EECO Asks Why Podcast

240. Idea - Taking the comPLEX out of MES

January 09, 2023 Electrical Equipment Company
240. Idea - Taking the comPLEX out of MES
EECO Asks Why Podcast
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EECO Asks Why Podcast
240. Idea - Taking the comPLEX out of MES
Jan 09, 2023
Electrical Equipment Company

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) are impacting factory floors like never before.

In this information packed episode we welcome Jerry Foster from Plex to unpack the realities of these powerful solutions.  He shares how the need for manufacturers to track and document the transformation of raw materials into finished goods led to an exciting world of MES.

Manufacturers desire control and reporting in ways to maximize efficiencies and ultimately profits in the future.   Jerry shares a ton of insight into how every manufacturer can begin utilizing data to make more informed decisions.  He covers how IT fits into the puzzle and what members of any plant operations can expect from a robust MES solution.

He digs in and reviews areas that can be hurdles with implementation and how you can take action to ensure they do not hinder results.  For those thinking that their operations are not large enough just hold on.  The stats Jerry shares will challenge that head on and you will quickly realize this is not just for the elite manufacturers out there.

There is nugget after nugget of pure MES gold in this conversation and at the end of the day Jerry does a phenomenal job of simplifying the idea of MES so that you can make informed decisions moving forward.  It was an honor to have Jerry clear the air on the powerful world of MES.

For support with your MES needs contact our team of experts who are ready to walk with you for a powerful system that will meet all of your manufacturing goals! 

Remember to keep asking why!

Guest: Jerry Foster - Chief Technology Officer at PLEX

PLEX Website

Industry War Story Submission: Send us a DM!

Host: Chris Grainger
Executive Producer: Adam Sheets

Show Notes Transcript

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) are impacting factory floors like never before.

In this information packed episode we welcome Jerry Foster from Plex to unpack the realities of these powerful solutions.  He shares how the need for manufacturers to track and document the transformation of raw materials into finished goods led to an exciting world of MES.

Manufacturers desire control and reporting in ways to maximize efficiencies and ultimately profits in the future.   Jerry shares a ton of insight into how every manufacturer can begin utilizing data to make more informed decisions.  He covers how IT fits into the puzzle and what members of any plant operations can expect from a robust MES solution.

He digs in and reviews areas that can be hurdles with implementation and how you can take action to ensure they do not hinder results.  For those thinking that their operations are not large enough just hold on.  The stats Jerry shares will challenge that head on and you will quickly realize this is not just for the elite manufacturers out there.

There is nugget after nugget of pure MES gold in this conversation and at the end of the day Jerry does a phenomenal job of simplifying the idea of MES so that you can make informed decisions moving forward.  It was an honor to have Jerry clear the air on the powerful world of MES.

For support with your MES needs contact our team of experts who are ready to walk with you for a powerful system that will meet all of your manufacturing goals! 

Remember to keep asking why!

Guest: Jerry Foster - Chief Technology Officer at PLEX

PLEX Website

Industry War Story Submission: Send us a DM!

Host: Chris Grainger
Executive Producer: Adam Sheets

00:00 Chris Grainger

Welcome to Eco s y. Today we have an idea episode and we'll be talking about taking the complex out of mes and unpack this conversation with me. I have Jerry Foster, who is the Chief Technology Officer at Plex System, so welcome Jerry. 

00:18 Jerry Foster

Thanks so much, Chris. I'm just, uh, excited and thrilled to be here.

00:22 Chris Grainger

Absolutely. Very much so. As, as well for me, sir. Looking forward to this convers. You know a lot of our listeners out there, Jerry, they may not understand when we, when we say me, They, we've lost them right there. Right. So just get 'em, get 'em caught up at speed when say mes what you're referring to. 

00:38 Jerry Foster


So, um, MES stands for Manufacturing Execution System and it's basically a computerized system and it's designed to track and document the transformation of raw materials into finish goods on the factory floor. So, I kinda like the shorthand of PBR R not not pap blue ribbon, but if you're a, if you're a factory worker, you, you understand parts, bombs and routings.

That's, uh, that's what I'm referring to. Basically everything that happens between a factory receiving raw material and then shipping out the finished goods. So it would be things like, um, inventory tracking and traceability, uh, recording, production, um, tool tracking, maintenance, those sorts of things.

It's interesting, you've, there's some purists out there, uh, bless their heart that they, they kind of wanna regulate MBS to just what is actually being executed on the machines themselves, um, mm-hmm. . And they, they leave things like quality and inventory into a separate category, um, called manufacturing operations management or mom.

But most people just use MBS as the umbrella, umbrella technology for anything that happens on the shop. Even the more traditional mom stuff like quality, um, it's much more easy to remember. It's simpler and, and like besides how many acronyms do we really need? Right? Mom, mes, e r p, it's just, it's kinda like, come on.

So mes is the technology that happens that covers everything that happens on the shop floor. Okay, well I 

01:55 Chris Grainger

minute that, that definitely broke it down very, very well for us. Thank you so much for that. I guess the, the next logical question for me is, okay, then why do those manufacturing companies, why do they need that 

02:04 Jerry Foster


Right. It's a good question. It's, it's about creating an environment that allows you to control production while also expanding your visibility into all of your critical processes. I, I think of it this way, like some example questions like, do you wish you could reduce or eliminate scrap? Do you wish your parts had better quality?

Uh, do you desire less downtime on your machines? Would you like to know what inventory you actually have on hand? That's what an MES does for you. It digitizes those operations on the shop floor, and that provides an advantage in two broad areas. The first one is control, and the second one is reporting.

So when I think of control, I think of it like this. You are able to control what happens or the MES allows you or controls things for you. For instance, it can tell the forklift drivers where to go. Mm-hmm. to get their next bin of parts that need to be delivered at a machine because it knows where all the inventory is at any given time.

So it tells you, you go here, pick up this bin, delivered over here. It takes the guesswork. I'm that forklift drivers aren't driving all over the place. Going where? Where was that been? I just saw it yesterday. Um, it can enforce quality requirements so you can, uh, manage your, your regulatory iss uh, obligations.

It helps you reduce scrap. It keeps track of which tools are in which machines. Um, so, uh, since I know how many parts are coming off each machine, I can measure my tool life accurately. So that's the control part. , but then on the reporting side mm-hmm. , um, I, I've got reports, you know, coming out my nose, right?

I've got production and scrap and the machine downtime, and it gives me huge visibility into what is actually happening, not what I think is happening. And that allows me to spot issues early. Before they become critical and I can make, you know, informed long-term, uh, decisions. And here's the cool part, the way we talk about this, you know, making informed long-term decisions, it gives this impression of, um, it helps the managers, it helps the foreman, it helps the CEOs, and it really does.

But the thing I love about MES is that it really helps the employees. It helps 'em to be, to be better workers, cuz this. It's available to them real time. Uh, usually in the form of dashboards or maybe a screen right next to the, uh, work center. They're where they're working, and so they get this immediate feedback loop of what's really happening with them and what they're working on, and it moves them from being just someone who's on the line.

Someone who's actively engaged in improving the process and by extension their, their, their work environment and their work satisfaction. And that's one thing I love about mbs. It's it's top to bottom. It covers, it covers everyone who works in a, in a manufacturing facility. It also sounds 

04:35 Chris Grainger

like it's very much forward looking.

You know, we're looking at the windshield versus the rear view mirror the whole time because we're putting that data in front of them Right. When they need it the most to make the decisions they 

04:44 Jerry Foster

need to make. Exactly, yep. The realtime nature of MES is, is just, uh, one of the, the biggest advantages of putting in a system like that.

For sure. That 

04:53 Chris Grainger

is very, that is very cool. Now, I know you've been in the MES world for a long time, so you've seen a lot of evolution. So looking back, what's been some of the coolest things that you've seen e evolve with mes? 

05:04 Jerry Foster

Well, there's a, there's a couple things. Um, You know, one of the interesting things I would say is, is I had kind of already alluded to this, uh, uh, turf war between mes and Mom and, and what describes what.

Right? But Indu Industry 4.0 is, has, has kind of blurred the lines cuz it, it's introduced all this cool technology into the factory environment. And, and what that means is you start to connect all these systems and share data and information between. So we have your mes, your mom, your, even your E R P.

And the lines between them are starting to get blurred because all of this technology allows you to communicate between all these machines and processes, right? Um, and so you can, you start to get this holistic solution to manufacturing. So that's something that's changed in the last 10 years. I think the other thing that is really cool is the cloud.

Um, you know, we here at Plex, we first introduced our cloud-based mbs, literally 20 years. Um, one of the first enterprise systems in the world to have a cloud enterprise system, uh, before anyone even, yeah, before anyone even thought was possible. Um, right. But, uh, you know, in the last decade, cloud is starting to become mainstream and cloud-based MES has becoming the standard for, for any progressive manufacturer.

And so that's been a really cool. A really cool, uh, uh, thing to see, you know, it's, I'm sorry, I just jump in here with a story. I remember, I remember when we first introduced cloud and we're a bunch of engineers, right? We started Plex, a bunch of engineers, and so we're all geeked out about this really cool technology and so we're trying to sell it to these hardcore old school manufacturers, right?

And remember 20 years ago, internet. 2000. It was just starting. People didn't really understand what it was. And so we'd be like, we, we'd go up to this old school manufacturer, we'd be like, okay, listen, this is so cool. You're gonna record this production and, and your data is gonna go over this network that you don't even know about, called the internet, and it's gonna be stored at a building that you don't even know where it's at.

Isn't that awesome? And they were like, No, that's not awesome at all. We want our software, we want our data, and there's usually lots of swear words in there, but basically they were saying, I just want my data, right? So, um, it took a while for us to realize how to, to sell to, to manufacturers, but now that's not really a problem because everyone understands the advantage of cloud.

So, kind of a fun, fun time there. 10, 20 years ago. 

07:14 Chris Grainger

So you, you were doing cloud before cloud was cool. Yes. You know what I'm saying? Exactly. That's what it does, right? 

07:18 Jerry Foster

Yep. Exactly right. Exactly right. So, yep. 

07:24 Chris Grainger

That is a very, very, I love that story. I mean, definitely. And a lot of times in manufacturing too, they can be a little bit on the later adoption side.

Yeah. So I'm sure you definitely had some, some, some hard rows ahead just to get some earlier adopters to Sure. To prove the 

07:36 Jerry Foster

technology out. And you know what, and the interesting thing is manufacturers just by their very nature, they're tangible people, right? Cause they make parts and they deal in oil and grease and, and, and out on the shop floor and the heat and the smell.

It's what they do. And so when you start talking about cloud, It's really fuzzy, it's not tangible. Mm-hmm. . And so we had to, we had to kind of bridge that gap, getting them to understand the value, uh, that was provided with the cloud system. And, and like I said, it's not an issue anymore, but it's been an interesting journey.


08:05 Chris Grainger

Now speaking to that, you know, you, you were making those calls back then. You were, we we're out here supporting mes uh, systems. Now, who typically owns that system inside the, the manufacturing plant? Cause I'm trying to get an idea of the, the, the different types of people that are involved, you know, those parties and, and, and who, right.

08:24 Jerry Foster

Who's who there. Right. So basically I would just, I would, I would make it one big category. People who own an MES are people who make. Companies that make things right, you make parts, you make, uh, anytime you have a process that you make something, um, you could use an mes and it, it doesn't matter how big you are or your industry, we have customers around the world from, you know, mom and pop shops to massive international corporations, from automotive to food and beverage to heavy industry to chemical, um, you name it.

So it's really for, for anyone who makes things. 

08:58 Chris Grainger

Now inside the plant itself, is that more of an IT led type of, of people that we're engaging with to get an MES system implemented or is that ot or is it, we're 

09:08 Jerry Foster

bringing all the worlds together there. So it's normally more on the IT side, not the OT side, but Got it.

With some of the, the blurring of those edges that I've talked about, the OT people are getting involved, especially now that you've got IOT systems and asset performance management systems in play. They usually play a guard. Mm-hmm. . But it's really the IT people that, um, are usually leading the. 

09:28 Chris Grainger

Okay. Yeah.

Well, I mean, thank you for clearing that up For sure. And Yep. And, and one thing, I know we talked about it, you know, getting ready for this conversation today was the change management, the labor shortage, the way that it's hitting manufacturing. So how can a MES solution directly impact both of those? 

09:43 Jerry Foster

Uh, that's a great question.

And, and for the first part, like change management, I would almost flip that around a little bit and I would say, you know, MES doesn't impact change management as much as change management impacts mes, right? You can't implement an MES without. Change management. And, and that way MBS is no different than any other change in your company, whether it's new technology mm-hmm.

or even an HR policy. Um, you know, we're creatures of habit, right? Um, you are, I am. I've had the same breakfast every day for 50 years. A glass of orange juice and a bowl of Lucky charms. And, uh, you know, if I pour my cereal and, and then I go to the fridge and open up and I've got all this anticipation and I don't have any milk, I'm like, ah.

And then I, you know, try to find which. Drank the last of the milk, right? So, um, right. And, but now they're all outta the house. So it's, I, it's only me that I can blame, but it's that change, uh, it's that change management that's so important for a successful MES implementation and making sure you're bringing your employees along in the journey.

And we have found that the customers who are most successful with their mes are the ones that include their employees at every step of the way. Um, mm-hmm. . The second part, the, the labor shortage. I think MES is critical to that. Um, the automation that MES provides reduces the need for for workers. Um, uh, you know, we don't have that, uh, manual entry of data anymore or that after the fact entry of data, everything's automated, everything's real time.

Um, even the cloud-based MBS that we've been discussing allows for more flexibility, right? Some workers can work from. And we've also seen that cloud actually, even though it's usually it led, there's an interesting dynamic there because often cloud will reduce the need for IT personnel. Right? Which is not a bad thing these days cuz it personnel, they're in high demand, right?

And, um, and there's just not enough of 'EM to go around. And so we've had customers that have been able to reduce or even eliminate their need for an IT staff, um, because the, the cloud-based mes takes care of so much of that underlying architecture. So it really does help with the labor issues that we're seeing.

11:43 Chris Grainger

Yeah. Well, I mean, definitely big impact across the board for sure. Right. So if you gotta manufacturer, you got, you got, you got 'em worked up. Jerry, all listeners out there, they're excited about this stuff. So now they wanna get started. How do, how do they get moving with the MES platform? Is there, is there a modular approach or is it all, you know, all all put, push all the, the cards to the middle of the table, what we, what we doing here?

12:04 Jerry Foster

So, You know, at the, at the very beginning, you have to make a case for it. And if your company's gonna put out the money for, for this, you, they have to believe there's value. And we'll talk, I think, more about the money part later, but it's on you. To do the hard work of understanding where your issues are and then mapping that, mapping those issues to technology solutions.

I've, so many times I've seen, you know, some CEO O says, Hey, I heard this, you know, I heard, uh, machine learning's. The, the, the buzzword or iot go, go put an iott system in place. And they do. And they're like, okay, now. What problem are we solving with this? And it's kind of backwards. Mm-hmm. . So it's really important to, if you're gonna get started with mes, and obviously I think you should, that you do that homework upfront, um, and, and, and make sure you understand what problems you're trying to solve.

So, so you're actually getting started even before you start talking about an mes, you're getting everyone in a room and you're saying, what's our issues? Do we have too much scrap? Mm-hmm. , do we have competitors that are getting to market before we are, are we having problems shipping? Um, do we have a goal to increase revenue next year?

Uh, you know, what are the things that we're trying to solve? So that's, that's important. And then once you got that, then yes, then you start actually building out a case and, and, and, and choosing an mes and there is a modular approach. Um, I think the interesting thing there is at, at some level, the pieces don't make as much sense unless they're all working together.

And, and communicating. But you can start with smaller pieces like a quality system or maybe just a, a production monitoring system, um, which gives you some real time operational metrics on your machine productions and, and gives you a beach head from which to then and then move up into a bigger, bigger mes.

So, um, so yeah, so I think actually at the end of the day, you really need a good partner, whether that's the vendor or one of the vendors partners helping. Articulate what you need, what you're looking for, and then help you on your, on your journey. Yeah. I mean, it almost 

14:00 Chris Grainger

sounds like that very first step is more of a, like a consultation Yeah.

To really sit down and understand the, the problem statement Yep. To get real clear, clear on that 

14:08 Jerry Foster

first. Yep. Yep. Exactly. You're exactly right. And that's why a lot of our customers have gone out and gotten help. They, they get someone involved, uh, um, someone who can help them who's been through this. Gonna help them think mm-hmm.

Of, and ask questions that they wouldn't think of asking at the beginning of this process. Cuz the beginning's so important, right? Yeah, right. 

14:27 Chris Grainger

Love it. Now I'm, I'm curious for a MES system, again, I'm, I'm pretty green to this area, so I definitely don't have a lot of of experience coming into it. What's that average life, average life of a MES 

14:36 Jerry Foster


So, uh, we're talking about, I would say as long as they can possibly drag it out, right? So manufacture manufacturers, they're professional, keep it going as long as possible, people. Right. It's Oh, yes. Yeah. It's amazing. Right? You know, this, the, the, the amount of productivity they get out of machines and tools and parts that you thought were done.

Um, you know, the tool cribs, I've seen the stuff they stash away and bring, pull back out and get working again. It's amazing. And, and I think they treat software the same way, right? Um, right. We're, we're, we're recouping our costs. It's, it's, it's a, there's an ROI here that is impactful, so we just wanna keep milking that for as long as.

Um, you know, back when Plex first started, um, our, our very first systems were these, um, these dumb green screen character terminals that you still see some places. They're old school, okay. And they're just characters based terminals, and there's no mouse or gooey. And we had essential server and, uh, uh, these things were, you know, 20, 25 years ago.

And we still have plants that are running that, those suckers today, uh, they just don't want to give 'em up. They, they're. And, um, and so on one hand you're like, that's really cool. But on the other hand, with Industry 4.0 and we've talked about these connectivity advantages that happens, the, those old systems can't do that.

So if you really Right, if, if, and, and so industry 4.0 is really forcing the hand of many manufacturers to, to modernize their technology and, um, otherwise they're gonna find themselves on an island. And so we ret, we routinely replace systems. 10, 15, 20 years old, so, mm-hmm. . Yeah. It's, it's amazing. You know, I'm sorry, I, I'll just keep, I got one more thought here.

Um, sure. Uh, you know, talking about lifespan, here's one really cool thing about cloud-based mes or any cloud software for that matter. It really extends the life of that software almost indefinitely because there's no, there's no versions, there's no upgrades. Think about your, think about your online banking.

You never have to install a patch. You never have to upgrade your bank software. You just go to your browser and go to or, or bank of or whatever, and it's, it's just there. It works. And, and some days it's like, oh, there's a new feature, or, or it's new colors or there's a new report.

Uh, you never have to do anything. And it's the same with cloud-based mes. The, the software evolves and updates automatically. Our customers don't have to do. In addition to the MES software itself, our operations team maintains and upgrades the, um, the underlying hardware, the patching, the operating systems, the networking.

We do all of that behind the scenes. So, um, all that supporting infrastructure that a manufacturing company used to required to keep their mes going. Those huge data, right, those huge data centers. The IT staff, they're, they're. We keep you current, um, with, with little to no effort on their part. And, uh, it really extends the life of the product, um, almost indefinitely.

Like I said, it's, it's fantastic 

17:34 Chris Grainger

man, that, that bring, that brought so much clarity for me. I mean, just to the bank analogy to, cuz I mean I've seen that and with my banking over the years, you know, to your point, you log in, oh, this is moved, where is it at? Oh, they're here just now. Oh, I like that even better now, right?

Exactly. Getting that user experience down. It's very cool to to, to unpack that for us. For sure. And you know, there may be a manufacturer out there listening to Jerry and they're just thinking, I'm not big enough for mes. I mean, is there a, is there a one size fits on? Is it, is it for, for any manufacturing si company out there?

Or, or you know, what's, is there a better 

18:06 Jerry Foster

path? Yes, that is a great question. So, on one hand, you know, for, for any manufacturing firm of any substance, I don't see how you can achieve your full. Without an mes, so I think it's for everyone. But you brought up a point that I think we have to acknowledge. Um, I just read a stat this week, get this, 88% of manufacturing firms in the United States have less than 50 people.

88%. 88%. 88% have less than 50 people. Wow. Um, and so they're going to have a harder time with any technology investment, mes or otherwise, simply because they don't have as many resources, or even more importantly, they have less room for. And um, the joke used to be the mes stood for massively expensive system.

And uh, it's that catch 22, right? You can't afford to, but you can't afford not to, right? And um, the cool thing is that's changing, uh, in the last couple years, last few years in ways that we've already discussed, um, the modular approach and of course the cloud. The cool thing with cloud, and I will say this, when you buy a cloud-based, There's you since there's no huge influx of servers and, and software and license fees and all that stuff, you don't need these huge capital expenditures to get off the ground.

It's a budgeted operational expense that you pay every month or every quarter or every year, and you can budget for it. And, and that's what manufacturers love. They love that, that, um, stand, they don't like to be surprised. So, um, right. If, if you can consistency there consist that's the word I was looking for.

Exactly. And, and that's just a huge advantage for the smaller, for the smaller operations. It puts them on the cloud, puts them on the same playing field as, uh, some of the bigger ones. Love it. I mean, 

19:48 Chris Grainger

it sounds like there's no reason to hold back for sure, right? So, but, I'll, I'll always know that there's, with any system like this change management, as you mentioned earlier, there's gotta be some headwinds and yeah, we like to just unpack those for our listeners just so they Hey, they know it's not always cupcakes and rainbows.

Right. This is, this is the way it is, . Exactly. Are there any common headwinds with the MES implementation? Oh, 

20:08 Jerry Foster

there's so many. We could probably spend a long time on this, but I, I, I tried to pull out a few that, uh, I, I think were top of mind. On one hand, I think it's just hard to pull the trigger. I, I've noticed often manufacturers are skeptical of, of the, uh, claims, the, you know, the ROI client claims.

There's a lot at stake, maybe even your job. You know, we've seen people whose sole jobs to bring in to bring in an mes and man, they're terrified. If they bring in the wrong one, they're, you know, they're job is on the line. So we find sometimes that that selection process drags out because they want to be sure.

Right. Um, on, on top of that, I think there's some more tangible headwind. Uh, one of them is, is just getting the resources in line to start the process. You know, most of these companies are struggling with labor shortages, right? And you're like, Hey, we're gonna implement this brand new shiny whizbang mes and it's only gonna take six months.

And a cross-functional team, they're like, what are you smoking? We don't have timer people for that. So just getting across the, uh, the, the need to, to carve out that time is so important. Um, and I, I think maybe. Another headwind, I would just say is just the, the, the uncertainty around the economy. And that's always a given.

But these days it is becoming front and center. Um, you know, do you wanna launch a big project during, um, right before a recession? Now my, now my response would be, of course you do, right? Because we have seen that customers who are proactive in their digitization efforts, they have a much better chance of coming through the recession or economic downtimes in much better shape than their counterparts.

We've seen that over and over. But it's, it's one thing to say it, it's one thing to, to convince someone to do it. So, so those are some of the headwinds I've, I've seen. It's, it's a, it's a big, it's a big jumping. It's a big cliff for some people. Right? 

21:54 Chris Grainger

It definitely is. And anytime you talk about a system like this, there are a lot of, there are a lot of decision makers involved for sure.

Right. And then the resources, getting all the right re I think that resource alignment, like you were talking. The manufacturers I'm talking to, you know, every week they're just, they're so strapped resources. I can totally see where that could be a major one there. So, yeah. You know, thank you for unpacking those.

I mean, that's, it's sharing real truth and that's what we're trying to do here with this conversation. Right. I know you're big also on the innovation side, uh, particularly at Plex and what you're doing. So where the seat that you're in right now, where do you see innovation going in future for manufac?

22:28 Jerry Foster

So I'm not sure if you wanna let me loose on this one. I could, uh, I love talking about, oh yeah, , 

22:32 Chris Grainger


22:32 Jerry Foster

off the leash, man. You're off the leash. I love talking about innovation cuz it's what I do and I, you know, the pace of innovation continues to accelerate. Uh, when I look at innovation in the industry, I kind of look at short term and long term.

And I, I think short term, there's a couple technologies that are, are just coming over the hype curve. You know, there's always a curve with new technology and everyone hypes it up and then there. Um, that, uh, trough of disbelief or whatever they call it, like, oh, it's not gonna, it's not gonna help. And then when we get that outta the way, we can actually start putting it to good use.

And there's two, two technologies that I've seen that are really, um, kind of hitting the mark now, hitting their stride. I guess. One is artificial intelligence. Mm-hmm. . And the other, the other is additive manufacturing or, or 3D printing. Um, you know, industry 4.0 is all about generating data. And so one of the questions I get often when I speak at a, I'm on a panel is like, Jerry, I have so much data and everything I do adds more data.

I, I don't have time to analyze it. What am I supposed to do with all of this data? Um, and I just read a stat that it was a 68% of all data generated in the enterprise is never looked at. Never leveraged. Right. And so, um, and so you could say, well, we've got reports and we've got analytics, but even the best reports, they, they don't give you the answers.

So for instance, mm-hmm. , um, Uh, so I, let's say I've got a report that shows me, um, all the reasons I've had, uh, machine downtime mm-hmm. , and it might say, mm-hmm. , the number one reason that you have machine downtime is material shortage. Like, okay, that's great. That's good to know, but why, why do I, why am I not getting the material to the press?

So, right. So all that does is it tells you where to start looking, which is good. But not great. And that's why AI is so powerful because it can, it can plow through all of that data and find patterns and dependencies in the data that you had no chance of finding on your own. So for just for example, it might find a pattern that says, Hey, we have found that we have material shortages when forklift drivers are on shift, that were trained by.

Like, oh, okay, now we have something actionable. It found a, a link, it found a pattern between that downtime reason and forklift operators with a certain training regimen. So now we can actually go find out what's happening in that training when Joe trains those, those workers. So, um, so that's one of the reasons I, I think AI is really making a huge impact.

Um, and then of course, 3D printing, um, just advances in. Last five years, I was just at a, a conference in Chicago, uh, technology for manufacturing conference. I was blown away by what they were printing, the amount of, of things that they could print. All these various metals, soft surfaces, even mesh. It's, it's amazing.

Mm-hmm. what's being printed. Um, and you know, as you know, every manufacturing process that we have up until this time, it takes a block of steel. Right. And it removes material Right. Until you get down to the final. Right. All that, all that material is scrap that you've removed. Right. But with 3D printing, it's additive.

You just add what you need. There's no scrap. And, and now that we're heading into, uh, the ability to do production ready printing, it's a game changer. So those are the two things I see in the short term . I hesitate to talk about the learn long term because it sounds so. Out there, but I'm, I'm sure you've heard about the Metaverse, right?

Um, right. So, and, and this, this kind of, this virtual reality world with, and you see all these silly promises and stupid commercials and these failed efforts. Um, but I think there's a compelling, uh, uh, track out there for, for the enterprise, including manufacturing when it comes to the metaverse. And I think maybe a better way to think of it is digital.

Okay, so you know you have these industry 4.0 technologies like 5G and digital twins and augmented reality and spatial technology. You put all things, all those things together, you can build an immersive and accurate virtual experience of a real world physical workplace. So imagine instead of being driving to the.

Clocking in and going to a press and actually hitting buttons on the press to, to bring the ram up and down or to make parts or whatever, actually go to my living room. I put on my augmented reality headset and it connects to the, the virtual plant, or I'm sorry, it connects to the physical plant. And I actually have a, a virtual press in front of me and I hit the virtual buttons and it actually relays that signal to the plant and hits those buttons in the actual physical plant.

And I never have to go. So I think we've already started that in some ways and I think you're gonna see that happening more and more. I think that's kind of the end game for, for AR and digital twins and uh, it's kind of a freaky thing to think about, but, uh, I think that's what's gonna happen 10 years down the road.

27:28 Chris Grainger

Man, that is some exciting things coming our way. For sure. Miss. But thank you for sharing some of that innovation cuz it's your seat where you're at with the technology. You get, you get such a good overview and you get to bring that to us. That, that was incredible. So thank you for that. You're welcome.

Thank. Well, Jerry, this has been, I, I, I've learned so much from you here just with this conversation around mes. We all, we call it ecos, why we wrap up with the why. So, you know, give it, give it to us. Why should those manufacturer leaders that out there are listening right now, why they need to embrace MES in the future?

27:59 Jerry Foster

Yeah, so, so think about this. What does a manufacturer do? What do they, they make stuff, right? That's what they do. They're not in the accounting business or IT business or hr. Mm-hmm. , although they, they do all those. But they're, that's not their core business. And sometimes we forget that I've even seen manufacturers themselves that have lost sight of that.

Now, I'll never forget when, uh, I got my start by, um, I was in the computer department at a forging, uh, uh, a hot forging, uh, factory. And I was a computer programmer there. And I'll never forget, I was just, uh, on the job for a, a short time and I was out in the plant and I was programming something. There was this big press, 2000, uh, ton press that was, was making parts right next to me.

And my, my boss, the c e o, he was coming towards me and I, he was coming right towards me and I'm like, oh, he's gonna tell me, you know, great job, Jerry. I'm so glad we hired you. You're an awesome programmer. And he, he came out and he crossed his arms and he looked at. He looked at the press and he said, Jerry, I don't care what you do, but make sure you don't screw up that press.

Cuz if it's not going up and down we don't make parts and we go out of business. Then he walked away. I was like, well, ladi da. Okay. So, but it's always, I've never forgotten that, right? If that's not going up and down, we go out of business. So yeah, given that, that's the most important thing we do. It stands to reason that we should be utilizing some sort of technology to make sure we're doing that as effectively and efficiently as possible.

And MES is that solution. It's built for that very purpose. 

29:27 Chris Grainger

I love it. Thank you so much, Jerry, for that. I mean, so for the listeners out there that want to connect with you or Plex, where do you, where should they go to to learn more about the solutions that you offer? 

29:36 Jerry Foster

Yeah, just go to and, um, everything's there.

Our whole solution and how to contact us, it's all right there. Plex dot. All right, we'll make sure 

29:45 Chris Grainger

that is synced up into show notes for you listeners out there. So Jerry, is there anything else you'd like to share on this, this wonderful topic here today? No, 

29:50 Jerry Foster

that, that's it. It's been, it's been great. I love talking about this stuff and I appreciate the opportunity.

Oh, I love 

29:56 Chris Grainger

your passion for it. And thank you so much, sir, for the wisdom you shared today with our listeners. Thank you, Chris. What an insightful conversation with Jerry, the c t of Plex. He brought the hammer, he brought so much information for us at this. We have so much a better understanding of MES systems, how they apply, who they can impact, and, and at the bottom line, the how they can move things down, down the field for you and your manufacturing plant.

So, go back. I know he covered a ton of insight, a ton of wisdom, as well as just a, a lot of little nuggets that you can apply right now to your factory floor. Go back and check that out and, and, and again, check out the show notes to connect with us directly to conduct, to, to connect with Plex as well. To be able to help you implement that MES system in your facility.

If you're enjoying ecos, why we would encourage you to share this, these episodes with other people. Go in and give us a rating. Five star, write a review, and that could literally be one or two sentences, but they make all the difference in the world. So thank you for listening. Come back next week. We're gonna be here serving again, trying to give you the people and ideas over products as we know.

That's what's important to you. And always remember, keep asking why.

Thank you for listening to Eco s y. This show is supported ad free by Electrical Equipment Company. Eco is redefining the expectations of an electrical distributor by placing people and ideas before products. Please subscribe and share with your colleagues and friends. Also leave comments, feedback in any new topic that you would like to hear.

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31:38 Jerry Foster

That's E E 

31:39 Chris Grainger

C O A S ks w h