Pitfalls for smaller manufacturers who pursue modular MES applications

When seeking for modular MES application, short term and immediate goals do need to be considered, but not at the expense of compromising long term profitability
(PresseBox) (Porto (Portugal), ) Recently, we had a post which talked about how the MES application is now more democratic and easily available for medium and smaller scale manufacturers, with the manufacturers having the choice of selecting the desired functionality. Today we will explore the other side of this democratization looking at the pitfalls which await small manufacturers if they don’t select the application properly.

Generally the approach towards selecting and deploying an MES application varies drastically between large manufacturers having multiple production sites across the world and small scale manufacturers with one or maybe a couple of production.

Large scale manufacturers can conduct the MES selection in a highly organized manner

They can assemble a cross-functional team of experts, develop top deliverables which are desired from the system, develop questionnaires and start screening MES vendors and applications.

For smaller manufacturers however, the story is completely different. They are looking for faster ROI and don’t always have the kind of budgets or expertise a large scale manufacturer can muster. Typically they are interested in realizing improvements in a particular area of their operation, and then slowly enter the next phase of implementation.

SPC, LIMS, APS, QMS etc. are just some of the buzzwords you will find on websites and product catalogues of most MES vendors. Small manufacturers are susceptible to fall prey to claims about how modular the solution is and that there is an option of availing it as a service, which would relate to SaaS and so on, and end up incurring much more cost when they go for an application completely based on the face value.

Partly it is because of keeping lower initial cost as their top selection criterion. Most vendors, who repackage an old inflexible MES application and sell it as a modular and flexible application, tend to offer low initial prices to lure unsuspecting manufacturers. However, when the application rolls out and fails to meet user specifications, it needs to be modified, increasing the cost painfully to a much higher level.

So is there any way in which small manufacturers may avoid pitfalls and traps?

First and foremost, they need to understand where the MES application (or a part of it - LIMS, SPC or WIP management) is needed the most. Ideally a small core team comprising top management, operations personnel and IT, should get together and chalk out what exactly they are looking to achieve. Getting the requirements clearly defined is the key to getting the right module.

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