Basic concept to drive measurable operational improvements
When using an MES as a continuous improvement tool for your organization, here are four key steps to adopt:
Connect your industrial equipment and digitalize paper processes in a centralized system (MES).
Consult with subject matter experts to analyze the data for process improvements.
Take actions to set up initiatives that will increase operational efficiency from the analyzed data.
Take a moment to look at the results of the actions that were put in place and, where necessary, adjust them by repeating the entire cycle.
And how do we make these improvements? There are simple initiatives that you can implement in your organization. We’ve already listed a few in this blog article. These initiatives are part of a larger MES scope. For now, let’s focus on the top three functions that will bring immediate value to your organization.
Measuring your operational performance
MES applications offer the ability to connect to floor machines and collect real-time operational data. Once enough data is gathered, maintenance personnel can initiate root-cause analysis of production failures and efficiency issues. For example, in a case where production equipment has reached maximum capacity, having production and performance data will support CAPEX initiatives in purchasing additional equipment to meet demand. It’s important to note that these decisions are based on facts and not on opinions. The same four-step process (gather, analyze, act and learn) must be reapplied in a continuous cycle to meet growing demand. A common metric used in the production industry is called overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). This metric aggregates availability, throughput and quality data in the same calculation. Implementing an OEE calculation metric will allow you to consistently measure production efficiency. Furthermore, monitoring real-time equipment statuses and downtime event tracking can help extend your asset lifetime through adequate maintenance plan initiatives.
Lastly and put simply, we can only improve what we measure.
Production planning and execution
Knowing what production order to carry out on which equipment and when to do so are the three most important steps in production planning. Production order orchestration is a complex process that can be simplified by using MES production modules.
Data provided from the performance module delivers status insights into which equipment can meet order production requirements. Historical equipment production data provides exact machine capacity vs. order size that needs to be produced in a given period of time slot. Production planners can now make data-driven decisions to better plan their site production.
As your production site becomes digitalized, machine data will feed centralized production reports. This translates into immediate benefits, since visualization dashboards will show the actual production vs. budgeted production, which allows for quicker response time to adjust the production cadence and reorganize subsequent production orders. Ultimately, the analyze and learn aspects are clearly demonstrated here as your data will allow you to measure the complete return on investment for each production run. For example, you can calculate the gain and profit vs. the effort required for each production run. This is a key data factor that will allow you to choose what production runs you decide to carry out. This is yet another data-driven decision for your production site.
Quality and traceability
Delivering goods per customer requirements is key to staying in business. Ensuring that specifications are met, or exceeded in some cases, will guarantee that customers continue doing business with your organization.
In many industries, regulatory compliance laws require establishing a system for tracking finished products downstream, to the immediate customer, and raw materials upstream, to the immediate supplier. Using an MES to implement electronic track and trace functions allows for faster information retrieval and has the potential to reduce associated costs with recalls by limiting their scope.
The suite of MES applications also bring many other benefits that have a positive effect on quality assurance initiatives. Real-time monitoring of critical quality metrics on the shop floor allows operators to make proactive decisions during production runs and ultimately reduce waste. Furthermore, everyone will agree to say that good manufacturing practices are crucial to keeping quality variables within control. An MES is the perfect system to store centralized specifications for products, ensuring consistent operations throughout the various work shifts. Lastly, statistical analysis can be run on production data to drive continuous improvement initiatives.
Manufacturers who put quality first should strongly consider implementing a manufacturing execution system. After all, investing in a digitalized quality system can ensure that organizations maintain a trusting relationship with its partners and customers in order to prosper.
How should you start your MES journey?
One strategy for implementing an MES successfully is to start with a project where you know value will be created quickly. This first project will serve as an exercise for your people to adapt to changes and adopt a new mentality in terms of production efficiency. Like any technological project, a variety of skills are required to address the many challenges ahead. A seasoned team of experts is key to delivering a profitable project with minimum hassle. This is why different professional profiles are involved in implementing an MES: business analysts, digital transformation consultants, software integrators, change management consultants and continuous improvement leaders. Creating an open partnership with your chosen experts can ensure a smooth transition to a new paradigm of operational excellence.
Finally, if you think your organization has margin to improve its tools and processes to reach ever-increasing production targets, then it’s important that you act now. Empowering your workforce and eliminating pain points can be simpler than you think!
To find out more, please watch this webinar where we talk more in detail about MES initiatives and benefits. Contact our team of MES experts to find out how digitalization can help improve your company’s productivity and profitability.