An MES- or Manufacturing Execution System- is a series of modules tailored specifically to your process. MES monitors your entire system, and helps you figure out how to optimize production and increase overall system efficiency.

Corso Systems’ MES Philosophy

Manufacturing Execution System Philosophy

When Corso sets up a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) for a customer, we have two goals: make your life easier, and make your process more efficient and profitable.  Experience tells us that giving people access to information as quickly as possible and then growing the tools around the information provides a much higher success rate, so that is exactly what we do: get data flowing first, and then build the system up around the data. The end result for you is an easy-to-understand user interface, less downtime, and a base level of scheduling from day one. From there we build out reports, recipes, more detailed downtime explanation codes, QA/QC information, and data entry systems.  Following this process allows everyone on your team to understand what is being implemented from start to finish, and helps provide a smooth transition for all employees between what you are doing now and where you want to end up long term.  This saves time overall, gives you a tailored solution, and keeps things running smoothly throughout project implementation.

Parts of Manufacturing Execution System (MES)

OEE and Downtime Tracking

OEE- Overall Equipment Effectiveness- typically goes hand and hand with Downtime Tracking, which monitors which and why machines are not running or stop running during production. These two parts are typically the first instances of MES in a facility, for the simple reason that they clearly show where improvements can be made.

OEE is calculated by Availability X Performance X Quality  (OEE = A x P x Q), and can be tracked over time to help you monitor system functioning both in short term snapshots and long-term trends: 

Downtime

Anything that keeps OEE from 100 would be tracked as downtime, and understanding where downtime is happening is important because if you have it you’re not making product.  While downtime can be tracked manually (you may be doing it manually right now), automated downtime tracking is helpful for many reasons: it is more accurate than an operator’s guess, it doesn’t get lost or incorrectly documented, it won’t fib to cover up excessive downtime, it can track patterns, and it frees up your operators to do what they do best (operate, not document).

Downtime tracking also quickly provides reason codes that help you figure out both what needs to be fixed (e.g. mechanical issues, re-stocking supplies, etc.) as well as any potential patterns of downtime (e.g. a certain machine always runs out of materials early and needs to be refilled on a different schedule, the same machine keeps getting starved  because of a machine upstream is consistently down, etc.)

We should clarify that in the real world, OEE realistically will not be 100.  Much of what your OEE comes out to be will be determined by how your facility calculates OEE, but with automated downtime tracking Corso can look at trends and help you make the best decisions to minimize downtime and maximize output. Generally any process with an OEE over 85% is considered world class; Corso regularly helps our customers’s achieve OEE rates in the 90% plus range:

Want to know more before starting and MES implementation? Check out Corso’s OEE and Downtime Tracking Package.  

Want to know more about OEE? Check out the basics in our Acronyms Are Hard Series, or get more in depth with downtime tracking with our MES 101 Downtime Tracking post.

Manufacturing Execution System Implimentation

Scheduling

You may have come to a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) solution because of scheduling. Depending on your software choice, scheduling may be an integral part of OEE, and can cover an impressive span of important functions.  Scheduling can create an sequence production orders; organize machine, tool, and material changeovers;  program start and end times for cycles; ensure you meet deadlines, as well as get consistent feedback as a production is happening; and communicate the production schedule to the shop floor. 

When scheduling has been properly implemented, people want to know how they lived without it before. Corso is happy to help you get scheduling up and running if you don’t yet have it; if you do have in your EPR or somewhere else, we’re more than ready and willing to help you upgrade your current scheduling or integrate it into a new system.  Here’s a quick example of what integrated scheduling looks like, and we can give you a more in-depth overview when you reach out: 

SPC

Have you met John? He’d blush if we called him the foremost SPC expert in the world, so we’ll just call him one of the foremost SPC experts in the world. “SPC” might be one of the harder acronyms, and it stands for Statistical Process Control.

At the most basic level SPC is a form of quality control that, as the name would suggest, uses statistics to monitor and control your process.  The general ideas is that when a company decides that they are going to take samples while their process is running, SPC interfaces with MES to monitor efficiency. If you’re running large run of the same part, you want to make sure that your process both stays within tolerances and is not trending out of tolerance. When this is displayed as a graphical representation, it is much easier to determine if there is corrective action that needs to be taken during the process:

SPC works more to protect and prevent instead of identifying problems after they’ve already occurred, which is obviously a huge advantage when thinking about productivity.  SPC can both reduce production time overall, as well as greatly reduce the amount of overall waste (either finished pieces that have to be reworked or tossed) by identifying and correcting problems before they happen.

With (one of) the finest SPC experts in the world on our team, we’re more than confident that Corso can help you get SPC up and running in no time.

Want to know more about SPC? Check out the basics in our Acronyms Are Hard Series, or get more in depth with downtime tracking with our MES 101 Quality Management post.

Track and Trace

Track and Trace does exactly what is sounds like: it takes your raw materials, tracks them through the production process, and traces out a comprehensive analysis of the production details. For some industries this can be overkill, but for others like Food and Beverage, some Manufacturing, and Aerospace this is both necessary and valuable (think: regulatory compliance and narrowing recalls).  

The goal is to take the raw materials and all of the appropriate certifications and paperwork and track those materials though the process and batching and be able to attach that paperwork to the correct finished product.  This sounds easier said than done, and automating this process decreases the likelihood of error, is much faster, and creates minimal impact on operations staff who have other important things to be doing (say, for example, operating!)

Even better, Corso has created a raw material receiving and finished product ticketing system modules that we can easily add to your process to reduce the human error that is typically associated with these tasks.

Recipe Change Over

Now that scheduling has pushed the information into the MES, something needs to be in place to send the information to the machines; having recipe change over will let that happen at the machine/PLC level. There are various different recipe options, and the number one request we receive from customers is batching.

How can a facility run multiple batches during the day? Batching. Some software options have batching built-in, and some do not.  For the ones that do not, Corso’s got you covered. We’ve built out many different batching functions on systems that do not have it come standard, and can definitely do the same thing for you!

Production Order on Deck

This is a Corso original. Recipe change over will let you change the recipe’s in your machines to allow batching.  Adding the Order on Deck function allows you to see and edit what’s coming next. If you have a hot list of production orders that must be done during the day, we can extend it so you can see all of the on deck orders, and make adjustments if necessary. 

Integrations and Tie-In’s

ERP

Corso has a saying: if you can dream it, we can build it.  Quite simply put, if you have a system- or anything else- that you’d like to integrate, we can make it work.

Here are a few of the most common integrations that we see our customers doing in the beginning of their process. Have something else in mind? Drop us a line and ask!

One of the major integrations that companies look at is their ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software. This is the backbone for many companies. It may include customer information, inventory, Purchase Orders, Accounting, scheduling and more. Many people love their ERP’s. Many people love to hate their ERP’s.

Corso has successfully integrated with various ERP’s including SAP, JD Edwards, Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics, and SAGE systems. We’ve also integrated a few homegrown systems, so don’t feel intimidated if your ERP isn’t listed. They are your system, and you chose them for a particular reason. We want to help make them better.

There are various ways we can integrate with ERP’s. Typically we’ll work with your IT department to find the right solution. Web Services calls or any other access into the database will provide the access that Corso needs to make the system work.

Why Would You What To Integrate Your ERP?

Because you want to use the information that you’ve painstakingly input into your ERP and not duplicate the work. Most facilities that integrate with an ERP want to start with scheduling and/or inventory. This way we can take the hard steps out of figuring out scheduling for production.

Some facilities have a process with a variable number of operators. We can help schedule the operators for your optimal performance.

Corso can integrate the production pull from the ERP, plus we can integrate the push back into your ERP. A fully integrated system will allow you to remove duplicate work, and provide full visualization of your process. Imagine sitting down and being able to instantly see your entire process. That is what proper integrations and a good ERP integration can provide.

Want to know more about ERP’s?

Check out Acronyms Are Hard: ERP edition

Another benefit: we can help automate your companies time cards!

LIMS

Do you work in an environment that has a laboratory? Then you might have a LIMS, or Laboratory Information Management Systems.

LIMS take SPC and quality management even further for regulated facilities. LIMS features include workflow and data tracking, as well as the ability to exchange across interfaces, and are important for facilities that need to be completely sure that all of their information is up to date and will not be questioned by regulators.

There are myriad number of LIMS systems. Every section and subsection of a process have a Top 5 or Top 10 list. Corso has experience with both integrating LIMS systems as well as building them. Depending on your process, Corso might have a suggestion of a LIMS, or a package that’s right for you.

Why  Would You Want To Integrate Your LIMS?

Mainly, to keep your information together. If you’re looking to add a LIMS into an MES, then that probably means that you have a manufacturing environment. It’s very possible that you are either using an SPC, or you are pulling in process pieces for testing. This is what an SPC helps track.

Being able to correlate your lab testing along with your manufacturing environment is invaluable. Now if there is an issue, you can quickly and easily see all the information about those pieces. You can also track the materials back to the source and find any other pieces that need to be checked.

The visualization of your process will be much more complete once you have integrated your laboratory testing.

Learn more in our Acronyms Are Hard: LIMS edition!

Plus read about a custom LIMS solution Corso provided to an Oil and Gas facility.

Camera’s

It seems like everything has a camera these days.

IP camera’s to see the process. Get eyes on a process, machine, or area from anywhere. See what’s happening and why that alarm is going off. These are easy way to get started with camera integrations. In many systems, they are virtually plug and play. A great way to get started.

Security cameras help make sure that your facility is secure. Many facilties that Corso works with have security camera’s of some sort. By pulling those security camera’s together into your integrations, you can now view the camera’s from a much more user friendly interface. Make sure that no one is in your space after close. Get alarm and text notifications if they are!

Camera’s monitoring temperatures, such as FLIR and Fluke, in your process can be integrated with your SPC and/or LIMS. These can preemptively give you notifications if something were trending negatively.

Corso has been working on some technology to bridge the gap and measure temperatures from the cameras. We’re then going to run predictive analytics on it and be able to preemptively predict failures.

Why  Would You Want To Integrate Your Camera’s?

Simply to see your process. Many facilities already have cameras that they can integrate.

The option to add relatively inexpensive camera’s to provide better process visualization is phenomenal.

The ability to add camera’s for monitoring temperature, and vision systems, exponentially increase the value of your system.

Adding temperature and other camera’s only make your process better.

We talk about this some in the Intelligent Automation Pyramid: Business Intelligence Systems.

System & Machine Login

Many facilities have some form allowing logging into machines or systems. Be it login for anything above operator, badges, or biometrics. At the end of the day, your facility does what’s best for you.

Integrating that into an MES can be a important step for a few reasons. First if allows the system to collect the operator information and integrate that into the logs you’re already creating.

Second, it allows you to easily manage access to machines and settings. Many facilties tell us about how some operators like their own settings. This helps prevent that issue and track people whom try and make changes.

Why  Would You Want To Integrate Your System & Machine Login’s?

To have all the information at your fingertips. Allow and easy way to make changes. Having the machines set and run at optimal setting, always.

Integrating these into your MES allow for Automating Your Time Cards from any location in your facility.

Additionally, you can use these integrations for easier Scheduling.

Barcode Printers & Scanners

Using barcodes can be a powerful, transformative process for many facilties. Think about doing away with the clipboards. Having a computer track those long part and lot numbers. Never having to try and read the handwriting from the person three weeks ago.

Creating barcodes, scanning them, and then printing new ones after a process.

This process can help eliminate mistakes and make everything move faster. Reducing operator fatigue, and letting them do what they do best.

Why  Would You Want To Integrate Your Barcode Printers & Scanners?

If you’re done with wet, soggy paper and want to do everything in a digital solution, this is for you.

Want to track everything doing to the second? If you’re investing in time tracking and something like OEE, Track and Trace, or SPC, then take a hard look.

Embrace the transformative process, and find efficiencies you didn’t know existed.

We talk about that in our Track and Trace post.

If you’re not sure whether a particular integration exists or can exist, the answer is probably YES and you should definitely ask us!

Software and Platforms

Head hasn’t exploded yet from all the MES information? Great. So let’s talk software.

We won’t lie to you, there are a lot of Software platform options out there to integrate your MES. Corso Systems has experience working extensively with a number of different platforms, and we’ve played around with even more than that, because that’s what we do on Friday night. We’ll touch on our top three favorite software platforms below, and if you have questions on others we’re be happy to discuss.

Head hasn’t exploded yet from all the Manufacturing Execution System information? Great. So let’s talk software.

Inductive Automation’s Ignition

Inductive Automation has taken the industry by storm with their novel pricing strategy: charge one price. It’s a beautiful thought, and not needing to count clients, tags, or PLC’s puts a smile on everyones face. The list of customers is impressive and includes Tesla, Amazon, and more (we may or may not be able to talk about our time spent in these facilities).

The combination of Corso and Ignition have produced some magnificent results. Corso is extremely proud to say that we are Premier Integrators and (almost) all of our controls engineers are Gold Certified in the latest versions of Ignition!

Read more about Inductive’s Ignition here.

Siemens WinCC Open Architecture

Siemens’ newest iteration of software has an Open Architecture flair. Happily, this allows for more hardcoding and changes in the software than previous versions, and clients specifically like the alarming functions at the bottom of all of the screens. One of the conclusive reasons customers look at OA is because of the speed at which their process historian can collect data and the huge amount of data that the process historian can store. How huge? CERN, that place  in Europe with the Large Hadron Collider that tries to create black holes? Yeah, they use OA.

The overall look and feel is very nice and many applications happily call OA their MES provider.

Corso is proud to be a Premier WinCC OA Integrator. We also completed the very first premier oil and gas project on OA.

Read more about WinCC OA here.

Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk

FactoryTalk is the king of the industry. Dave like’s to compare them to IBM of the 80’s and 90’s: no one ever got fired for going FactoryTalk. Historically, FactoryTalk has been a bit disjointed with their integration of purchased modules, but there is some really interesting materials coming out of the R&D lab recently. Most people that look at FactoryTalk are facilities that use Rockwell Automation for hardware and are comfortable with Rockwell. Otherwise there are some people out there who have used FactoryTalk in the past and want to continue to use FactoryTalk, which completely makes sense to us.

Corso has a few FactoryTalk experts and we’ll get a few calls a year from people asking us to come in and save their integration, or perform a migration for them because of our cross platform knowledge.  

Read more about FactoryTalk here.

Where to Start

What “getting started” looks like will depend on your project.  Calling Dave, starting the conversation about MES, and looking at demos is a good series of first steps and is the easiest and quickest way to get the ball rolling for your individual needs. If you’re not ready to do that yet, check out some of our Case Studies and blog posts on MES and reach out soon.