Many companies continue to have limited visibility into the operational details at different plants at different times, severely limiting their ability to maximize plant output. A Manufacturing Execution System (MES), can alleviate this pain point by helping you streamline many aspects of production planning. As an example, consider a company that uses a centralized enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to take customer orders, but doesn’t use an effective MES production process in its plants.
When the company receives a product order, it goes into the automated ERP system, but the ERP doesn’t provide comprehensive data about each plant’s current availability. Instead, someone from the corporate office has to look into this on a case-by-case basis. Once the order has been transferred to the appropriate plant’s production system, the plant supervisor must determine how and when to work it into the schedule. Without an MES, it’s difficult for supervisors to maintain an accurate picture of what’s being produced on which line at any given time. As a result, it becomes challenging to schedule each new order.
An MES automated work order system addresses these challenges by eliminating the duplicate work of creating work orders on both the ERP and production systems. In the process, it reduces the opportunity for human error, such as keying in an incorrect work order number. It also allows plant operators to modify and share the schedule in near real-time, which reduces the need for in-person communication and frees both corporate and plant employees up to do more value-added tasks. Automated work orders support better coordination across multiple locations by making it easier to roll out new schedule methodologies, while also minimizing the amount of retraining or coordination that’s required at the line level.
Automated work order systems also enable more efficient shop floor communication. Typically, the production schedule is created first thing in the morning and then revised manually throughout the day. By the time you’re on your third or fourth revision, it’s nearly impossible to be sure everyone has the same information.
With an MES, a supervisor can get a clear picture of the plant’s current capabilities, including time or resource requirements and available lines. He can look at a week’s worth of orders in the ERP system and then set work order priorities in the MES accordingly. An operator can then go into the system, review the orders and priorities, and get to work. As an added benefit, automated work order systems increase accountability for both supervisors and operators. By allowing for efficient investigations into incidents, they minimize the amount of time spent interviewing personnel regarding what actions they did or did not take.
The Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association (MESA) has defined a number of key performance indicators (KPIs) and expected improvement ranges that are useful in determining the effectiveness of MES implementations. You can evaluate automated work orders and multiple location coordination in terms of how successful a plant was in meeting the deadline for a scheduled order. According to MESA, an MES typically generates a 3.5% improvement in the adherence to schedule KPI. Improved shop floor communication can be evaluated in terms of process variability, a measure of how repeatable a process is. On average, you can expect a 5-10% reduction in process variability after implementing an MES.