An MES, ERP or any other type of software system requires an investment. Also in terms of working hours, because a lot of colleagues are involved. So you want the project to progress and yield an optimal return. Yet, from our role as machine developer, we always see the same obstacles that result in delays and additional costs. Director Joris Ceyssens helps you avoid these obstacles.

“We find that the machine level remains a blind spot in many projects for too long,” Joris begins. “Yet, its output is crucial to provide the upper layers with data. Because without data from your machines, there can be no management dashboard that brings everything together.”

Why precisely is that machine level typically a blind spot? “Because the initiative for an MES or ERP integration typically comes from management. But no matter how close your management is to the factory floor, the specific ins and outs of machinery are not among their areas of expertise.”

On top of that, machines are also not the specialization of your software vendor.

These are not reproaches, by the way. Your vendor’s expertise stops somewhere. And management cannot possibly know every little in and out about your machinery.

Recommendations, but no roadmap

A committed software vendor will survey your current machinery. Because they need to be sure that those machines can capture and transmit the right data. After all, that data is the input for their software.

But surveying is not the same as a making plan of action that describes exactly what adjustments are needed. “For example, such a report does not include on whether sensor A or B is the best choice for that particular machine. How that sensor should be installed. And whether for that particular machine this or that brand of PLC is most suitable. You cannot and should not expect that from your software vendor.”

Yet just such a plan of action is essential.

Because otherwise your machinery remaind a blind spot. That blind spot can stall the integration: while everything on the software side is ready to go, you have no detailed insight into what exactly needs to be done with your machines. And whether your team has the knowledge and time to make those adjustments.

How do you avoid the blind spot?

By integrating following steps.

The first step is to create an overview. Integrating an MES or ERP system impacts all levels of your business. Well, then it is important to map all those levels. ISA95 is a grateful framework for this.

ISA95: the overview

ISA 95 is a collection of standards that aim to unify the information exchange between the ERP and MES levels. This is neither a certification nor an obligation, but it does give you the assurance that everything is done through a standard.

Copyright: Brightly

Level 0 and 1 is your machinery. At those levels, it’s about the manufacturing processes. “A sensor that lets you know a certain component has arrived. The PLC that controls a robotic arm to transfer that component from point A to point B. We’re talking milliseconds and seconds here.”

So you advance level by level to level 4, management. The level of business planning. “On this level, the MES and the ERP bring together all the data from these separate sources. So you can manage your stock, make up the weekly planning… Here, we’re talking days and months.”

The workgroup: all the overviews together

Clear view on all those levels? Good. That means that at this point you also know which the colleagues you need to involve in your working group.

“We see that level 3 and 4 are usually well represented in these working groups anyway. But 0, 1 and 2 not or insufficiently. But you need these colleagues at the table. If your software vendor asks you to modify process x or implement operation y, you need the knowledge to assess whether that is feasible. To understand the impact of that change at the machine level. You need colleagues who will draw the right conclusions and link actions to those questions.”

Machine developer: additional knowledge and/or striking power

And that brings us to our role as machine developer. In this type of project, we form a tandem with the software supplier. They are at the wheel, we pedal along to get to the destination on time. “Level 0 and 1, that’s where our expertise is. The levels above that is the software vendor’s territory.”

Machine ombouwen

“Our exact range of tasks varies from project to project. For example, we can map the installed base by creating an as-built for every machine. So we can translate the software supplier’s wish list into the right technological choices.”

“If the control board is no longer up to date, for example, we investigate whether a revamp or building new boards is the best choice. If the PLC is obsolete, we list the different possible solutions. And finally, we can also carry out the actual adaptions.”

“In some projects we do the total package, in others certain parts – in cooperation with the customer or by ourselves.”

“Finally, we also help our customers get the most out of their retrofit. Because this is also the time to take a closer look at the mechanical, for example, in addition to the control aspect. We offer that broader perspective. Often we can make a big profit with a few smart interventions.”


Everything starts with the right choice of software system and software vendor. But avoid having your machinery remain a blind spot. An all-round machine specialist can help you with this. As an advisor and/or installer.