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Digital transformation continues to be the key to agility and business growth, and exciting new technology is emerging daily. These technological expansions build a stronger arsenal of tools for manufacturers to modernize and innovate their processes, but at the same time complicate the landscape and make it harder to navigate. It is crucial yet challenging for manufacturing teams to balance between the benefits of updating their infrastructure and the business cost incurred from the process.

The transition from a legacy MES system to a next-gen MES does not stand outside this challenge. Many manufacturers are worried about the resource investment involved in adopting next-gen MES, and rightfully so. Bringing in new technology requires a thorough evaluation of your current operations and resource utilization to identify a potential fit. This process might seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. To help you best prepare for your transition, we have interviewed our subject matter experts to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about transitioning to next-gen MES and minimizing potential negative impacts on the business.

Q: As you begin to democratize the development of your operations through Citizen Development, how do you avoid overlaps in capability from plant to plant?

A: In the beginning stages of customer adoption, we encourage a bottom-up approach. This means focusing on the shopfloor workers’ problems and feedback. They are both the drivers and the primary beneficiaries of the citizen development culture. As a company starts to scale, there is a need for a center of excellence to benchmark and disseminate local best practices and enforce global standards.

Q: What happens to legacy MES investment when transitioning to next-gen MES?

A: The transition from a legacy MES system to a next-gen MES doesn't require a complete replacement. You don’t have to completely get rid of your legacy MES if it still solves a valid problem but rather adopt next-gen MES to expand your use cases.

When thinking about a legacy replacement, there are a few options:

1) complete rip and replace

2) leverage next-gen MES to provide a "facelift" to legacy technology to support the operator experience, and

3) leverage next-gen MES to fill gaps that were not covered or can't be covered by traditional MES.

Approaches 2 and 3 allow you to build upon your existing structure and extend capabilities with next-gen MES.

Q: Low Code/No code could work for teams with a dedicated IT Team. How would Tulip support smaller organizations with a low headcount?

A: Low code/no code aims at eliminating the need for an IT team by empowering and enabling any authorized users to build apps to respond to real-time needs. Thus, the expectation for truly no-code platforms and app development is to require a much smaller team to build and deploy apps and need minimal programming experience (if any). Adopting Tulip allows small groups to "outsource" much of their IT overhead by leveraging cloud-hosted services.

No-code allows ops professionals to focus on process first vs. a complex data model configuration and system integration challenges. Ultimately, it encourages problem-solving and empowers your engineers to solve the most pressing problems.

Q: How does a platform like Tulip break the "vertical industry barriers" in MES?

A: Although Tulip was not explicitly designed for a specific vertical like most legacy MES solutions, it has capabilities that span many verticals and can be uniquely deployed in specific verticals. Since operational apps are built to meet stringent and specific use cases, they can be deployed to meet particular vertical requirements.

In GxP environments, for example, the Tulip platform provides the necessary functionality to meet regulatory compliance requirements. However, the same platform can also be deployed to meet similar uses cases in non-regulated verticals.

Q: Digital transformation really needs data to be in context. How can next-gen MES contribute to increasing data context?

A: With Tulip, all data is automatically captured in context because you know where apps are running, who is logged in, and the product and serial numbers of the parts being worked on. Tulip allows customers to gain context by focusing on and building for the process first vs. capturing raw data and trying to reconcile the context on the backend by people with no knowledge of the operation in which this data was captured.

Q: How can MES help with faster updates to work instructions and processes?

A: Traditional MES platforms do not help with faster updates to work instructions and processes. Tulip, a next-gen MES alternative, includes a no-code app editor that allows you quickly make updates to work instructions apps. Engineers can take feedback from operators to adjust the work instructions via the drag and drop editing interface, with changes reflected in minutes. These work instructions apps can also act as the "MES frontend," capturing information as operators (end-users) complete steps.

An interesting example of this is how Piaggio Fast Forward utilized Tulip to scale and grow digital solutions on their own and deploy new apps across their operations. The Gita robot, a complex product with more than 150 unique parts, requires assembling operators to understand what they are doing at every step of the way. With Tulip, PFF could train people at each stage of assembly and subassembly, and provide them with up-to-date instructions on exactly what they are working on. This speeds up employee training, ramps up production, and ensures quality standards.

Above are some of the most commonly asked questions around the transition from legacy MES to next-gen. As our experts pointed out, you can tailor your implementation strategy to fit specific business needs and use cases, effectively lowering the barrier of adoption and maximizing the use of your existing infrastructure and human resources.

Do you still have unanswered questions about transitioning to next-gen MES or accelerating digital transformation? Check out our resources or contact our team here.

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