Today, many consumers do their “due diligence” in making purchases, whether it’s using consumer reports, scouring the internet, or polling friends and family.  Making an informed decision makes all of us feel more comfortable moving forward with a purchase or project.  The time and effort you commit doing research probably has a lot to do with the importance of the item, along with your goal.  What if the product was something that could greatly reduce lost time and waste, while improving your profits in addition to your position with customers as well as your partners? Choosing the right MES for your shop floor is a big decision, one that can have significant impact on your enterprise.

MES Explained

Hardhat worker profile, depicting“inside out” or a worker-centric MES model.

During conversations with companies nationwide, we’ve found that there isn’t a clear understanding of what a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) is. This is due in part to the varying forms, integration and levels of use of MES within the industry. Many find it difficult to explain and convey what it’s supposed to do. If you struggle in describing it, how can you confidently judge if it’s a good fit for your company? ISE and Paper-Less would like to take a moment to help clarify.

MES Definition: A software platform which connects, monitors and coordinates complex manufacturing systems, data flows, as well as people on a shop floor. The main goal of an MES is to oversee and synchronize the execution of manufacturing operations and improve production output of the factory.

From a different point of view, MES helps shop floor workers focus their time on doing, rather than reading and typing.  Minimizing input utilizing touchscreens, bar codes and “predictive” transactions (that only need confirmation, not data entry), workers will save keystrokes and footsteps.

MES Types per IDC

International Data Corporation (IDC), a global provider of market intelligence and global technology insights has categorized MES into 3 formats.  There is the “top down” MES, which is thought of as ERP-centric.  Meaning it focuses on ERP needs and data, mostly it’s one directional in its interaction/communication. Then there’s “bottom up” MES, which is known to be more machine-centric.  Here the MES focuses on machine aspects like speeds, material feeds, temperature, pieces in/out. The final category is “inside out” or a worker-centric MES model.  It derives visibility to the shop floor through communication in both directions to ERP as well as communicating with machines.  Paper-Less is a worker-centric MES helping transform traditional manufacturing operations by providing digital intelligence & communications within your shop floor. This MES presents the shop floor workforce with information for what to do, when to do it, how to do it, what was done, how did it perform—allowing true visibility.  Paper-Less is releasing its newest MES version 5.3 in late spring.

Where does MES fit?

MES in Manufacturing Pyramid (from Futura Automation)

Image courtesy of Futura Automation

An MES is a critical piece in the middle of the systems supporting a manufacturing company. Communicating up & down the chain, to machines, floor workers and other staff (supervisors, managers, executives), the MES supplies pertinent real-time accurate information…on what to make, what’s been done & by who, and more. Communicating this to other applications so that informed decisions can be made elsewhere regarding timing, ordering, and shipping. An MES will help improve manufacturing visibility and velocity within your production processes by allowing workers access to the information they need at the right time; while reporting their activities throughout the day to other areas needing the reference.

Core Functions of an MES:

MES not only communicates the “estimated” production plan from ERP out to the floor, but it also captures those “actual” values and updates them back into ERP and other planning systems.  Over time, estimates become more crisp and more accurate as iterations of actual experience are applied to them.  As a whole, an MES acts as the shop floor control center.  Knowing the “Who,” as in whom is responsible for that work area or tools, what department is doing what, etc. Plus the “What,” pieces, frequency, materials.  Along with the “When” of the personnel schedule or when to order something for example. As well as the “Where” and “How” of the process. But MES goes beyond tracking; into retrieving, analyzing and communicating pertinent information. Specifically, an MES provides insight into:

  • Data Collection and Acquisition
  • Operation Scheduling
  • Dispatching Production Units
  • Production Tracking and Genealogy
  • Staff and Resource Management
  • Process Management
  • Performance Analysis
  • Maintenance Management
  • Quality Management
  • Document Management

MES Workflow

It starts with the demand to manufacture items, where production planners will receive, create and/or modify a manufacturing plan.  The MES must collaborate a number of different entities in order to support the execution of that plan.  Availability of resources such as work centers, machines, employees, material are only some of the information an MES system needs to communicate.  Other information like work instructions, drawings, setup instructions, testing guidelines, and priorities are also very important to production’s overall success.  Combine all the information needed—with real-time visibility into the progress for each manufacturing order—and making the right decision at the right time becomes intuitive.

 

Accurate, Real-time Data  ⇒  Better Decisions

 

MES Importance & Why Now?

It has been said that knowledge yields no power without application. We believe that to be the case in manufacturing.  The point in employing an information system like an MES in not just to collect data, but TO USE IT! Your MES is the functional layer between the ERP and the process control systems on your factory floor. Giving manufacturers real-time WIP visibility, flexibility and insight into how best to improve enterprise-wide manufacturing operations.

 

Stay tuned for Part II of this Blog, where we’ll expand upon the benefits of an MES and its features.

 

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