Your company has implemented a Manufacturing Execution System or they have had one for a long time. What do you do now?
Many companies use Manufacturing Execution Systems implementations as a catalyst for change. Implementing a MES forces people to think about how their plant runs and how it can be optimized. Whether there are multiple computer systems making up a MES or an out of the box solution, it is important to ask the questions after the fact – what is your MES doing for you?
Is your MES analyzing the data?
A Manufacturing Execution System should do more than track data on the line. It should be analyzing that data to provide feedback to the plant. When implementing a MES there should be a baseline for performance metrics and KPIs. After running the MES for some time you may notice that is not tracking what you need in the right way.
Is your MES enabling your business processes?
Plants are always evolving, trying to become leaner and more efficient, all the while pushing out higher quality products than before. In order to do this, their business processes have to be on top of it, constantly evolving to find the best solution. This could be changing the plant’s business processes, line flow, or enforcing old rules. The MES should be evaluated whenever this is a process change, especially if it was built for a specific manufacturing process at the time. A Manufacturing Execution System should be able to adapt and enforce new business processes. If your MES can’t, or it has taken on too much technical debt to move forward it is time to upgrade.
It can be difficult designing upgrades to a MES because the subject matter experts need to think about how the system will work or how the plant will run after implementation, instead of designing for the current process. Charting To Be processes or asking the business what they want to have is a direction forward.
Integrations and Interfaces
To make the most out of a Manufacturing Execution Systems it should be integrated with other machines and systems that may be used in the plant. If it isn’t connected the MES becomes less useful because it can only make use of the data it collects. Watch out for PLC upgrades, which in some cases can make homegrown MES systems obsolete.
We also need to look at integration with internet-enabled devices. Making a Smart Factory or an Industry 4.0 facility, internet-enabled devices will be brought into the plant. Look at connecting these to the MES and visa versa.
Did the change management work?
After implementing a MES the first things to look for is if it is accepted by the plant. Provide ongoing training or make training easily available. Many times a system is implemented but operators and plant personnel do not want to use it. Make sure they are because if they are not, the MES probably isn’t collecting and analyzing accurate data or operators aren’t building the right products.
Organizational change management is key here. Check that the operators are following any new processes and working with the future state the system was designed for. They may complain that the system isn’t working or slowing them down. It shouldn’t if they follow the process it was designed for (or there is something wrong causing the system to act so slow!).
Do you find these tips helpful? How have you used your Manufacturing Execution System?