In the third of our BLOG series on global Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), my colleague Diogo looked at the importance of an MES template for multi-site deployment. Here, I am going to explore the advantages in more detail.

What is an MES template?

Fundamentally, an MES helps you turn raw materials into products by guiding and controlling processing steps. Deploying an MES across multiple sites offers many advantages, including lower investment costs, easier maintenance with a single, standard system across multiple sites, the ability to centrally manage the MES, and the capacity to share data and best practices across the enterprise. For a global, multi-site MES to deliver these benefits, however, there is a need to identify and standardize common processes among facilities. This is where the MES template comes in. Its goal is to standardize processes and embrace best practices where applicable, while still accommodating local customization for the unique needs of each factory. It is defined by the MES Center of Excellence team and, depending on project requirements, there may be several templates defined to meet the needs of the enterprise.

How to create an MES template

Creating an MES template requires an approach where usual procedures and ways of working are, where possible, adapted to conform with the MES template. It requires the identification of synergies and common goals from each production setting. While the aim is to create a single, baseline MES template, there will also be template subsets that group processes and factories that have similar needs. For example, one subset of factories may execute batch processes, while another group uses continuous processing.

Different approaches can be selected depending on desired process similarity, standardization and IT landscape.

The MES Center of Excellence team needs to map out all requirements and characteristics of individual plants and identify similarities and differences. The success of the template planning stage of a project is heavily reliant on the involvement or representation of all stakeholders.

The advantages of MES templates

  1. Reduced implementation effort/cost on follow-up sites by sharing a starting baseline

By using an MES template across multiple sites, the effort of MES implementation is greatly reduced. This is not to say there will not be differences between sites, as each manufacturing setting is likely to have its own unique needs. However, an MES template, defined by the Center of Excellence team to cover commonalities across sites, provides a strong, shared baseline to build from and avoids unnecessary, repeated engineering as the MES is deployed across the enterprise.

  • Reduced additional sites roll-out timeline by not starting new sites from scratch

As well as reducing cost and implementation effort, the use of MES templates means the system can be deployed across new sites much more quickly. The length of time will, of course, depend on the amount of customization required beyond the template, but the overall project time will be much shorter.

  • Consolidated validation

While the MES is used across multiple sites, a single installation qualification (IQ) can be automated and applied across multiple manufacturing sites, significantly reducing the overall cost, time and effort required for the validation of all factories.

  • Standardization of internal processes driven by the template approach equates to higher process harmonization and manufacturing flexibility

As the MES template is based on the identification of similar internal processes and best practices, it will naturally help to align these and harmonize processes where applicable. In turn, this promotes best practice, reduce ongoing maintenance overheads, and gives additional flexibility to manufacturing operations.

While there are clear benefits to the utilization of MES templates, creating these does present some challenges and it would be naive to ignore the initial effort required.

Challenges in creating an MES template

  1. An empowered Center of Excellence capable of implementing the template approach across multiple sites

Creating the right team in the Center of Excellence is paramount to a successful multi-site MES deployment using templates. The team needs to represent and understand the diverse needs of all factories and disciplines and may include global quality, planning, ERP integration, equipment integration, and analytics leaders, supported by a technical team and local representatives in each domain of expertise. It must be trusted and empowered to define the template strategy and ensure excellent communication with all stakeholders in the project.

  • Management effort to establish an aligned roll-out plan taking into consideration the template release dates and each site’s roll-out strategies

While the MES is typically initially deployed at a single pilot site, the complete project needs to consider the wider system deployment and ensure that timelines are convergent with template release dates and individual site needs.

  • Additional timeline and effort to establish the first template baseline

Although the overall MES solution may be based on multiple templates, where synergies between sites and processes have been grouped, it is vital for the first baseline template to maximize standardization. Idiosyncrasies of local manufacturing or operational processes need to be examined, understood, and, if necessary, modified to conform to a standard approach to reap the benefits of the single system. Indeed, as many processes as possible should be adapted to the common system, rather than the other way around, but this will require in-depth understanding. While this will take time and effort by the Center of Excellence team, which should not be underestimated, getting the baseline template right is key to reducing overall project timescales and smooth global deployment of the MES.

All you need to know to succeed in multisite MES program

A multi-site MES roll-out affects multiple stakeholders and processes. We want to share our experience and expertise with you and help you get where you need to be to make your business strong, competitive and resilient for the future. This series of blogs will take you step by step through the challenges and opportunities it offers. It comprises 7 different sections, that will guide you on your journey:

1. Benefits and how to build a business case
2. Challenges of multisite MES implementation projects and how to overcome them
3. Multisite project stages
4. Center of excellence / governance
5. Advantages of an MES template and a standardized approach to roll-out
6. MES architecture for easy multisite deployments

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