Is a Manufacturing Execution System Supporting Machine Level Interfacing Appropriate for Your Business Needs?
// April 3, 2015 //
Recently Paper-Less spoke to an audience of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) users in Racine, Wisconsin who were from manufacturing companies across the country. Among the topics was an introduction to Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) with a focus on the value of machine level interfaces. The gist of the session was to explain when and how interfacing to plant floor equipment can aid in the process of data collection.
What Are Machine Level Interfaces for Manufacturing Execution Systems?
As more and more automation occurs on the plant floor, the need increases for gathering machine information in real time and integrating that data with core ERP and MES data and workflow. When an MES system offers Machine Level Interfacing (MLI), the system gathers information directly from the programmable logic controllers (PLCs) plant equipment to provide inventory and production data to the MES system.
How to Determine If Machine Level Interfaces Will Help Solve Your Business or Production Problems
Too often MES products get lumped together where machine interfaces are assumed to be required, or for that matter assumed to be a capability of the software, but such is not the case. Some products simply are not built for machine level interfaces while others do it very well. On the other hand many manufacturing environments, such as highly repetitive or highly automated shops, are well served by integrating with machines and equipment, but others can fare very well with traditional collection methods. So before any assumptions are made, a deeper dive into specific business requirements should help determine the need for machine integration.
Considering the Business Benefits of Machine Level Integration
Some key indicators of opportunities to benefit from machine integration are:
- When the information to be entered becomes too voluminous that it reduces worker productivity.
- When operation quantities are low and cycle times are short. This situation can result in disruption of production activities as workers need to take time to manually enter data into the system.
- When other pertinent information related to the manufacturing process may need to be captured—things like machine settings, readings from sensors, or even environmental conditions at the time the data is recorded.
- When a greater level of granularity into production data is necessary to facilitate business needs than normal recording activities would otherwise offer. For example, if normal recording on a manual basis would provide recording every hour but benefit can be gained from gathering machine data every minute, that would be an ideal application for an automated solution. If a lot of data needs to be captured frequently there is no other option than tying directly to the equipment.
Connecting the Dots to Achieve Business Goals
The key is to understand the business requirements and let that drive the need for a manufacturing execution system that supports machine interfaces, then compare that to the types of software products that are available to see how requirements are addressed. Once the data requirements are defined and the burdens of collecting it are understood, the need to incur the cost of investing in machine interface will be clearly identified.
Would you like to learn more about how to realize your business and production goals using MES? Please click the button to see our video about how to boost your production results using the Paper-Less MV2 MES solution.