Sepasoft vs.. Custom Approach

MES Platform 3.0 Product Module Icons

WEIGHING THE BENEFITS OF
SEPASOFT VS. CUSTOM APPROACH

Have you ever wondered whether a custom approach would be simpler or less expensive than a formal Manufacturing Execution System (MES)? How do the Sepasoft® MES modules compare to custom-building MES functionality using Ignition® by Inductive Automation?

To begin answering this question, think of Ignition as a tool that does not perform MES functions out-of-the-box. Therefore, any custom MES functionality will need to be defined, built, and tested from scratch. In some cases, this venture may be worthwhile. For instance, you may have a simple need that does not justify investing in a new solution at all. However, in many scenarios, a custom solution may be more cumbersome than it initially appears.

In this post, we’ll address the variables to consider as you weigh the pros and cons of Sepasoft versus a custom-built MES in Ignition®.

  1. Product Evolution
  2. Overlooked Variables
  3. Continuous Advanced Support
  4. Higher Upfront Labor Cost
  5. Evaluate the Functionality Checklist

 

1. Product Evolution

Customer feedback has shaped the development of Sepasoft MES modules for more than a decade. Product evolution that can only be accomplished through many iterations, releases, and mistakes led to the products as they exist today. Feature requests and continuous communication with customers across industries, company sizes, and manufacturing environments have driven countless improvements, bug fixes, and best practices. In other words, Sepasoft (and Sepasoft’s many customers) have already discovered common pitfalls so you don’t have to do so the hard way.

To exemplify this concept, consider post-run corrections, a use case commonly overlooked in custom implementations. If an operator selects the incorrect material or misenters other information during production, then correcting the results after-the-fact is difficult.

If quality control values have been finalized, then making corrections is especially troublesome. As part of the definition process and customer feedback loop, Sepasoft discovered this use case long ago and supports post-run corrections with the OEE Downtime Module. Sepasoft customers can easily adjust previously collected production data to keep KPIs, analysis results, and historical data accurate.

 

2. Overlooked Variables

Moving forward with a custom approach requires starting from scratch. This includes not only the development of the Ignition® projects, but also requires internal quality assurance, documentation, and more. Essentially, your company will be entering the software development business. Some companies have succeeded in implementing custom MES solutions, but commitments like QA, documentation, and maintenance are commonly overlooked. When you are weighing the pros and cons of a Sepasoft vs. custom approach, make sure you are considering not only the initial purchase price of the software, but any ongoing costs and labor required to maintain or expand the system.

 

3. Continuous Advanced Support

How skilled is your team in advanced programming? Customizing beyond the “nuts and bolts” to create a full-featured user interface entails a steep learning curve. To fully leverage the next level of Ignition® SDK, you need to take a deep-dive into Java and other programming languages. And that technical support will be required for the life of the product. 

In the same vein, as production environments change, so does the need for ongoing engineering support to make changes to the MES system. When user interfaces are custom built, they are not developed to allow operation staff to reconfigure equipment, products, procedures, and more. Instead, the custom approach starts at zero functionality that has to be built up over time with the help of engineers. So, although the recurring support contract cost is lower, the labor required to keep up with production changes alters the equation for the higher. 

 

4. Higher Upfront Labor Cost

The charts below show a custom approach leads to higher upfront labor costs since — unlike an out-of-box solution — the functionality must be built. Although the initial requirement can be easy to achieve, it quickly turns complex if the MES solution brings true production value and requests start pouring in for more functionality. This is similar to what IT departments face with feature requests for enterprise resource planning (ERP) and other business systems. The backlog can become hard to keep up with.

Sepasoft vs Custom Chart

 

5. Evaluate the Checklist

There are many capabilities of the Sepasoft MES modules to consider when building MES functionality. The checklist below provides an overview of the main items. To learn more about the full scope of capabilities that can be used to evaluate the approach you should use, contact our Sepasoft team. We’d love to help.

Functionality Checklist

FunctionalityCustomSepasoft MES Modules
Visual workflow editorNot possible unless it is implemented in java.Included out-of-box
ISA-88 batch engineThe Ignition SFC code is used but will require extensive Python code.Included out-of-box
Document editingNot possible to provide document editing unless it is implemented in java.Included out-of-box
Enter values in documentsNot possible to provide document editing unless it is implemented in java.Included out-of-box
Dynamically populate document values from batch parameters and tagsNot possible to provide document editing unless it is implemented in java.Included out-of-box
Save documents with user-entered values in the databaseNot possible to provide document editing unless it is implemented in java.Included out-of-box
Signature templates that support multiple authentication requestsRequires significant Python and database coding.Included out-of-box
Electronic Batch Records (EBR)Requires Python and database coding.Included out-of-box
EBR Viewer and ReportingRequires custom database, Python, and building custom Perspective views.Included out-of-box
Dynamic UDT and tags creationMust be created and maintained manually.Included out-of-box
Visual batch or process monitor Perspective componentNot possible to provide document editing unless it is implemented in java.Included out-of-box
Automatic creation of database schemaRequires labor to design and implement.Included out-of-box
Advanced algorithms to determine the cell that caused loss of productionRequires labor to design and implement.Included out-of-box
Grouping of cells that make up a line to support sub assemblies and parallel cellsMust implement manually.Included out-of-box
Aggregating OEE data across multiple lines, machines, products, operators, and much moreRequires research of how to accomplish and labor to implement.Included out-of-box
Advanced impromptu analysis supporting filters, grouping, and sorting of analysis resultsNot possible unless it is implemented in java.Included out-of-box
Highly-optimized live  analysis showing real-time production dataRequires labor to design and implement.Included out-of-box
Client data is cached with invalidate events and notifications for high performanceMust use scripting, tags, and come up with notification of events that happen during production and labor to implement.Included out-of-box
Synchronization of production data across multiple MES servers. Getting production data to the right server at the right time.Use database replication, or extensive scripting to achieve.Included out-of-box
MES server health monitoringNot possible unless it is implemented in java.Included out-of-box
Ability to change past production dataTypically overlooked and requires a very optimized analysis engine to achieve.Included out-of-box
Visual configuration of ERP integrations to retrieve production orders and report back actual dataUsually requires 3000 to 4000 lines of script and is not very maintainable.Included out-of-box
Notification of upcoming samples to be takenRequires labor to design and implement.Included out-of-box
Notification of SPC rule violations without having to view control chartsRequires labor to design and implement.Included out-of-box
Advanced and user friendly SPC charts with integrated raw dataNot possible unless it is implemented in java.Included out-of-box
Synchronization of sample definitions and sample results across multiple production sites and areasUse database replication, or extensive scripting to achieve.Included out-of-box
Western Electric and Nelson SPC rulesRequires research of how to accomplish and labor to implement.Included out-of-box
User-friendly sample entry component dynamically driven by sample definitionsTypically, each sample definition has a custom Ignition screen to support manual sample entry.Included out-of-box
Automatic collection of sample data based on the sample definitionTypically, requires configuration in the designer.Included out-of-box
Combined analysis including OEE, downtime, SPC, and machine settings dataNot sure how to do this or if it has ever been done.Included out-of-box
Backfill with MQTT historical store dataPossible with SQL Bridge and requires configuration.Included out-of-box
WIP Inventory TrackingRequires labor to design and implement.Included out-of-box
Visual traceability graph componentNot possible unless it is implemented in java.Included out-of-box

 

Read more

MES vs. ERP | Part 3
MES vs. ERP | Part 2
MES vs. ERP | Part 1