Tim Sowell, who is an Invensys (Schneider Electric) vice president and Fellow, has been writing a series of blog posts on Third Generation Manufacturing Execution System (MES). He has been discussing configuring systems from building blocks rather than custom coding as a wave of the future. In his latest post on model-driven MES, Sowell posits a few benefits:

  • Enable evolution of operational practices by capturing the best practices
  • Rapid product introduction and evolutions
  • Ability to scale over multiple sites in a sustainable way with common product definitions across the sites
  • Transparency across site and multi site, eg, the value chain
  • Empowerment of decisions in the NOW and consistency of actions across different roles, shifts

Some of these items, such as transparency across a site and multi-site have been accomplished by a few companies that I have run across and written about. But stories of successes have not been plentiful. When the economic benefits are tabulated, though, those benefits are high.

Sowell noted two feedbacks this week relative to the modern operational system:

  • MES functionality as defined by Mesa and ISA95 is a commodity
  • Assume operational/ production change
  • Assume operational workforce, people transition and evolution

Sowell calls these key comment when considering a Third Generation MES “based upon core MES functionality in a scalable architecture naturally extended with model driven (workflow) operational practice capture.”

He says he’s shocked upon hearing people still talking about developing a custom MES/MOM system. “Why,” he asks, “waste the energy on a mature technology?” Sowell’s endgame: “Focus your energy on differentiating through the capture and embedding of operational practices and actions, while empowering decisions in the NOW across the operational community in the organization?”

I think his thoughts are going the right direction. I see similar initiatives in other areas where people are focusing on interoperability of systems through use of standards and the use of models.

There remains much room for progress in operations management.

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