Manufacturers in all industries face rapid changes, such as new consumer behavior, supply chain shortages, and the great resignation. While there is no limit to the changes, historically there has been a limit to manufacturers’ ability to adapt: Monolithic manufacturing systems that create rigidity.

Tides are turning.

The 2022 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) made clear that the MES market is undergoing a fundamental shift, driven by both manufacturer and vendor recognition of the need for agility.

That shift is toward composability.

Gartner states 2025, 60% of new MES solutions will be assembled by manufacturers or implementation providers using composable technology.*

How is Manufacturing Changing?

We’ve seen movement toward the redefinition of MES for a long time. The 2022 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ proved that trend. Here’s what we saw.

1. Market Shift: Composable Enterprises and Composable Solutions

Vendors who aren’t grabbing onto composability and using it as a framework to develop products and provide a data solution to their clients aren’t represented highly.

The change in representation is a reflection of what’s happening on the floor. Manufacturers who aren’t using composability to enable their citizen developers aren’t leading the competition.

2. Focus Shift: Usability and User Experience

A lot changed during the pandemic, not least of which was the labor market.

In manufacturing, long careers used to be the norm. More time meant longer-term alignment with a system and less demand for easy, immediate access to solutions. Today’s frontline workers are asking for helpful interfaces and engineers are demanding the ability to effectively solve problems.

“Gartner research finds that users are now placing greater emphasis on the usability of MES across different classes of employees. It is important to have personalization, user-level localization, a low-code application platform (LCAP), user onboarding, and capabilities to make the system appeal better to new and different types of users. Look and feel, navigation, and process streamlining are also considered.”*

3. New Key Capability: MES Architectural Innovation

Introduced as a new capability in The 2022 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Manufacturing Execution Systems, architectural innovation assumes the vendor provides a microservices architecture that supports the level of agility and speed of development we believe today’s successful manufacturing enterprise requires.

The inclusion of this key capability bolsters our stance: MES is being redefined. Vendors who are committed to composability and architectural innovation are leading the charge.

Learning More About Composability

Composability is a system design principle that allows for the satisfaction of specific user requirements. Composable business is similar. It’s a way of thinking and being that allows for a flexibility that is uncharacteristic of operations that leverage traditional MES.

In a world where all manufacturing leaders are intimately familiar with uncertainty, composable business gives them a way to remain resilient.

That’s one main reason for the shift. Adaptability is no longer an option, but a requirement. Sustainable business can’t be achieved without it.

Why is Manufacturing Shifting Toward Composability?

While the antecedents of composable enterprise have been clear for some time, the benefits are best illuminated by adoption.

They include:

1. Competitive Advantage

Gartner states that “by 2023, organizations that have adopted a composable approach will outpace the competition by 80% in the speed of new initiative implementation.” The advantage is clear: While others stand still, you move faster. Based on what the initiatives you implement are designed to respond to, you’ll be poised to meet consumer demands even as those demands evolve.

2. Reduced Risk Associated with Change

You’re forced to adapt to market conditions, like supply chain disruptions and workforce shortages, all the time. Not only do you have to undergo changes in mindset, but you also need to change actual processes to meet new outcomes that work for the new environment. (For example, if your hiring needs grow due to these external forces).

Of course, changes in operations can come from internal forces, too, such as the introduction of a new product.

Whatever the influencing factors, one thing is sure: You always have to be ready for change. In a composable enterprise, everything is planned with a modular architecture: autonomy, orchestration, and discovery of those modules are both the design principles and the guardrails for the quality of outcomes.

“By partitioning the business architecture into modular components that can be changed one at a time and autonomously, composability prepares the organization for faster, more efficient, and safer change.”*

3. Increased Pace of Technology Adoption

As a holdover from the previous generation of operators, many vendors are still focused on extending the functionality of Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM)application suites rather than on core MES functionality.

But manufacturing organizations want evolution from their vendors just as they want it for themselves. They should be allowed to choose the solutions that fit their specific requirements so that they can adopt new technology more quickly.

4. Human-Centricity

Composability democratizes solution development. In principle, that alone is human-centric. But consider what happens when the engineers closest to a problem have the opportunity to solve it. They design for the individual, driving human-centricity across every application.

Simply put, the farther from the problem a solution is developed, the larger the gap between the user and the solution.

Because these benefits are best realized through the adoption of composable thinking, manufacturers should commit to composability now. In the past, that’s been a massive challenge: even those who want to commit have too often been held back by the state of the MES market. But as we saw in The 2022 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™, the market is changing.

Manufacturers require more composable, cloud-native, flexible, and user-friendly platforms in operations in order to scale and remain competitive. And that’s what they should expect from their vendors. Anything less isn’t enough.

To read more about what composability looks like in the wild, read the next post in this series.

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