Bottom Line: Improving shop floor productivity, keeping customers loyal, and controlling costs need to start with real-time production data. The goal is to have end-to-end visibility across all plant floors to see how improving efficiency reduces costs and delights customers by shipping their orders on time. Ten features an MES solution needs to deliver value are defined in this post.
Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) keep shop floors’ steady cadence beating on time while providing the valuable data manufacturers need to increase production efficiency and control costs. An effective MES solution also provides invaluable data for keeping customers informed on order status, verifying their customization requirements, and more. MES solutions have emerged as the North Star for many manufacturers today, guiding production to stay customer-focused while helping them excel as suppliers too.
MES Is Another Word For Excelling At Keeping Commitments
Making commitments to customers and knowing they can be kept is why an MES solution matters more than ever today. Every manufacturer wants to keep their word. Circumstances come up that are out of a manufacturers’ control, however. Shipments are delayed; chip shortages become exacerbated by trade wars, tariffs, production, and logistics delays. MES Solutions help to bring back a measure of control by giving manufacturers advance data they need to save their credibility and customer relationships.
Knowing with certainty what’s going on across the many suppliers that manufacturers rely on every day and getting back to customers quickly on their inquiries matters more than winning a price war. Earning and keeping customer trust starts with a clear view of just which orders can – and can’t – be delivered and why. One of the many examples of why MES solutions matter so much today can be seen in Capable-to-Promise (CTP) and Available-to-Promise (ATP). When a quote goes out with a CTP or ATP date on and customers know that date is real, there’s a high probability they’ll repurchase again and again.
The 10 Most Valuable MES Features To Look For
MES solutions do so much more than deliver a steady, drumbeat-like cadence of scheduled production tasks and activities across a shop floor. They remove risk, improve order accuracy, and break down operational barriers between manufacturers and their customers. Evaluating an MES solution for a given manufacturer needs to start with the essential features first. The following are the ten most valuable features of an MES solution today.
- An advanced analytics/Business Intelligence (BI) application can access the MES systems’ native data with no third-party integration needed. Look for an MES system that supports baseline analytics reporting with scale to support advanced BI analysis. Manufacturers find the insights they need to get stronger, more resilient, and responsive to customers in the terabytes of data their operations create daily. MES vendors have in the past looked at analytics and BI as an afterthought. Look at those MES vendors who can provide access to native data on their platform. Best-in-class MES systems support native and 3rd-party and BI tools, RT Charts, and Data Marts.
- Provides product component traceability, genealogy, and integration with process history, where required for regulatory compliance. Any effective MES will provide track-and-trace functionality, with those designed specifically for food & beverage, pharmaceuticals, and life sciences products with the most advanced trace-and-traceability and product genealogy support as defined by government compliance requirements. Ask to see track and traceability demonstrations, product genealogy, and process history to see how well a given MES application design fits your company’s specific needs.
- A broad base of data management options that scale is essential if any MES delivers long-term business value. Supporting manual data capture from shop floor operators via keyboards, barcode scanners, pedals, switches is a must-have for any MES to begin to deliver value over time. The scale of a given MES’ support for data management often predicts how much value the system can deliver over the years of its use. Key features to look for are Automated Data Collection (ADC) from Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), Master Data Management (MDM), support for drivers and related standards for ADC, data validation, data contextualization, and validated data entry (manual, scanned, RFID, OCR). The most advanced MES systems support standards-based access, including OPC. Look for an MES that can store collected data locally to be used in downstream calculations (e.g., recipe building, tolerance stack-ups, and variations due to environmental conditions).
- A proven integration technology stack and strategy that allows every manufacturer to scale production across the legacy supply chain, ERP, and CRM systems. Cloud integration technologies need to be part of any MES vendors’ integration technology stack as new digital business models require new suppliers, distribution channels and partners, and services providers. Look for an MES vendor who has delivered their technology stack to help manufacturers deliver smart, connected products or next-generation IoT-enabled devices. As services and software revenue becomes more important to manufacturers, having a solid technology stack supporting MES systems is a must-have.
- In-Process Quality Management module that is native to the ERP platform. Mid-tier manufacturers use In-Process Quality Management today to capture real-time production and process monitoring data and complete in-process quality inspections. Real-time production and process monitoring data enable manufacturers to create and monitor SPC and SQC charts in real-time, further improving production processes and quality. When In-Process Quality Management’s data is native to an ERP platform, manufacturers can automatically perform advanced quality management analysis, including Non-Compliance/Corrective Action (NC/CA), gaining new insights into CAPA. The In-Process Quality Management module also enables mid-tier manufacturers to share data and analysis across multiple sites in real-time to enable meaningful performance comparisons.
- Look for an MES that supports managing production scheduling, including rework routing and keeping all other ERP modules coordinated toward common production goals. The most advanced MES applications that support production scheduling have automated factory control systems based on a real-time data feed of production asset availability, materials, and production order updates. Being native to an ERP platform makes it possible to scale up to more advanced production scheduling tasks with no data quality degradation or speed.
- A successful track record of production equipment integration with referenceable customers is a must-have feature for any MES vendor today. Years of experience with production equipment and process automation systems integration are essential today. Knowledge of how to integrate PLCs on production equipment is especially important. MES vendors who excel at this level of systems integration also often have API-based libraries of connectors for a wide spectrum of production equipment.
- Expertise with multiple deployment options. How much of a contribution an MES makes to a given manufacturing operation depends on how well its deployment strengthens an overall manufacturing business. Having the choice of installing MES on-premise, in the cloud via Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), or using Hosted Managed Services (HMS) provides manufacturers the freedom they need to implement the system where it can make the greatest impact.
- Continually improving usability and user experiences show the ability to keep innovating. At DELMIAWORKS, innovating usability and the user experience is part of our DNA. Created and developed in response to the manufacturer’s need to deploy production workers to jobs across the shop floor while maintaining MES discipline at scale, SHOPWORKS brings MES-based innovation to the operator level. The configurability and usability of SHOPWORKS streamline new hire training and makes it possible to re-assign production team members to new tasks quickly using the visually-based applications’ intuitive and easily understood user interfaces, reporting, analytics, and data options.
- Tracking machinery conditions and costs, then providing guidance for which combination is the best for a given workflow are now table stakes in an MES. Getting greater shop floor efficiency starts by knowing which machinery is best suited for a given type of production style or method. Today’s best MES solutions can optimize the selection of machinery, staff by training level, raw material type, and tooling to ensure the highest production yields possible. It’s proving to be one of the most effective approaches to increasing shop floor efficiency today. Advanced MES systems, including DELMIAWORKS, can also provide data on Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) preventative maintenance scheduling and costs.