Sham Afzalpurkar spent many frustrating moments integrating ERP and MES applications during his six years at SAP, where he was architecting manufacturing and supply chain solutions. The functionality overlap between the two systems and the different ways that they manage master data created a duplication of effort that wasted time and money. Then SAP bought Lighthammer, a supplier of manufacturing intelligence technology. That move led to the development of SAP Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence (MII) software, which links enterprise processes and master data with the manufacturing side to create one version of the truth. “That accelerated my thought process,” says Afzalpurkar, who left SAP to help start supply chain consulting firm Bristlecone. He subsequently founded MES start-up Performix Inc., in 2005.
The Performix xMES Suite, unlike traditional MES packages, is not a monolithic application that requires a huge up-front investment, Afzal-purkar says. Instead, it comprises three modular components, xRecipe (visual workflows), xMES (the execution engine), and xBatch (which captures critical information during execution), that complement SAP’s core master data and erase functional over-laps. The suite works with any ERP application, not only SAP, by leveraging industry standards, including the Business to Manufacturing Markup Language (B2MML) and ISA-95, which defines enterprise and control systems integration.
Though SAP acquired MES vendor Visiprise last year, Performix doesn’t compete with SAP, Afzalpurkar says. “Visi-prise focuses on the discrete manufacturers, like aerospace, and we focus on batch manufacturers, like specialty chemicals and pharmaceuticals,” he says. In fact, Performix’s two marquee customers, Dow Corning and Pfizer, helped to define the requirements of this next-generation MES system. Pfizer was looking for MES software to complement its PLM system. But most MES applications delivered more functionality than was required. Dow Corning, on the other hand, needed a way to synchronize SAP’s master data with inventory and shop floor execution. In both instances, the Performix product provided the ability to streamline MES capabilities.
“A more conventional MES solution didn’t have the flexibility we needed. It was too expensive to make changes,” says Cathal Strain, senior director at Pfizer’s global manufacturing group.