It seems like one of the recent trends in ERP software functionality is a renewed focus on shop floor control. This trend has prompted many ERP companies to begin selling third-party shop floor systems that are “integrated” with their ERP software.
The definition of integrate is to combine one thing with another to make it whole. Unfortunately for the best of breed ERP vendors, that means that short of building the MES solution into the same database as the ERP software, there must always exist some level of non-integration.
Let’s be honest, integrated systems with multiple databases are difficult and expensive to manage. Dollars add up in the form of development time when creating the interfaces between separate systems, downtime when the interface fails, and management and rebuilding of the interfaces when the vendors upgrade their products. And let’s not even consider the headache when it comes to calling in for technical support – Do you contact the ERP company or the third party vendor?
ERP and MES Integration Options
If you are attempting to integrate a third-party MES solution with your ERP software, the key questions you should ask are:
- What exactly does the integration do?
- What type of data does it pass?
- (And most importantly) How frequently does it update the data? Every eight hours? Every four? Does the information come over via batch transfers or is it immediate? What does the ERP vendor consider “real-time” data communication?
In a perfect world, the ERP and MES programs (and don’t forget WMS, EDI and CRM to complete the alphabet soup!) would be written into the same system. This single database solution would deliver you a seamless flow of data from MES into ERP (and back again) so that data like downtime and production reporting would update the finite scheduling, capacity planning, ATP/CTP tools and CRM in real time.
The power of a comprehensive, single database solution is impressive. For example, can your “integrated” systems do this out of the box?
- When a serialized inventory label is printed automatically from the MES solution, is your data written in the ERP system so serialized inventory transactions can be done in the WMS module in real time?
- Can your MRP engine run whenever you want and take into account what is being recorded in the MES without affecting accuracy?
- When the MES records the actual production data, is your preventative maintenance system automatically updated?
When all of your business processes from the front end to the back occur in real time, without any batch transfers, expensive development or other interface hassles, then you have more than just an “integrated” system. You have a comprehensive, extended enterprise solution.
Sound too good to be true? Don’t worry, it is not. IQMS has been developing a complete ERP/MES solution (with no third party interfaces) for the past 25 years. From accounting, payroll, sales orders and CRM to inventory control, shipping, production monitoring, EDI and quality management, everything you need was developed in house, by the same group of developers. When researching a new ERP solution, don’t settle for an “integrated” system.