Infosys’ blog on industry solutions, trends, business process transformation and global implementation in Oracle.

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December 27, 2010

MES for Process Industries

What is MES ?

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) acts as central repository for all the data transacted, but there is no way of controlling the operations or passing the information between plant control system & ERP in integrated manner.

MES (Manufacturing execution systems) help in detailing the process and also controlling the operations through the systems. MES uses the data and provide results on the plant activities in minimal time. MES Collects the data from plant system, store them, and the output are used to control the functions in enhancing productivity and process on the whole.

MES for Oracle Process Manufacturing (OPM):

MES for Process Manufacturing adds new batch execution functionality and increases usability for manufacturing operators. 

MES for OPM provides features like Operator Workbench, Dispending - planning as well as execution, Labeling, Electronic Master and Control Batch Record. It provides pre-built APIs which can streamline device integration.

OPM MES Key benefits:

Increased Production unit control - with MES we can control each and every activity of the Shop floor. This avoids unnecessary time spent in passing the information and getting approvals for the operations.

Reducing Product defects- MES provide fully integrated system which will help in flawless flow of information across the Unit. This in turn will reduce the defects during production.

For example, previously we used to provide SOP (Standard operations Procedures) by way of printout. But now in MES, we can attach Screen shots clearly showing the Operations. These provide better understanding for the operator and minimize errors.

Better Quality systems - The MES feature of better control and increased visibility will help the industries to enhance themselves for better quality standards.

Reduced Workforce - Since most of the activities are integrated, the labor force can be reduced to certain extent and can be used in other productive activities. This will help in optimum utilization of resources.

Eco friendly - Recent statistics say that nearly 90% paper manufacturing is made of Wood pulp. For this 35% of trees are felled every year leading to deforestation on large scale. Also Tones of papers are used in Industries for Storing and transacting data. The paperless transactions and electronic record keeping in MES will save natural resources and help in Eco system improvement.



Improvised dimensions and hierarchy in OFSAA 5.1

Guest post by
Suthersan Jayaprakash, Technology Analyst- Banking and Capital Markets, Oracle Practice, Enterprise Solutions, Infosys Technologies Ltd.


The dimensions and hierarchies form the base for operations in OFSA suite of products. Any business assumptions or processing parameters are built based on the dimensions. The dimensions in OFSA are nothing but various attributes of the business. Something like organizational structure, or the business offered by the organization, or the products and services that it offers.

So now what makes the handling of dimensions and hierarchies better in OFSAA 5.1. We recall that hierarchies in OFSA 4.5 allowed the addition of leaf members only at the deepest level. Say if you have a 4 level hierarchy the leaf member can be attached only in the fourth level. This is termed as "Balanced Hierarchy".  But in OFSAA 5.1 the leaf member can be added in any level irrespective of which is the deepest level. This is termed as "Unbalanced hierarchy". To see on a topical view it may look like balanced hierarchy is more organized and easy to maintain than unbalanced one.

Let's take an example of organization structure of a bank. The hierarchy may be designed like this. The branches in an area report to area HQ(town/city HQ), the area HQ report to Zonal offices and all the zonal offices report back to National HQ. In case of this typical structure we can see no advantage or utilization of unbalanced hierarchy.  But consider that the bank starts a new branch in south zone in a town and it's a whole new venture for them. Meaning, there are no area HQ available in that locality where this branch can report to. So the management decides to control the branch directly through the zonal HQ due to various factors like geography & cost involved etc. In a case like this, the unbalanced hierarchy allows us to add this new branch to the zonal HQ. But whereas in a balanced hierarchy we have to insert a "Dummy node" in place of area HQ and place the new branch under this node. We save the addition of "dummy nodes" in this approach, meaning the dimension members and in turn hierarchies are easily manageable and less compounded in nature to use.

How OFSAA 5.1 does support this while OFSA 4.5 is unable to? The trick lies in the way 5.1 treats the "NODES". While in OFSA 4.5 the nodes are nothing but empty blocks under which nodes and leaf can be grouped, the OFSAA 5.1 treats the nodes as dimension member themselves. As a result the entire dimension attributes that designs the nature of a Leaf can also be defined for the Nodes. The nodes can be operational part of the hierarchy just like the leafs, but in addition can act as grouping blocks also. This approach also helps us to attain some discipline in the hierarchy creation. The disciplines like a node cannot be a member of itself at any level of hierarchy can be implemented by this approach. Since in OFSA 4.5 the nodes are just grouping blocks, these kinds of rules cannot be "strictly" implemented but can just be suggested as "optimal usage guidelines". Whereas in OFSAA 5.1, the nodes are dimension members themselves whose property indirectly implies the above suggestion as a hard bound rule. This is because; a member cannot be grouped under itself. When this new concept of treating a node as member is utilized ideally the use of dimensions and hierarchy becomes less complex and more efficient.

December 1, 2010

Yes or No to Customization of Oracle Transportation Management?

Organizations contemplating on using IT as an enabler to manage their transportation usually have 2 options in front of them, buy an ERP like Oracle Transportation Management (OTM) or build a product in-house.  There is also a middle path; it's the path of buying and customizing. The question which comes then is whether it is advisable to buy a standard ERP, which claims to have the best processes from the industry and yet is a generic product, and then customize it. A yes or no to customization cannot be simply a "Yes" or a "No". I will try to start the debate here and discuss some critical points on Oracle Transportation Management customization.

It is generally seen that organizations are looking for customization in the following fields:

1. Functionality change in the product by changing the source code.

2. Change/modification in the workflow.

3. A modified GUI adhering to the organization standards.

4. Customized reports.

OTM has done a lot to improve at least points 2, 3 and 4. Let us take them one at a time.

Functionality change in the product by changing the source code: This would require an in-depth knowledge of the OTM source code and would require a huge effort. This will be costly and definitely not supported by Oracle. This should be done only in case of extreme need and when all other options have been exhausted.

Change/modification in the workflow: OTM provides a very flexible way of building up a workflow with most of the processes being highly configurable. It uses Agents, Milestones, and statuses to configure the workflow. Most of the workflow requirements of an organization can be easily configured with minimal customization.

A modified GUI adhering to the organization standards: OTM provides screen sets and manager layouts to change the screens of OTM. Fields can be hidden or made visible. Default values can be added to individual fields. The menus can be changed according to the user roles. And all this is configurable with no customization required. If a very specific change is required which cannot be configured then the OTM pages can be even customized with minimal effort. The skeleton pages are already provided while creating the manager layouts. The only thing to take care is that during any OTM upgrades the pages are maintained and restored. Apart from this even the colour themes and logos can be changed to suit the organizations needs. The look and feel of OTM can be changed very easily to suit the organizations needs with minimal customization.

Customized reports: OTM provides a host of seeded reports but often organizations have specific needs and would prefer having a different report. From OTM 6.0 xml publisher has been added as a part of the product. Any report built using xml publisher is absolutely compatible with OTM. The reports functionality has come a long way from just having html and pdf formats to a laundry list of formats in which the user can view the reports. Report generation does not require any separate server or database. Customized reports can be generated with very basic configuration changes in OTM.

Apart from these the users can have custom logs and tables in database which will help debug issues in OTM. Thus we see that although some amount of customization is required to meet the needs of the organization but most of them are configurable using the features of OTM.

Even after all this customization is required then the below points and many more have to be pondered upon before customization is chosen as an option. When would you say "Yes" to customization? Some points to consider are:

1. My organization is reluctant to change the way of doing things.

2. It would require a huge training effort for the organization to adapt to the new processes of the product.

3. My business processes are better, unique, and absolutely critical for my business to run and would require the product to be customized to make it happen.

4. I have money in my purse for customizing the product.

5. I have a very capable IT team which can build and maintain the customization.

6. I am sure that the future releases of the product will not contain the customization I am doing on the product.

When would I say "No" to customization? Again some points to consider are:

1. The processes built in the product look good and can be beneficial to my business.

2. I do not have the money to afford the customization.

3. My organization is flexible and can adapt to the new way of doing things.

4. Maintaining the customization will be difficult for me.

5. I am very much dependent on the product vendor for all the support.

6. The future releases might contain the functionality I am looking for.

All this and more should be properly debated before any decision is taken. Customizing a product is not a sin but it should be done only after proper discussion after considering all options.

Acknowledgement: Anirban Roy

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