Decisions for Operations Management Architectures

by | Dec 11, 2008 | Operations & Business Management

Jim Cahill

Jim Cahill

Chief Blogger, Social Marketing Leader

At the request of one of Emerson Process Experts blog readers who has long commute to and from his office, I started to add podcast recordings at the end of each post to provide an audio version of each post, beginning this past October.

Today, I thought we’d push the envelope a little further by conducting an interview with data management specialists, Bob Lenich and Joanne Salazar. We’re discussing the decisions you might consider as you define your operations management strategy and architected solution.

Here’s a rough transcript of the podcast interview:

Jim: Where should operations management (also commonly known by the MES acronym) functionality reside within your system architecture?

Joanne: The ISA95 Enterprise-Control System Integration standard defines data models, work activity, and information exchange of operations management activities. ISA has defined a functional hierarchy model within a manufacturing operation that helps companies optimize functions, processes, and data. The activities defined in Levels 3, 2, or 1 are critical to plant safety, reliability, efficiency, product quality, and maintaining regulatory compliance. ISA95 Level 3 functions coordinate the resources (people, equipment, and materials) needed through all process steps to produce the end product. These solutions integrate across plant functions to enable optimized operations.

Bob: Many people correlate MES with ISA Level 3 functionality. These functions are distinctive, yet it can be challenging to determine where MES functionality resides within the system architecture components, especially if the end user is integrating to an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. Functions need to be evaluated based on organizational structure to determine the best fit for each activity into either the enterprise domain or the real-time plant floor arena. In a practical sense, this analysis defines who owns the function. Technology is then applied to achieve this functional structure. Using solutions from various suppliers can result in product overlaps and gaps in functionality. Each gap or overlap needs to be analyzed to determine how best to address the function.

Jim: Does the selected technology play a role in these decisions?

Joanne: In a way, it is a “Catch 22”; functional alignment activity is independent of the platform; however, in reality, some alignment decisions are dependent on the applications selected. How does an end user determine the best solution?

Bob: The best result is achieved by optimizing the functional organizational structure; then identifying the technology solutions that best meet these needs. It is important to select a long-term solution partner with both experience and a committed technology investment program to help make these alignment decisions. For example, material management from a warehouse and purchasing perspective may best reside in an ERP system; however, materials management within the process (such as tracking lots and adjusting for potency) may best be performed by the MES solution.

Jim: Are there other considerations in this decision process?

Joanne: Yes, the required response time can help determine where the function should reside within the system architecture. Control systems provide response times in subseconds, seconds, minutes, and hours. MES systems typically provide response times of seconds, minutes, hours, shifts, and days. ERP systems respond in days, weeks, and months.

Bob: That is right. However, the ease of integration between the systems can also be a defining factor in determining where functions should reside. Bottom line, each end user needs to evaluate their specific needs and organizational structure, and then work with a committed partner to determine the best solution.

Jim: Joanne, Bob, I really appreciate your time, sharing your insights about operations management with the Emerson Process Experts readers and listeners.

If you have thoughts on this approach or suggestions for future podcasts, I’d love to read or hear them!


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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.

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