There are four main aspects of the business that manufacturers have to deal with on the floor every day: Man, materials, machine, and methods.
- Man is the people, people that you use to build the product and support those that build the product.
- Materials are the components to make the product. The one thing about material is that like it or not , your competitor is probably also buying from the same suppliers and paying probably close to the same cost you are.
- Machine is the third one to build the product, but again, like it or not, your competitors are probably buying their machines from the same vendor at close to the same cost.
- Methods are how you manage the processes or workflows in the facility, and so this is where you gain a competitive edge; through the methods that you choose to deploy or manage these four main aspects.
When to Focus on an MES Solution
If you feel you need an MES solution—and maybe you do, as they're very good at controlling machine and material— then just focus the activities on those two aspects for better success.
When it comes to machine, a good MES solution controls the settings or the parameters of the equipment like the fill rate and the speed.
Next would be controlling the material for MES, meaning the components to build the product, the traceability of the lot numbers and/or the serial numbers of those components that go into making the product from the raw components to the final product.
So, with that being said, it's very costly and time consuming to build an MES system, especially if you want it to control the whole plant. However, sometimes they're very much required by your customers and needed for the traceability of the product. This is where I would focus on an MES solution and not dilute it into the other 2 aspects.
MES Can't Manage Man & Methods
Now we still have the Man and the Methods aspects to manage on the shop floor.
How do we manage those? An MES can't...
A lot of companies turn to lean principles to help them manage these. Another very good way to complement those lean principles is through a Lean Execution System (LES). An LES can be a cost effective way to manage people and methods (i.e., processes and workflows).
The good news is that every day you have problems that need to be solved. And the people to help solve those problems. Problems equals opportunities and opportunities are where you get more efficient. The way you choose to manage those problems is how you gain a competitive edge.
The quicker you can identify those problems (opportunities) and manage the actions around solving the problems, the more efficient you become and the more money you save.
A good LES system like Leading2Lean (L2L) will help in your problem solving efforts by helping you:
- Identify the issues or roadblocks on the shop floor
- Understand each problem you're facing
- Prioritize those problems or opportunities using data instead of emotions
- Put actions in place to solve the problem and manage the actions built around them
- Measure the actions (Review Data) to ensure the problem has been solved (Follow-up)
- Share those lessons learned with other parts of your plants, or even throughout the company to eliminate the possibility of the repeat issues
MES or LES?
With an off-the-shelf LES cloud solution (Like L2L), the ability to be more agile is becoming a more cost effective alternative. In fact, it can cut the implementation time by as much as 90% (to as little as 6 weeks!).
In addition, cloud solutions will prevent you from tying up your valuable IT resources so they can focus on managing your MES implementation and after support.
Manufacturers can achieve significant gains by solving critical problems and managing the methods and men to build a continuous improvement culture. LES allows them to do this with a fraction of the resources and time commitment. As a result, many companies are adding an LES to manage those methods to gain their competitive edge and to raise the morale in their plants.