Implementing manufacturing execution systems within large organisations
Karani, Muhammed Ahmed
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To compete in the global market, organisations have to ensure that their production is synchronised with their other business activities. To achieve this, companies deploy a variety of solutions known as Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES). These systems provide the bridge between control and business systems and are used by a variety of people across many business functions. Typical users range from production and maintenance personnel to engineers, finance and management. Sectors within the manufacturing industry have their own definitions of MES and these are based on their functional requirements and by the offerings of vendors in that sector. Thus, people differ in their understanding and definition of MES. To ensure common understanding of what functionalities or modules constitute MES, the Manufacturing Execution Systems Association (MESA) has defined MES to cover the following eleven areas: Resource Allocation and Status Operations/Detail Scheduling Dispatching Production Units Document Control Data Collection/Acquisition Labour Management Quality Management Process Management Maintenance Management Product Tracking and Genealogy Performance Analysis On examining the Manufacturing Execution Systems literature, it was realised that functionalities and definitions exist but a standard approach and implementation methodology is lacking. Thus, a framework was developed based on a literature study as well as from experience within the MES environment. To ensure that the framework meets the needs of organisations, two questionnaires were developed and sent to people from various functions within large South African companies (and across divisions). The results of the empirical study showed that for large organisations, i.e. organisations with over 200 employees and an annual turnover in excess of R 40 million, some form of manufacturing execution systems were used in all the companies surveyed. The most common functionality deployed was Data Collection1Acquisition and the payback on these systems was greater than two years. The respondents highlighted that MES governance and an overall company wide strategy for MES implementation was non-existent or not enforced across the group of companies. The respondents also indicated that the implementation was time consuming and that the projects usually exceeded the allocated budget and/or were late. The respondents were not unanimous on who was accountable for MES within the organisation and a quarter felt that this was unclear within the organisation. When asked about the process that was followed in the selection of a vendor and solution, the majority felt that the process was not well defined. However, respondents noted that change management is used on all major projects and the outcome is generally successful. All the companies outsource either some or all of their IT services and the relationship with the vendor seems successful, as the rating received for MES support was very good. The benefits of implementing Manufacturing Execution Systems are also being realised by those companies that responded to the questionnaires. The overall impression is that over 75% of the respondents feel positive about the benefits and state that the benefits are realised. The only major shortcoming is that information is not being shared across business units and sites as half of the respondents felt that this was not happening in their companies. The proposed MES Engagement and Implementation Framework that was tested with the empirical study was subsequently updated. The framework suggests that all MES implementations should begin with a review of the business and ICT strategy as these would assist when defining the business requirements and the criteria for the selection of the technology, vendor, and solution The business requirements should be ascertained and a realistic business case should be developed. The project team should re-confirm the requirements once a vendor is selected, and, with the necessary change management, implement a portion of the solution as a pilot project. Once successful, then only should the entire solution be rolled out. Another parallel process should consider the outsourcing for the support phase. The entire process of implementing MES is cyclical as new requirements, additional functionality, and benefits tracking results in new projects. In conclusion adopting this framework would result in better implementation and ensure that the benefits are realised for all MES projects and that the solution is adequately supported after implementation. A model for the implementation has also been proposed and it should be developed and tested further to guide MES implementation.