First, let's remind ourselves of what MES systems are and what MES systems do. If you haven't had time to read my MES blog a third and fourth time, I'll refresh your memory, because I know my loyal readers have read it at least twice.
Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) are computerized systems used in manufacturing to track and document manufacturing processes from raw materials to finished goods. Tracking and documenting these processes can provide data that you can analyze to see where your opportunities lie.
The Problem(s) with MES Systems
So, that sounds pretty good, right? Whoa! Hold your horses, Nellie. Not so fast. Your MES systems alone can't help you address abnormalities. Remember, after you compile that information, someone has to compute and analyze it. This lack of real-time data often leads to frustration and abandoning the flavor of the month.
MES systems are good, but not quite good enough. Not on their own.
To quote Chad Williams, a famous Corporate Maintenance Manager with West Liberty Foods:
"Over the course of my career I have had both the pleasure and pain of working with numerous MES systems in the maintenance realm. All of the systems I have dealt with did have one or two positive features that were beneficial, but on their own, they did not truly support industrial maintenance activities in a clear efficient manner."
MES Systems Should Help You Address Abnormalities on the Fly
Imagine that everything is running smoothly in your plant. Come on. Just imagine. It could happen. After all: we put a man on the moon.
Are you sometimes overly optimistic when it comes to planning? We don't approach our lives throwing caution to the wind. We'd save a ton of money on insurance if we did.
No, we are realistic. We don't wait until we're on the last roll of toilet paper to think about buying more. We don't wait until the 'change oil' light comes on to have our vehicles serviced.
We plan. We schedule. We execute.
Most of us like to think of our area of the plant as our business. Investing in a really good, robust MES system gives us the opportunity to prove it. There's nothing like putting our money where our mouth is to show we're serious and demonstrate our commitment to making our business succeed.
Your MES system should do all of these things:
- Help you formulate sound, well defined plans
- Help you plan and schedule intelligently
- Help you execute effectively
- Help align activities to meet your objectives
- Help reduce costs and make all of your assets as efficient and effective as they can be: Man, Machine, Materials
- Produce value for your shareholders in return for their investment, whether that investment is time, energy, or belief
You need to be able to respond appropriately and quickly. This is not the same as being reactive. In order to do that you need digital, real-time data.
Digital, Real Time Data from Your MES Systems
Digital, real-time MES systems can tremendously improve your ability to respond to abnormalities.
To quote yet another famous person, Kevin Bryan of Autoliv, an automotive safety products supplier, has this to say:
"Any MES, or any other system, that doesn’t enhance and promote good leadership, engage people, instill accountability, easily identify if the team is winning or losing, and most importantly, empower the workforce while improving their skills and ability, is just another fad diet or get rich quick scheme that will never render long-term results."
Digital, electronic. No more paper = paperless. Even if you're not the tree-hugging sort, you can appreciate cutting costs, reducing handling time, freeing up some paper pushers, and hauling reams and boxes of paper to your offsite storage location for safe keeping. (Did someone say rising flood waters?)
You want MES systems that give you real data in real-time. Let your MES System do the heavy lifting. Let your associates do the work they were hired to do, the work they want to do. They don't want to push data from ERP to an MES, juggle Excel spreadsheets, and manually distribute (outdated) information to people on the shop floor.
Spreadsheets make it difficult to discern problems and determine priorities. If you're skeptical, invite your accountant out to the line for one day.
- Let's recap: You want a really great system that can integrate with your other systems. Check.
- You want a really great system that quickly illuminates and isolates abnormalities. Check.
- You want a really great system that allows your workforce to work. Check.
- You want a really great system that is transparent with data that is visible to everyone. Check.