If a company's MES and ERP systems were integrated, then "all of the systems would be looking at the same inventory without
having to worry about ownership," as Kenney points out. "The question of which package owns the inventory indicates that the
integration is not where it could be."
Wyeth used a collaborative strategy to avoid the problem of managing various manufacturing plants with different products
and processes. Leinbach explains that, before adopting MES, representatives from the company's various sites met with an MES
vendor and a corporate project team to develop a standard set of user requirements to be deployed across Wyeth's entire supply
chain. Although each site has different products and processes, each plant could incorporate the common user requirement specification
(URS) according to its specific purposes. Thus, in addition to the common URS, each of Wyeth's facilities had a site-specific
URS that described its local functionality. With this strategy, the company achieved a standard MES model that it adopted
rapidly at many of its sites.
Integrating MES and ERP systems can bring flexibility to production processes. Rather than establishing complete master recipes
that include all the specifications for each product, a company could create recipes that contained variables. If the ERP
system contains a master list of variables and their acceptable value ranges, the enterprise level could send an order to
MES that defines the variables, thus selecting the product to be manufactured. This arrangement would eliminate the need to
create a new recipe in MES for each new product.
If a company wants centralized maintenance of its master data or if its products are familiar and established, this would
be a good solution. Likewise, if equipment operation remained consistent, this strategy could also facilitate personalized
medicine and order-based manufacturing.
But keeping a master list of variables and alternate values on the enterprise level would make data management more complex.
Managing such a repository would require knowledge of all recipes, and changing one parameter might affect many recipes. This
arrangement could make for a complex validation process.
Integrating an MES and an ERP system is no simple task. It requires pharmaceutical companies to know their facilities and
equipment, understand various software applications, and have the skill to create custom interfaces to facilitate integration.
Yet software vendors and users all acknowledge that integration has gotten easier through time. Manufacturing technology has
improved, vendors' solutions have evolved, and pharmaceutical professionals have become more software-savvy. The industry
has benefited from this progress, and drugmakers are optimistic that MES–ERP system integration will become even simpler,
and provide even greater benefits, in the near future.
For more on this topic, see Integration the Easy Way