What does Manufacturing Execution System [MES] actually mean?
Different things to different people! But to us, MES is all about turning plant data into actionable information by adding business context.
So what is business context? Essentially this means talking about real, tangible facts rather than raw data. For example, to be able to communicate to operators on the plant floor that their process is moving out of control and costing cold hard cash. Or translating the exact raw materials consumption in making a production batch into hard financial numbers. Or helping operations understand in advance about a looming line stoppage so they can prevent it before it happens.
In summary, MES systems take all the bits and bytes of information being generated on the plant floor, make them meaningful, and expose them to people who man the controls in a way that can drive improved results. The specific data and context that’s right for your organization will vary based on what you are making and how, but the value an MES brings is universal.
What industries do you work with most often?
We have implemented solutions in a wide variety of industries. Today, the majority of our projects are in the Consumer Packaged Goods, Food and Beverage, and Assembly/Discrete sectors. Typically, our projects are in facilities with a reasonably high degree of automation and with customers who have a stated goal of continuous improvement.
Is MES best suited to heavy industry – say a steel plant, or one that produces cranes or bulldozers?
In a word, no! Any type of industry can increase efficiencies through an MES. We’ve helped improve the production of cakes, of wine, and of cars. The techniques we employ in our solutions are typically best suited to facilities with a reasonably high degree of automation. In particular, where there are a lot of sensors for measuring the process in real time. However, we have also had a lot of success in more manual processes.
Is there any point getting an MES when we already have an ERP?
Absolutely! In fact, an ERP system and an MES system are highly complementary. Typically, ERP systems are focused on the financial side of your organization. They involve your production output, your raw material consumptions, and your inventory levels, but an ERP doesn’t typically care about how you made what you made and why things didn’t (or did) go well.
Usually, we interface with ERP systems. We typically automate the reporting of production information, raw material consumptions, etc. to the ERP. The end result is more real-time insight in your financials about what’s going on in manufacturing, and a much deeper insight into your production process.
We already have an ERP – how do we deal with integration if we get an MES?
ERP integration varies widely from project to project. Sometimes, it isn’t necessary at all. Others, there is a lot of value in integrating the two systems. The actual way the integration is done depends on the type of ERP system you have, and the standards your ERP team has for integration.
We’ve yet to find the ERP solution that we can’t integrate with. To get answers on the details of your specific situation, give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss the best path forward.
We have an older automation system, can we even integrate an MES?
The primary way in which we communicate with the automation layer is via a technology called OPC. OPC has been around for a very long time and the chances are very good that your automation system can be accessed in this way. Even if that is not the case, we are often able to interface via other means including flat files, database connections, or even pretending to be a serial printer!
We don’t have the time or the budget for an MES right now – is there anything you can do for us to help us cut costs?
Our company’s focus is on improving your bottom line by delivering insight into where your process can be improved. Often with quite dramatic results.
It doesn’t need to be an expensive, all-consuming, or time-consuming process. We have a number of methods for getting started down the MES journey that doesn’t break the bank or consume a lot of time. Give us a call and we can talk through how we can help you cut costs effectively and quickly.
We’ve had efficiency consultants before that came in and spent a lot of time (and our money) and left us with a great big report that’s still gathering dust. How are you different?
There are certainly some parallels in what efficiency consultants do and what we do. Where we are different is that we deliver real-time insight into your process that empowers your team to make tangible improvements. Delivering a report is not what we are about. Delivering results is. Empowering your people on this shop floor is.
If an MES is such a great thing, how come almost no one has one, and I’ve never heard of it?
Actually, you and most other people do have one! It’s called Excel! Most organizations have an unbelievable number of creative solutions, mostly developed in Excel, to attempt to do a lot of the things that MES solutions deliver. The big problem is that they’re internally unintegrated and not robust. They require a lot of black magic and a huge amount of manual effort to keep them operational and up to date.
Our goal is to take the black magic out of your process by delivering consistent, valuable insight to all levels of your organization. MES is the tool that we use to achieve this goal. It’s like those Excel sheets, on steroids.
If we are interested in how an MES solution can work for us, where should we start?
The best place to start is where you can get the biggest return for the least amount of effort! We take pride in our team’s ability to identify the opportunities in your facility where you can benefit the most from an MES system.
One excellent starting point is to conduct an Opportunity Assessment. While this assessment includes the long-term vision for where MES solutions can help your organization, it starts with a laser focus on where the highest potentials for quick and significant ROIs can be found.