each system requiring different access routes in and out of information silos, which requires careful consideration as increased connections mean more potential attack vectors.

Bad actors take advantage of vulnerabilities in poorly secured systems

How do you ensure consistency and implementation of standards across vendor organisations? Best practice becomes challenging to implement, with no single approach for your entire MES system. Learning each solution will require training courses for each, resulting in increased time to competency for your operators. 

Implementing a single platform that provides seamless connectivity, efficiency management, quality management and production management solutions in addition to a raft of other capabilities rather than numerous point solutions avoids the headache. 

Where do you begin if you choose to implement a complete and integrated MES solution from a single vendor? The good news is that independent analysts have done a lot of homework for you. Gartner has asked vendors the tough questions to independently test the product and ensure confidence in connectivity, security, training, and the product’s roadmap.  

Novotek is the only Premier Solutions Partner for GE in the United Kingdom. With extensive experience and expertise in delivering and exceeding customers’ ambitions, Novotek has helped many manufacturers achieve greater profitability and efficiency with GE Digital products. 

So, what does Gartner have to say about GE Digital? 

“GE Digital is a Leader in this Magic Quadrant.” Gartner’s Magic Quadrant considers the completeness of a vendor’s vision alongside their ability to execute that vision to sort vendors between Leaders, Challengers, Niche Players and Visionaries.  

Gartner has highlighted strengths such as innovation, product improvements and customer experience as factors in GE Digital serving as a leading platform in the MES space. 

As systems trend towards more and more connectivity, owing to the significant value offered by data analysis for operational improvement, implementing unconnected or imperfectly deployed point solutions can put your operation on the back foot competitively. Additionally, a consistent naming structure and technical ontology are required to ensure systems can communicate flawlessly. This is inherent in a complete MES solution, but your team must consider and continuously monitor a collection of point solutions to achieve compatibility. 

Another downside to such an approach is paying multiple times for the same service. When deploying a point solution, each integration will require design, testing and implementation phases – each made more challenging by the need for each team to consider the other’s work, compatibility, language and methodology. 

GE Digital’s Plant Apps cover the following functionality as a rounded MES platform: 

  • Dispatching – Distributing work orders based on transactional data and demand 
  • Execution – Managing the production process
  • Data Management – Enabling the collection and management of data at regular intervals from all connected assets. 
  • Operational Data Store – Readily tailorable for purpose, MES can serve as a relational database for operational data or integrate with a data historian or IIoT platform. 
  • Quality Management – Regulated industries and products can benefit from standardisation and data capture to ensure compliance. 
  • Process – MES ensures all manufacturing steps are undertaken correctly, with the correct raw materials, temperatures, times, etc. 
  • Traceability – The ability to track the entire process from raw materials to intermediate and finished goods by lot, batch number, or other signifiers. 
  • Analytics and Reporting – Dashboard displays, advanced analytical tools and real-time KPIs provide data for accurate decision support. 
  • Integration – MES can bring together many disparate systems to create something greater than the sum of its parts. Tying together all production levels with enterprise systems, site planning, bill of materials, and recipe planning. 

With a single platform, the Novotek team will tailor the solution to your individual needs within a coherent integration process. With a project undertaken in an orderly way and to return to the analogy of tradespeople in the home, you can be sure your plasterers, painters, and plumbers aren’t tripping over each other.