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MES Lite: Building MES Composite Applications With Operations Process Management
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Simon Jacobson, Colin Masson


MES vendor Eyelit's receipt of the Small Vendor Innovation Award at this week's Strategy 21 conference has raised the question: If MES has been around since AMR Research coined the term in the early 1990s, how can it be innovative in 2006?

Not just modular MES functionality, but Operations Process Management

In the past year, Eyelit has grown beyond its roots of front-ending older versions of Brooks Software’s Promis application with new GUIs, workflows, and process-modeling capabilities to winning deals head-to-head with MES competitors in the High-Tech market. While several MES vendors have partnered for functionality like CAPA workflows and asset management, Eyelit—sporting highly referenceable customers—has developed its own modular suite of core manufacturing management capabilities and established its J2EE as one of the few Linux-based MES deployments in production.

Eyelit has blazed the trail that the next generation of MES vendors needs to follow by providing highly modular MES functionality and Operations Process Management (OPM) capabilities for constructing MES composite applications from legacy manufacturing applications. There’s been a lot of talk about Business Process Management (BPM) for building composite applications from enterprise systems, but this emerging technology can’t be used to orchestrate the services spanning transactions that haven’t been defined in highly standardized business applications—applications that need to be evaluated, triggered, and executed in real time.

AMR Research has coined the term Operations Process Management as the complementary, real-time equivalent of BPM. OPM starts with real-time event definition and monitoring, performs complex aggregation and transformation of data from shop-floor applications, executes many workflows per second, and integrates with Business Process Management (BPM) across application boundaries to integrate with enterprise systems. In addition to Eyelit, MES vendors, including Apriso and Brooks Software, have developed OPM engines that integrate legacy manufacturing applications with enterprise systems, offering detailed process modeling and real-time, event-driven workflows to coordinate activities across multiple resources and execution environments.

ERP and legacy execution systems: the next big MES opportunities? (or, if you can’t beat them, join them together!)

AMR Research has been involved in numerous MES selections and discussions with global manufacturers on what their next-generation manufacturing architectures will look like. As part of these discussions, the desire to extend ERP investments into manufacturing scenarios comes up. However, with the exception of simple paper-on-glass manufacturing environments where ERP can be the de facto MES application, the ERP investment needs to be augmented with MES functionality.

But crafting best-of-breed MES capabilities from the thin veneer of ERP-based manufacturing functionality is an expensive approach-one that leaves little room in tight IT budgets for lesser known manufacturing Independent Software Vendors (ISVs). At the same time, manufacturers are loath to rip and replace existing production execution systems-even those with known deficiencies-in favor of yet another million-dollar MES implementation. These basic facts of manufacturing IT life have converged to create a significant revenue opportunity for the MES vendor community-but only if vendors follow Eyelit's lead and can adapt their architectures and deployment models accordingly.

In June 2005, we identified that the market for MES applications had finally crested $1B. Going forward, growth will come from MES buyers seeking products and architectures that offer low-risk alternatives to rip-and-replace approaches, while providing integrated portfolios of MES capabilities that can be purchased and deployed on an a la carte basis. Even more important, these a la carte capabilities must work together with minimal integration and services as additional portfolio components are deployed, and they must continue to support the inevitable landscape of legacy systems. In short, manufacturers seek the ability to:

"Extend-and leverage-the value of legacy production systems and assets Coordinate operations between distributed manufacturing assets Selectively fill in functional gaps as aging production systems are retired or as new requirement are surfaced"


Innovators like Eyelit have internalized this shopping list and are delivering solutions today, setting the bar for future manufacturing architecture discussions.


Conclusion
With a centralized component of the new generation of MES applications performing OPM duties, manufacturers seeking to deploy MES functionality in a modular form-only leveraging the new functionality they need-can do so without ripping out legacy manufacturing applications and the extensive customization associated with a traditional integration toolsets. Vendors like GE Fanuc, Rockwell Automation, and Siemens have started down this path as well, featuring their own blend of modular MES architectures and open integration frameworks, but each has its own sales and architectural legacy to overcome. Meanwhile, Eyelit continues to show that there's still innovation in the MES market.

Copyright 2006 by AMR Research, Inc.

 
 
"Eyelit is one of a new breed of production management suppliers that "gets it" when it comes to plant software. This is what manufacturers need in order to enhance enterprise performance in real-time."