Affordable MES for the mid-market

Gil Garcia, from Microsoft Dynamics AX, has hands-on experience with most manufacturing ecosystem products.  Most shops strive to be connected shop floor to top floor, but with the major obstacle in connecting these two being cost of equipment, Gil never thought that it was possible for a solution to become available to the mid-market.  Read about how Memex MERLIN, along with MTConnect and Dynamics AX, can in fact make this possible.

The full blog entry is listed below.

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Affordable MES for the mid-market

By Gil Garcia

I have been preaching the Shop Floor to Top Floor mantra for many years now but deep inside I knew it would never happen in the mid-market in my lifetime.  Companies that are successful in connecting the shop floor to their ERP system can achieve productivity increases in the range of 10%-50%. So why did I think this way? Costs!

The solutions available out there to the mid-market have always been super expensive. It’s not the software mind you.  I have seen license costs in the range of $50,000 – $100,000 which is pretty reasonable if the ERP system is costing around $350,000 (average mid-market deal). The real costs lie in the services costs connecting the machines to the historian. A typical shop floor can have a dozen different types of machines, with different PLCs, and an MES service project has to ‘translate” a dozen machine languages into language that the multitude of business applications can understand. So this many to many problem (known as the “(N-1)squared- N”) has been around forever, until an organization called MT Connect came along.

MT Connect has developed a connected manufacturing model which really translates into Universal Machine Connectivity. Now, MES application can use this “protocol pipeline” to seamlessly and inexpensively connect the multitude of machines to the shop floor to Dynamics AX. Obviously it’s not as simple as that. You still need a good MES application to translate the data into information, and provide the software and hardware to connect the PLCs to the system server. But the major cost obstacle in connecting the shop floor seems to have been overcome in my lifetime. Make sure to go out to the MTConnect website and download their Connectivity Guide as it provides invaluable information if you are considering an MES project.

As we all know there are several MES options available to the Dynamics AX user community. All are strong and very powerful when connected to the Dynamics AX ERP backbone. One of the ones I really like is an offering from MEMEX Automation called MERLIN. What really impresses me is their sales model. They will quote you an all in price per machine (hardware, software, services). The prices I have heard quoted are extremely reasonable and affordable for the mid-market, something I’d never thought I would see for mid-market companies.

So why do an MES project? Well for one, the return on investment from MES systems is similar to what you get from good advanced scheduling tools, around 3 months! Compare that to a typical 23 month ROI on an ERP project and its pretty simple to justify. What are the typical benefits? The MEMEX guys quote numbers like: 10% operational improvement, 20%-60% profit improvements, real time machine visibility and OEE statistics, reduction in unplanned downtime, scrap rates reductions, better labor productivity, and so on. On the shop floor operators will be able to see productivity numbers on large flat panels (much like the “lean” concepts of visual clues), and all this is real time data. So if processes start to edge out of productive ranges the operator or supervisors can react immediately, and not wait until the end of the shift or a week to address. The operators can also seamlessly report on downtime issues (bottlenecks, material shortage’s, scrap, operator error (yeah right!).

Now once you actually integrate the MES system to the ERP backbone (assuming its AX), the Role Centers in Ax will carry all the KPIs and OEE statistics to middle and upper management. These Role Centers will carry the company standards when it comes to productivity, efficiency, waste allowances, costs, quality non Conformances, and all the KPIs necessary to improve the business process. I say improve because in our world what cannot be measured cannot be improved. The information is real time so no need to wait until month end close to see how the plant is doing with respect to production on the shop floor. I never thought I would see it happen but the reality is finally here: Affordable MES for the Mid-Market. Fairy tales can come true, they can happen to you!

Check out our upcoming MES live meetings and podcasts on the Dynamics Cafe soon!