At it’s most basic level, a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) tells the story of your company. It can be where you want to go, where you are currently, or where you have been. Using MES in this way, you can find any shortfalls between where you have been and where you want to go and understand how to address them.
The 5 W’s of MES
Just as you learned in school, to get a complete picture of any story you need to answer five things. Who, What, When, Where, Why, (and How).
Where do these come into play with MES?
Who on your staff is involved in making this product? The operators, the suppliers, the customers, and any support staff you might need to engage in a given production order. It describes the equipment, production lines, facilities, and processes you will use to produce your goods. MES pulls all of these together along with data from your business systems to give you a complete picture of every resource involved in your process.
Are these people and resources available, trained, maintained, and aware of what they need to be making? MES helps you track all of this information.
What are you making? This is where things like Bills of Material, recipes, drawings, and any information about your product come into play. MES manages this information and makes sure you have the most current revision of everything before anything touches the plant floor.
MES can integrate with any of your existing systems, or provide a repository for this information. It can provide version control so you can track who makes changes to recipes, process setpoints, and bills of material, and monitor these changes through the lifecycle of a product.
You can track what lot numbers of raw material went into your product and make it easy to share this information with customers when needed. You can generate reports to show exactly who worked on the product, the process conditions while it was in production, and if there were any abnormalities along the way.
When are you making everything? The Scheduling portion of an MES defines when things are made when supporting materials need to be in specific locations, and when your finished products will be going out the door. It helps you understand how to manage who is making what, where they need to be and when. Scheduling helps to chart a path to the most successful outcome.
You will gain a deeper understanding of how long things should take vs. how long they take. Common delays and their root causes can be easily determined and improved upon. Any bottlenecks due to equipment utilization will be very evident, and you will be able to find ways to alleviate these going forward.
Where will this production run take place? What production lines and at what facilities will you use for this product?
Does your production scheduler need to update the production line at the last minute because of an unexpected equipment shutdown? This is easy to do with MES.
Why are you making these things in the first place? Are you doing R&D for a new product, training operators and building a new process? Are you making them for customer orders? Did a customer need to put a rush on something before you got into the office, and you need to re-prioritize things? MES will give you the information you need to answer these questions.
Do you have inventory on hand you could use to fulfill these orders instead of doing a new run? MES will give you a global view of everything you have produced, shipped out the door, or have sitting in the warehouse. Having information like that on hand can easily save you lots of time and resources, potentially allowing you to clear out inventory that may have been forgotten about without the right information available.
How did your process perform while producing product? What were the process conditions like for a particular batch? What alarms were present, and were they any hiccups along the way? How efficient was your process at making this production run? How much downtime did you experience, and how much of it could have been prevented?
Are your operators, lab personnel, or maintenance staff taking readings or logging anything throughout the shift? MES digitizaes all of the informatioin and can correlate the logs with real-time production data for detailed reports. This can help with training future employees and doing after production assessments on performance.
Easily calculate and track OEE, or any other KPI you want to monitor. You will have the data and information available to generate new KPIs as you improve operations and need to dig deeper to find improvements.
The benefits of using an MES for your company will extend well beyond these simple questions. By integrating all of your systems, and using MES as a layer between your business process software and the plant floor, you will have better decision-making abilities about how to best run your processes. MES simplifies moving information around, reporting on the state of operations, and keeping everyone on the same page, all the time.