Manufacturing Execution System (MES) Software is one of the fundamental pillars for Shop Floor Control. MES Software provides manufacturers the ability to increase productivity and efficiency by managing production in real-time. Over the past few months, some factories have chosen to deploy cloud-based versions of MES software to enhance their operations strategy. This trend has other decision makers wondering: Should our company opt for a cloud-based MES solution too? Before taking action too soon, let’s review the key features of both MES Cloud Solutions and MES Locally Hosted Solution to help determine if it’s the right choice for your company.
WHAT IS “THE CLOUD”
“The Cloud” refers to a physical location that holds valuable business data. That information can then be retrieved in real-time over the internet. If that doesn’t make sense…think of the cloud as a giant hard-drive that houses all of your important data. When your company chooses a locally hosted solution, you are able to connect to this “hard drive” by plugging it into machines. With a Cloud-Based Solution, you can access this data from any machine via the internet without having to connect to a server hosted in one of your facilities. Two of the main reasons Manufacturers choose the Cloud solution is because they can avoid the investment needed in computer hardware, maintaining the software, and maintaining the equipment.
LOCALLY HOSTED VS. CLOUD HOSTED
Most manufacturing software companies offer a locally hosted version of MES and a cloud version. It is important to understand which version supports the specific needs of your company. This decision is similar when looking for a home. Should you “buy” (Local) or “rent” (Cloud)? Both have great advantages depending on your current situation.
According to IMCO Software located in Jacksonville, Florida, some Manufacturers are better candidates for a Cloud solution than others. CEO of IMCO Software Ruben Mirensky states, “We understand some clients might prefer an MES that frees them from the worries of administering hardware, software, and updates.” A Cloud-Based MES Solution typically includes all software, hardware, updates and maintenance within its pricing package. This means the Software Company will automatically install updates and complete maintenance without creating any downtime and at no additional cost to the Client. This makes it easier to budget the cost of implementing an MES system.
IMPORTANT FACTORS TO CONSIDER
There are four important factors to consider when opting for either a Cloud-Based or Locally Hosted MES Solution: Affordability, Reliability, Scalability, and Flexibility. These factors can help your company determine which MES solution is the best choice its operations strategy.
Cloud Hosted: If your business is looking to avoid a substantial investment in IT resources, the cloud deployment option may be exactly what your company is looking for. I previously mentioned how certain aspects of the MES Software are bundled together within a Cloud Solution. This means your company pays a monthly fee for the MES Services. We all know everything comes down to the bottom dollar, so being able to utilize an MES Software to reduce costs while saving the money you spend on it is a very appealing concept.
Locally Hosted: If your company is expanding its operations, a locally hosted solution might be the better choice. The questions to ask here are:
- Can the company afford the maintenance costs?
- Do you have the manpower to handle the Issues of maintaining the system?
- Can the company afford sporadic downtimes for systems upgrades? (Usually twice a year)
The locally hosted MES solution will result in savings over a longer period of time. It does require an initial investment, as indicated above, but the total outlay will be less than the Cloud option
Cloud Hosted: One of the main components agencies depend on with manufacturing software is reliability. The cloud deployment of MES gives your company the ability to access the Cloud 24/7 by an internet connection. Being able to access the software online means your company will have almost zero downtime when implementing Manufacturing Execution System (MES) software. However, it is important to understand that a cloud version only works as well as your internet connection allows it to. If your company is looking to go with this option, check your internet speed and quality. Fiber optics will play a key role into how well this solution will work for your company. Companies located in remote areas will pay more for increasing the bandwidth or bringing fiber optics to their site.
Locally Hosted: Some companies may prefer the peace of mind a Locally Hosted platform brings. Many Manufacturing companies have their own IT department. When the MES Software is hosted locally, their IT team maintains direct control of the program. Some believe this is why this MES option is more reliable, because it is home-based.
Cloud Hosted: This system is can be scaled to the needs of a growing company. Whether your plans involve growing organically or by acquisitions, the scalability of systems when locally hosted can become an issue. The expense of expanding the infrastructure can be extremely high and might even require downtime in operations. With a Cloud solution, scalability is not an issue at all because the provider will use the additional capacity in its infrastructure. The reality of a cloud system is this: higher monthly fees, but no additional investment in hardware and no downtime to perform the necessary upgrades. If your firm is looking for scalability that doesn’t require substantial investment, this could be a sensible MES option for your company.
Locally Hosted: This approach may be the better choice if your operations are not standard. This means your business feels it can’t manage with a standard “one size fits all” type of application. This is important if customizing the software for your company’s specific needs is a must. A locally hosted system will allow for greater flexibility in introducing modifications to the vanilla version of the system because it is YOUR system. If your operations are substantially special in a way that cannot be avoided, a Cloud approach might not be your best solution. With a Cloud approach you will be sharing the software with many other users and therefore changes to the vanilla version of it are not possible unless these changes are enhancements useful to a wide group of users
GETTING ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE
There is no easy answer to find out if a Cloud MES system is the right choice for your company. If your company requires more guidance, money spent with a Manufacturing Software consultant is a valuable option. They can help the decision makers of your company determine which solution can fit your needs the best. How? According to IMCO Software, “Our team of experts have extensive manufacturing and supply chain experience specializing in discrete and batch process industries. We offer seamless implementation solutions that match your company’s unique requirements.” Receiving this type of insightful experience can guide your company to make the best choice for its operations strategy.
ULTIMATELY, THE CHOICE IS YOURS
After reviewing the advantages of both MES options, Cloud Hosted and Locally Hosted, I hope your company is ready to make an educated decision on which system will work the best for its individual needs. If your company isn’t quite ready to take action, it can always consider working with a Consultant to gain better insight.
The true question to ask yourself as decision maker now is this, which MES solution will enhance my company’s operations strategy? Remember to keep in mind these 4 important factors: Affordability, Reliability, Scalability, and Flexibility. They are the keys to improving your operations strategy with Manufacturing Execution System (MES) Software.
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Ruben Mirensky, President and CEO of IMCO Associates Inc., releases an Inventory Management Strategy called the 9 Box and Trade-Off Tool. It uses Product Segregation