As manufacturing operations became more expansive and complex, many businesses installed manufacturing execution systems (MES) to manage and track processes across their operations.

In traditional manufacturing environments, the manufacturing execution systems are located on-site, allowing manufacturers to have complete control and access to production systems.

However, as production processes have become more complex and businesses have expanded to different sites across the globe, on-site MES have presented a challenge with keeping up with the action on the factory floor.

As a result, manufacturers are turning to SaaS manufacturing solutions and cloud-based MES to offset many of the issues caused by on-site manufacturing execution systems, making the production process more manageable. In recent years, we’ve seen more and more manufacturers onboarding cloud-based manufacturing execution systems, modernizing their facilities, and future-proofing the systems that control their operations.

Below, we’ll dive deeper into traditional manufacturing execution systems, identify their challenges, and demonstrate how shifting to the cloud benefits manufacturing operations.

Challenges associated with manufacturing execution systems

Although MES provide plenty of value to manufacturing businesses, they pose a few challenges that manufacturers often contend with.

These include:

Lengthy implementation period: Despite the advantages, adopting MES can be extremely challenging and time-consuming. Manufacturing businesses must evaluate the various digital MES providers to find the right solution for their given needs and use cases.

Additionally, businesses need to spend time connecting and configuring all of their machines, devices, and processes with the new system. For any mid-to-large-sized manufacturing operations, this process can take considerable effort and time to execute.

Costly customization: The standard, out-of-the-box nature of MES means that companies need to adjust how their operations are set up to dovetail with the new system. Retooling factories and optimizing other crucial manufacturing facets can add undesired costs.

Similarly, configuring the MES to fit your prevailing operations will also add significant costs to your system implementation.

Inflexibility: One of the biggest challenges associated with traditional MES is the lack of flexibility. The rigidity of MES forces manufacturers to modify their operations around the system in order to reap the benefits. However, in today’s dynamic business environment, manufacturers need to be flexible in order to respond to market forces.

Siloed data: The data infrastructure developed for traditional MES often result in siloes that prevent systems and departments from communicating with each other. In order to get a complete view from across a company’s operations, supervisors often need to gather information from multiple systems, computers, databases, and records.

Inaccessible data that requires IT support makes identifying issues and responding accordingly difficult, eliminating the ability to achieve continuous improvement.

Risk of lagging behind new-aged technology: Manufacturing execution systems predate the fourth industrial revolution. As a result, some MES providers haven’t adapted to the new-age, highly-connected factory landscape.

Many manufacturers are already saddled with on-site digital manufacturing execution tools that won’t or might not be upgraded to fit in with advancements in technologies including artificial intelligence, computer vision, augmented reality, and more.

Advantages of cloud-based MES over on-site systems

As the manufacturing landscape becomes more receptive to the high interconnectivity required to run operations, more manufacturers have adopted cloud-based MES to handle their production activities.

Here are the main advantages driving this change:

Lower costs: Unlike on-site systems, cloud-based MES don’t require companies to spend 6 or 7 figures on system implementation and on-premises hardware. Instead, manufacturers save money because the system is online, negating the need for extra IT costs.

Easier deployment and implementation: Cloud-based MES require significantly less start-up time given that deployment is generally more flexible. While traditional MES require several months if not years to roll out, cloud-based MES can be implemented in a fraction of the time.

Comprehensive accessibility: Because cloud MES is an online system, authorized personnel can access the system from anywhere. Consequently, different personnel in various departments or across different sites have real-time information about the situation on the production floor, doing away with data silos and promoting collaboration.

Scalability and flexibility: If a manufacturer needs to pivot or react to market forces, they can quickly scale their production efforts without worrying about adapting the cloud-based MES. In the more traditional MES, companies would devote significant resources to retailoring the system to cope with production operations changes.

Improved decision-making: With cloud-based systems' quick and remote access, managers and executives have immediate access to floor data. And with the cloud-based MES analytic capabilities, decisions are made more quickly, ensuring that production proceeds as desired.

Simplified regulatory compliance: Some manufacturing fields require companies to meet specific regulations and standards. Cloud-based MES are equipped to collect all relevant product and safety data, ensuring that manufacturers don’t fall foul of regulatory bodies.

And given the execution system’s ability to connect to multiple plants, manufacturers can track compliance across all locations.

With these benefits over traditional manufacturing execution systems, cloud-based MES look set to permeate the manufacturing industry. And with the continued evolution of industrial manufacturing requirements and practices, cloud-based systems look set to evolve to provide more functionality.

For instance, the next-gen cloud-based digital solutions look to provide no-code app functionality. This allows manufacturers to create bespoke compatible tools to optimize their manufacturing processes further.

As such, the migration to next-gen cloud-based manufacturing execution systems is a low-risk and low-cost way for businesses to maintain competitiveness in the aggressive manufacturing market.

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