What is an MES?
An MES (Manufacturing Execution System) is a management-level tool used by manufacturers to monitor and control the transformation of materials into finished goods. By incorporating an MES into their operations, manufacturers gain complete visibility into a variety of production silos. This includes:
- Resource and material usage
- Production output
- Quality control
- Labour/workforce management
- Machine maintenance/management
- Work order scheduling
- Training and standardization
With increased visibility into each of these production silos, companies are able to optimize their entire operation based on accurate and real-life information. While this is impressive, the most powerful feature of the modern MES application is that data is captured and reviewed in real-time. With data flowing between multiple sectors of an operation, the modern MES opens the door to an incredible level of visibility and intelligence that aids operations management.
An MES is a management-level application used to connect, track, and control the actions and complex systems on a manufacturing shop floor.
The three main types of MES are ERP-Centric, Machine-Centric, and Worker-Centric.
An MES integrates into multiple systems and machines while being involved in the daily activities of people.
The goal of every MES application is to coordinate and harmonize the entire manufacturing operation.
How does a Manufacturing Execution System Work?
An MES works in a variety of ways but simply put, MES applications connect, organize, monitor, and control the manufacturing operation. The main goal of an MES is to ensure that operations are being performed at optimal levels while bringing greater visibility and knowledge on how to improve productivity and operational output.
Let’s take a brief look at how an MES can be used to increase quality, ensure standardization, and connect the production line.
MES Quality Control & Assurance
An MES is a must-have within industries that have high levels of regulation. For industries that fabricate materials or equipment for public or governmental use, production needs to be closely monitored. Let’s explore two industries where an MES is invaluable for achieving high levels of quality control and quality assurance.
Within the Aerospace industry, companies can only gain government contracts if they adhere to strict AS9100 certification guidelines. One of the key components of this certification is that manufacturers must provide proof that all processes, products, results, and specifications are within compliance. With an MES integrated into their operation, every action performed is being recorded and monitored. If there is any error, it will show up in their records and the defective product will be flagged right away. Adding to this, the root cause of the problem is easy to find since the error was caught in real-time.
Within medical device manufacturing, regulatory boards require every single device to have a DHR (device history record). MES applications facilitate this by capturing all required data associated with a unit. This includes the lot numbers, production dates, source materials, workforce actions, and more. Much like our aerospace example, an MES will capture all available data on each medical device. This enables manufacturers to significantly cut down on defects and optimize/fix issues as they occur.
From these two examples, we can see that manufacturers use Manufacturing Execution Systems for more than process optimization. They can also use it as a means to provide assurance and security for their customers while constantly improving the quality of their operation and product.
Within any level of manufacturing, precision and standardization is key to a successful operation. You need the job to be done the right way at the right time every single time. Manufacturing Execution Systems help manufacturers achieve this goal by guiding workers through the company’s established best practices.
This allows for a standard to be met every single time a task is performed, regardless of the employee’s experience. With an MES that displays interactive work instructions, manufacturers ensure that the best knowledge and skills are put into every job.
MES Process Flow
With multiple systems and workstations connected together, manufacturers gain a high level of process verification at lightning speeds. From guiding workers through their tasks, tracking units as they enter a workstation, and communicating inventory usage with a dedicated ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), MES applications bridge the gap between all sectors of the manufacturing floor.
For example, let’s say your company fabricates construction-grade cordless drills. Each finished product needs to be tested before heading over to distribution. If any job was not performed correctly or if a worker did not indicate that any task was completed, the MES will not allow that unit to go for testing.
This can also work for distribution. If all the required steps have not been completed, then the distribution barcodes and labels will not be printed. This eliminates the possibility of unfinished or defective equipment leaving the facility.
With an MES that connects the whole production line, you are able to set up multiple quality checkpoints within every process. And the best part is that it is autonomous and fast.
What to Look for in a Manufacturing Execution System
Finding the right MES for you requires a little bit of know-how. You’ll need to understand the requirements of your business and the strengths that each Manufacturing Execution System can provide. To help narrow down your search, here’s a helpful way to look at Modern MES applications.
We’ll do this by looking at their main focus. This will tell us how each MES derives visibility and if that matches your company’s needs. Modern MES applications focus on three factors within the manufacturing environment to gain visibility.
- ERP-Centric MES
The ERP-centric MES primarily focuses on the materials, resources, and financial impact of the operation. By focusing on these key factors, it will track pertinent information like inventory, material usage, and cost analysis while relaying this information to your other systems. It is a very linear approach to manufacturing. You started with specific materials and performed specific actions which cost a certain amount resulting in a finished product.
- Machine-Centric MES
The machine-centric MES (also known as a machine MES) looks at the machines and equipment that are used within the operation. Factors like maintenance schedules, set-up, equipment temperature, and production speeds are the main areas of interest for this machine MES. If your machines are equipped with IoT (Internet of Things), then this type of MES will monitor these factors autonomously in real-time and transform machine maintenance from preventive to predictive.
- Worker-Centric MES
The Worker-Centric MES gains visibility from the people on the shop floor. Since people are at the heart of every process, the Worker-Centric MES provides manufacturers with data from every process, system, and machine. To put it simply, It is the synchronization of the processing power of a computer system with the knowledge and experience of the workers. As people transform materials, operate machines, and perform the work that creates value, the worker-centric MES is gathering valuable data from every action and interaction.