A successful MES (Manufacturing Execution System) should drive digitalization while empowering people.

The world is a changing place. Sooner or later, disruption is inevitable, and you need to be ready to react. The 2020-21 corona pandemic has taught us that.

The need for production efficiency, utilization of assets and remote access to information are all issues that were brought to acute attention during the pandemic. It also became very clear that assets no longer only relate to machinery and materials. Personnel and knowhow are equally important company assets. During times of change, the efficient use of staff becomes a key success factor in manufacturing industries, especially in countries with relatively high personnel costs.

A powerful, integrated production management solution is essential if you are looking to maximize your production efficiency whilst retaining flexibility.

A modern MES (Manufacturing Execution System) platform, or a MOM (Manufacturing Operations Management) platform, can fulfill this role. (For the sake of simplicity we will use the term MES for this article.)

While a MES solution will give you effective control of your manufacturing processes, its ultimate success will be determined by the availability and reliability of your underlying production data.

We will begin by looking at how the various components of a MES solution can help you fully utilize resources, including your staff and knowhow. We will then come back to the issue of production information, including the importance of remote access, at the end.

A MES solution gives you effective control of your manufacturing processes.

Efficient production management is about controlling your essential production processes. It’s about knowing your production strengths, weaknesses and bottlenecks.

Production Management

Efficient production management is about controlling your essential production processes. It’s about knowing your production strengths, weaknesses and bottlenecks. Traditionally, this knowhow has belonged to experienced operators and process engineers. However, with increasing digitalization, this is now a centralized company issue.

The ability to effectively plan, communicate, direct and report actions from the production floor in real time provides a strategic competitive advantage. By implementing and integrating system support processes, such as production planning and scheduling, manufacturing execution and inventory management, you can significantly increase the overall efficiency of your production.

Planning and scheduling

In all manufacturing situations, assets and resources are finite. With an integrated Manufacturing Execution System (MES) you are able to plan your production in a way that maximizes utilization of your limited assets, whether they are machinery or employees with particular skills. Digital planning systems help you to quickly prepare your production plan, including production flow routing, to ensure maximum output.

Planning can be carried out in spreadsheet programs, such as Microsoft Excel. However, these sorts of tools are very time consuming and far less flexible, especially if orders are changed and re-planning is needed. In almost every situation, an integrated planning and scheduling system is superior to spreadsheets when it comes to executing and implementing new and revised plans.

Production planning with MES enables fast planning and rescheduling.

Manufacturing Execution

Once the production plan is set, the next challenge is to communicate, direct and implement the plan. With a MES solution you can achieve this in seconds. Not only that, but you can also support your operators with instructions, forms, checklists or reporting tools, depending on your needs.

Using this sort of integrated process ensures that your staff are always focused on the right tasks, and that those tasks are carried out in the correct way. This means you can optimize your production process to maximum output at every stage. It also reduces your dependency on key individuals. Now, detailed instructions and proper controls are available to support everyone in your shift team.

Manufacturing execution with full MES support helps you to achieve standardized, person-independent production while maintaining the highest levels of quality and throughput.

Inventory Management

It is not only instructions and operator activities that need controlling. There also needs to be an efficient flow of materials and supplies throughout the production process.

Lack of materials is a common reason for production stoppages and delayed customer deliveries. Keeping track of inventory, assigning materials to work orders and controlling the supply of new materials is a constant challenge. This is an area of even greater concern during times of supply chain uncertainty, as was the case during the covid pandemic.

A MES solution puts you in control of your inventory. It not only helps you to control your inventory levels but also keeps track of exactly where specific materials are located in your warehouse and to which production order they are assigned.

By combining inventory management with production planning in an integrated MES platform you can easily reassign materials to other batches and orders should you need to reprioritize. This gives you the flexibility to meet important rush orders or to cope with limited staffing at a particular work center, for example. Having this interoperability means you can ensure your production is always up and running, even during the most challenging periods.

Investing in production information, together with the right analysis tools, not only helps you to achieve a sustainable production but can also drive your future competitive advantage.

Reporting and data storage

We now return to the issue of production data. Access to information, such as real-time production data and performance reporting, is key to ensuring continuous efficiency. This was another major obstacle during the pandemic due to limits being placed on the number of people allowed on site. How can a production manager track progress and make informed decisions when they are not physically on site?

The answer, of course, is to enable remote access to information. This is a differentiator when it comes to coping with times of uncertainty, but it also requires that an organization has reached a certain level of digitalization.

A fully functional and integrated MES solution gives you the possibility to track production progress from wherever you are. You are able to monitor and visualize production data in real time and make data-driven, informed decisions based on activity and performance reports.

MES can be used in any industry

In many verticals this level of reporting is a matter of ‘license to operate’. For example, in pharmaceutical manufacturing, control of batch-specific information and data integrity are essential. Likewise, environmental monitoring and emissions reporting are a requirement within the energy sector.

However, even verticals that have not traditionally prioritized the storage and archiving of production data are now investing in this area. These investments go beyond the desire to simply monitor and visualize ongoing production status. Their ultimate goal is to generate manufacturing intelligence with the help of data lakes, data historians and production information systems, which can then drive process optimization and continuous production improvement.

More data granularity leads to greater possibilities for manufacturing intelligence, which can then be applied across all areas of production. For example, helping to optimize energy consumption, reduce waste and emissions, minimize scrap and reworking, or to maximize quality and yield.

Investing in production information, together with the right analysis tools, not only helps you to achieve a sustainable production but can also drive your future competitive advantage.

Advanced data analysis

With rapid technical developments taking place, it would be an omission not to touch upon the advanced data analysis techniques currently available. Although not considered part of a classical MES solution, advanced analysis based on artificial intelligence is becoming more and more integral to production management systems.

In the process industry, these applications are still mainly centered around predictive maintenance. However, new applications that utilize production information to optimize production processes are becoming increasingly common. These will undoubtedly be part of the future digital factory. When combined with process engineering knowhow, they will probably become one of the strongest tools available for production optimization.

Advanced analysis is becoming more commen in MES solutions. e and more integral to production management systems.

MES Summary

A complete and fully integrated MES/MOM platform gives you the tools and confidence to face the challenges of the future, whatever they may be.

The uncertainty and restrictions caused by the covid pandemic highlighted our dependence on resource availability, not only in terms of materials but also knowledgeable staff. One of the lessons of the pandemic was the realization that we need to be able to cope with disruption whilst still driving efficient and sustainable production.

The potential of digitalization to support your efforts is huge. To be successful, you need to combine production information with the right digital tools, generate key insights and empower your staff.

Interested in learning more?

PlantVision has been helping manufacturing companies to improve their production efficiency for more than 20 years.

We specialize in helping customers to increase the value of the production operations through digital transformation and by integrating and streamlining systems, processes and people.

Get in touch to find out more about PlantVision and how we could help improve your organization’s production efficiency.

Or visit our solution partner Parsec’s website to read more about their integrated production management solution TrakSYS »

Linn Fransson
Customer Account Manager
Tel: +46 (0)72-566 99 83