Best Practices in MES Implementations


Written by Roberto Basile on 9/27/2016

An Expert's View: Best Practices in MES Implementations

Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

A: My name is Roberto Basile. I graduated from the University of Genoa in 2008 and began working in Manufacturing Operations seven years ago. I worked for an Italian company before moving to the United States branch of Hyla Soft in January 2015. I started off as a software developer in the standard way, but have over time moved into a more complete profile, which means I am more involved with clients and implementations, including managing how we deploy and maintain products. I have supported Manufacturing Execution System (MES) implementations for leading customers across many manufacturing sectors, including Discrete Manufacturing, Agriculture, Chemical, CPG and Metals & Mining.

Q: What is your position at Hyla Soft?

A: My current title is Senior MES Consultant and Technical Lead. I provide technical consultations on projects, and my goal is to lead teams from design to implementation.

Q: What is MES?

A: MES boundaries change a lot in the industry, so the definition varies and is rather broad. When it comes to manufacturing, I think of MES as a layer that links together the higher and lower levels of automation. It bridges the gap between the engineering and execution of a process.

Q: What is the main problem with not having MES?

A: Without MES, you lose control of what you are doing. You are not linking what you plan to do with what you are actually doing. Without an MES, you cannot collect the information necessary to understand and evaluate how well or poorly your production is going. Even if you design and execute a product well, your process may not be optimal and without MES, you do not have all the information you need to understand how you can improve it.

Q: When should a company look into MES?

A: Most companies wait until they’ve lost control before looking into implementing a system. For example, when I started work with one of our customers, they had linked everything themselves in Excel instead of using an MES. It worked from a technical standpoint, but it became difficult to collect such high amounts of information. Of course, the bigger the company, the more data there is and the more important an MES becomes, but any company with a good vision should get an MES as soon as it can. I suggest implementing a system before problems arise so you can optimize processes and prevent problems.

Q: Is there a return on investment with an MES system?

A: Yes. If your production process has problems, there are costs and waste associated with them. Even though the MES system itself costs money, it improves production. As a company produces and sells more, the returns outweigh the costs.

Q: What needs to happen for MES implementations to be successful?

A: Two things. First, it is important that our team minimizes the problems of the solution before implementation. Second, it is vital to prevent problems and maintenance costs after deployment.

Q: What needs to happen from the customer’s side for an MES implementation to be successful?

A: The critical task of the customer is to know and be able to define exactly what they want out of the initiative. They want an MES, yes, but it is imperative to our success and the success of the entire project to define specific and measurable industry and customer requirements.

Q: Talk about the Hyla Soft team and methodology. How does our team begin the initiative?

A: We start by collecting requirements. Customers want features that are fast, reliable, and deployed as soon as possible, they usually do not care how you achieve this, and they often do not know what an MES system provides or how it can be implemented. Then, we try to understand what the product can do or has the potential to do and how we can fill the gap between the product and the user requirements. This is the configuration phase, and it also involves us ensuring our solution is a good fit for the customer’s specific manufacturing process. When a solution is ready, we first test on the QA/IT of the customer and with the operators. Once it is released on the production system, we are on site and ready in real-time to respond to any problems.

Q: What other services does Hyla Soft offer after deployment?

A: In a perfect world, there would be no bugs. But that is not the case, so even if you provide a high-quality product, you can still run into problems and need to keep monitoring it. Training is also very important. Most of the time, when you implement MES, you know that production will improve, but users are used to the old operational ways. You need to support, train and often even convince them that what they are doing now is better than what they used to do. From a technical standpoint, it seems like a small part, but it is actually very important. If users are not convinced to use your product, the product is useless.

Q: What are the benefits of MES?

A: First, there is the smooth integration between layers. You no longer need to think about linking higher and lower levels, because the MES makes this automatic. In this way, you can more easily move resources and manage communication. You can also monitor the resources and physical equipment pieces you are using in order to identify which ones are slowing down production. Essentially, MES makes it so that there is no limit to how you can improve production. Another benefit is that you can see your business from a completely different perspective. You can follow the product from the initial idea to the customer buying the product and even to getting feedback from your customer, which is all very valuable for product improvement. Finally, if you have any problems, you can better understand them and avoid these problems in the future.

Q: What products do we work with for MES and why?

A: We have worked with Siemens SIMATIC IT Production Suite for MES for a very long time, so we know it well. We know that it is a proven and good product with a stable core system for 20 years. Hyla Soft's team includes the world’s leading experts on the product. In fact, the original engineers who built SIMATIC IT are from Hyla Soft. So when working with our team, there is no need to learn a new product before deploying and we can better provide feedback if there are problems or support is needed.  

Q: Why should companies partner with Hyla Soft for their MES initiatives?

A: The bottom line is that we have enough skill and know-how to tackle any project of any complexity. There is no project we cannot manage, it is all a matter of a good approach and good management.

About Our Expert: Roberto Basile

1.      Background

Born in Genoa in 1984 and grew up there

2.     Education 

Graduated the University of Genoa in 2008

3.     Your Title @ HS 

Senior MES Consultant and Technical Lead

4.     How long you've worked @ HS 

Since January 2015

5.    Your Practice @ HS

Manufacturing Operations

6.     Your subject matters/areas of expertise @ HS 

MES, SIMATIC IT, Application Development, Solution Architect, Project Management

7.     Why you enjoy your work and/or what sets you apart as a consultant 

Every day is a challenge, I pride myself in solving problems and finding elegant solutions to some not-so-elegant problems :)

8.     Your future career/professional goals 

In the short-term, to start something from the beginning and to put my footprint somewhere in the industry. In the long-term, to keep growing and keep being involved in bigger and bigger opportunities.

9.     Your personal interests 

Triathlon, Running, Football (you call it soccer), Music

10.   Favorite song of all time 

Wagon Wheel - Old Crow Medicine Show

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