Gartner recently found that 80% of the MES market is a replacement market. As legacy MES reach the end of their lifecycle, manufacturers are faced with a daunting question: 

Do we invest more money in our current system, or do we start fresh? 

Both options have the potential to be enormously expensive. And given that manufacturers report that the biggest factor they consider when assessing solutions is Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), it’s not a question to be answered lightly. 

In this post, we’ll show you that there’s another way. Using Tulip, manufacturers can dramatically extend the valuable lifetime of their MES without buying a new system or building from scratch.  

Assessing Total Cost of Ownership, or, When to Stop Throwing Good Money After Bad

End-of-lifecycle manufacturing systems present manufacturers with a unique set of challenges. Some legacy systems still perform their core function (compliance, genealogy, production coordination, e.g.), but are too expensive to maintain. Others are roadblocks to organizational innovation programs. 

The question “do we spend more, or do we start over” usually boils down to a larger issue: cost and development time. The costs of a new MES are well documented (licenses, professional services, consulting, maintenance), as are implementation times. But not every organization has the budget or capacity to purchase a new system, especially for multi-site projects.   

In order to better understand Let’s look quickly at some of the costs you might face with an end-of-lifecycle MES. 

Costs of Keeping a Legacy MES on “Life Support”

MES become more expensive to maintain as they age. These costs of aging systems can be broken down into hard and hidden costs. Let’s look at each. 

Hard Costs

Many of the costs come from keeping an MES functioning in contemporary operations. These can come in the form of hard-coded customizations, drivers for new devices, and going maintenance.

These costs stem from the way MES were designed. MES are large, monolithic systems. They are built to do many things, and each piece of functionality contains a number of interconnections and dependencies. Small modifications may have unexpected consequences downstream.

Further, manufacturers often add functionality to their MES as needed over time. Over the course of an MES’ lifetime, these additions can multiply the complexity of an already complex system. 

As a result, maintaining an end-of-lifecycle MES can be enormously expensive. 

Hidden Costs

As the cloud, IIoT, and agility become the status quo in the digital era, it’s more important than ever that MES “play nice.” The expense and frustration of bringing legacy systems up to speed, however, can lead you to feel like the costs outweigh the benefits. 

With end-of-lifecycle MES, the cost of maintenance isn’t just about money required to keep the system functional. It also extends to the cost of poor visibility; the cost of accepting manual processes; the cost of poor data availability; and the cost of delaying preparation for a digital future. 

In short, manufacturers struggling with their systems incur hidden costs in the form of missed opportunities and diminished system resilience.  

As you assess your current MES needs, it’s important to ask if your current system is a foundation you can trust. 

How to Extend your MES with a Platform

If updating or replacing your MES are equally unpalatable, there’s a third way. 

Tulip can help you extend the valuable lifetime of your MES by adding an agile, configurable application layer beneath your core production systems. 

Put a little differently, Tulip can be your system of engagement while your MES remains your system of record.

Tulip is an application platform designed to bring agility to manufacturing operations. With Tulip, frontline workers build applications for their processes, without needing to write any code. Tulip is cloud and IIoT native, providing a solid foundation for a broader digital innovation program. 

So instead of opening up your MES and hardcoding customizations (or contracting consultants or the vendor to do it for you), you can build or modify applications in hours, not weeks. For IT, this means managing a single platform, not a growing stack of hard-coded applications. For frontline workers, this means the ability to expand functionality and iterate on existing apps on an ongoing basis. 

Tulip integrates with your MES and ERP, meaning that whatever happens on the shop floor gets passed into your critical information system. 

Our perspective is that you can have your cake and eat it too. You can preserve the system you’ve invested in while adding all of the functionality you need, fast. 

So to close, here are a few questions to consider when you’re looking at what to do next with your MES.

  • Do you have the data you need, when you need it? – If your MES isn’t collecting the data you need (or if it isn’t available when it matters) Tulip can add context and visibility into your operations in real time.

  • Does your MES cover all areas of production? – If there are modules you never bought or applications you haven’t been able to build, Tulip can quickly help you gain control and visibility where it’s needed.

  • How many workarounds did you accept when rolling-out? – Many MES projects accept workarounds. It’s what happens when you have to adapt a COTS product to a unique operation. Tulip works for your processes, not the other way around.

  • How easy is it for operators to  work with? – MES are designed for IT, not shop floor workers. Tulip is made for the front-line manufacturing work force. 

Keep Your MES and Use It Too

At the end of the day, you want your manufacturing systems to do the work they were designed to do. And you don’t want to blow the budget making that happen. 

Tulip can extend your MES, giving exactly the functionality you need without huge layouts. 

If you’re curious about how we currently help manufacturers extend their MES, get in touch