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Cloud-Based MES

Cloud-Based MES Basics

Learn about cloud-based MES and how it can streamline your manufacturing process.

Why Manufacturers Should Consider Cloud-Based MES Solutions

Everything you do is focused on the plant floor. A manufacturing execution system (MES) provides the foundation for operations to schedule, manage, and track each step during production. In modern production environments, more equipment and machines are becoming connected—and need to be connected to an MES to provide real-time actionable data. Cloud connectivity is a modern solution being adopted to maintain a tight connection between MES, ERP, and the supply chain. This article will cover cloud-based MES solutions in more detail, looking at how they compare to on-premises solutions and how manufacturers can implement cloud MES to streamline their manufacturing processes.

What is Cloud-Based MES?

Cloud MES is a ‘Software as a Service (SaaS)’ solution, using software that runs over the Internet in a public cloud. Using cloud MES solutions, all involved personnel can access real-time operational data at any time. This connects departments and helps businesses monitor MES, ERP, and supply chains to form integrated strategies off the back of the data they’ve collected. Synchronization between MES and ERP can be straightforward, and it provides the ability for an untethered workforce.

Functions like monitoring inventory once required someone to be on the plant floor, but this is no longer the case with cloud connectivity. Employees can now check inventory on any mobile device from anywhere, anytime. If the system goes down, not only does production halt but getting the MES functional again becomes an IT nightmare. With systems in the cloud, your operations leaders can focus on core business objectives—leaving IT functions in the hands of IT experts.

Cloud MES vs On-Premises MES

As manufacturing becomes more complex, especially for global companies with facilities around the world, integrating and connecting operations becomes increasingly difficult. This is why many businesses are turning to cloud based MES to keep all their operations running smoothly. In this section, we’ll compare cloud MES to on-premises MES to help manufacturers understand which solution is best suited for them.

Advantages of cloud-based MES systems vs on-premises MES systems

  • Accessibility

    All personnel involved in the manufacturing process can access real-time operational data at any time using cloud MES. This data is accessible from remote locations allowing for better connected departments, improved communication, and visibility over the manufacturing process. Giving all necessary employees access to this information leads to greater utilization and functionality of an MES.

  • Flexibility and Scalability

    Cloud MES is even more adaptable when it comes to increasing or decreasing the size of operations. This is important when production ramps up and MES must be scaled quickly and easily.

  • Better Use of IT Resources

    Cloud-based MES is easy to deploy, requiring no hardware or customization. This frees up IT teams to shift focus to more valuable tasks. Once deployed, MES doesn’t require costly upgrades, server maintenance, or frequent oversight. This is ideal for small to medium-sized businesses that have minimal IT resources and bandwidth. Using cloud MES gives your personnel more time to concentrate on the remaining stages of the supply chain.

  • Easy to Deploy

    On-premises MES requires daunting up-front time and capital investments. Cloud-based MES depends on integrating to the key data sources and can take as little as a few weeks. With a cloud deployment – especially true with software as a service (SaaS) – all maintenance and support are handled by an organization whose core competence is keeping the system ‘up’ and available. Moreover, some cloud solutions continuously deploy enhancements and fixes so there is no need to take the system down for upgrades. If there is a service interruption, there are always live back-up (hot site) facilities available.

  • Lower Costs

    Using cloud-based MES solutions means you only pay for what you use. You don’t need to invest in expensive hardware and software, and once it’s set up, it doesn’t require regular maintenance. This doesn’t just free up your IT department, it also saves you money in the long run. In addition, IT resources to support plant expansion and contraction are scalable instantly without significant IT investment or involvement. subsequent plants can be brought on-line using the same configurations in a fraction of the time and create a standard configuration across the enterprise to make management more effective.

  • Improved Security

    A cloud-based MES comes with high-level security, with software maintenance and security being updated by the provider. However, with an on-premises MES, security is expensive and requires regular updates.

  • Informed Decision Making

    The ease of access to real-time data affords employees more informed decision making, especially when managing multiple sites around the world. This expanded overview allows companies to be more responsive to consumer preferences, production demands, and equipment repair and updates.

  • Industry Regulations

    Cloud MES is a smart solution for industries where products are heavily regulated, such as medical devices, food & beverage, and pharmaceuticals. Advanced systems monitor, store, and analyze all the data required for regulatory compliance, allowing businesses to track manufacturing across multiple plants on one platform.

  • Unlimited Connections

    There’s no limit to the amount of equipment you can connect through cloud-based MES. Data for thousands of pieces of equipment can be accessed in real-time, 24/7, from anywhere in the world from a single device. This can provide large companies with clear KPIs and the ability to troubleshoot problems across all their plants, without having to consult each plant leader individually.

  • Mixed-Mode Manufacturing

    Mixed mode manufacturing is a strategic decision, providing alternatives for greater control and agility than outsourced production. A cloud-based MES can be used to optimize mixed-mode manufacturing. This allows for flexibility and scalability when supporting the right mix of manufacturing, responding quickly to evolving market and consumer demands.

  • Connected Factory

    Deploying MES in the cloud allows it to be integrated with ERP systems and other enterprise software. This helps even the smallest manufacturers take advantage of Industry 4.0 technology and achieve a connected factory. This means all systems, including servers, data storage, devices, networks, and other integrated software allow for visualization of the production floor. Providing data and insights that businesses can use to improve their manufacturing processes.

Cloud-Based MES Deployment Considerations

If you’re looking to implement cloud-based MES into your manufacturing process, there are certain considerations that should be evaluated first. In this section, we will highlight these industry concerns and explain what you should consider when deploying a cloud-based MES.

Security

Storing all company data on a cloud server can result in security concerns. Data breaches can occur because of failure to upgrade software, patch known bugs or viruses. Businesses looking to deploy cloud-based MES should consider building security into each layer – the network, operating systems, applications, and people. One way to do this is through investing in the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering of some suppliers. This provides tools that allow companies to manage and configure IT environments where they have security across all layers. As a lot of data security issues come as a result of human error, it is also important that the proper training is provided to employees. Tools that force employees to regularly change passwords and prevent them from installing non-approved software should also be used.

Data integrity

This is a concern for companies using cloud-based MES because they are outsourcing their IT environment. Organizations investing in MES in the cloud should work closely with their suppliers to understand where their data is located and ensure it cannot be falsified.

Validation

For companies who follow regulatory requirements, it’s important to focus on understanding the risks associated with deploying to the cloud. Responsibilities for risk management must be defined early and applications need to be validated to test whether they comply with quality standards.

Availability 

Organizations must have a disaster recovery plan in place to maintain integrity. Storing all your data in one place doesn’t come without its risks and having a strong backup plan that is tested regularly provides the reassurance companies need. One way to address availability is through a service level agreement that specifies critical areas such as incident management, disaster recovery, audit support, software upgrades, notification processes, issue investigation, and key performance metrics.

Integration

There are two considerations for companies integrating cloud-based MES. The integration of business systems and the integration of MES with the equipment. If you’re looking to connect a piece of equipment to the cloud, it can be done easily with the use of inexpensive hardware components. This hardware makes devices visible on the internet by assigning transmission control protocol (TCP) and an internet protocol (IP) address to the device.

MES Solutions

MES can be an even more powerful solution for your businesses when the plant floor is connected to the top floor. After all, you’re running a business, so you need a system that supports your profit centers with operational data to provide greater visibility for the whole organization. MES in the cloud provides a more modern, future-proof IT infrastructure with increased uptime and deployment flexibility while off-loading security and access controls, system support and maintenance, and hardware costs to a SaaS provider. The control and visibility that it enables makes production decision-making more effective.

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