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Norbert Kytka, Headquarters PlattlingContact
An MES, Manufacturing Execution System, is an important aspect of the digital transformation. It allows the steering, supervision and control of production in real time. As a production control and manufacturing system, an MES system serves as a bridge between planning and production. In addition, it allows the connection of machines and productions units to the ERP system. Central performance indicators, such as qualitative or deadline deliverability are quickly generated in real time.
Manufacturing Execution Systems enable production companies to remain competitive and to stay one step ahead of their competitors. The core functions of an MES include machine and production data acquisition, dashboard functions, detailed scheduling, quality data management, personnel planning or real-time services such as energy data management. With this insight rich information, an IT supported data stream for the entire company is guaranteed. You can precisely control processes, generate accurate analytics, quickly conduct root cause analysis and optimize production steps. The level at which the customer receives timely deliveries is increased dramatically.
For a company, an MES delivers the basis for well-founded decisions that positively impact its production. Integrated order notifications and stock bookings lead to transparency on all product and workplace levels, thereby enabling the granular calculation of production costs and allowing for stock level optimization. This makes up the basis for a KPI system to evaluate efficiency and productivity. In total the MES increases productivity and thereby reduces production costs.
However, the implementation of an MES is a project that consumes time and resources as well as capital. In the following paragraphs you will find tips, that often sound obvious, but are critical for the success of the project.
Start with small steps! Particularly because MES is such a comprehensive topic, you will only be successful if you – while maintaining a view of the whole picture – go step by step. But where should you start? The answer to this question is to begin where the biggest benefit can be quickly achieved. For most projects this would be by increasing the productivity of machines. Using the rule of thumb – the most expensive machines first.
Many companies are missing any kind of indication on how unproductive their machines really are. Because often the exact measurements are missing and the decision is then made by gut feeling.
Due to this, the first step is to start with machine data collection and use the Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE) for your improvement processes.
Start with two or three machines and discover the potential for optimization that lies dormant there.
The further rollout to other machines only follows the success of this step and after you and your team have collected the initial experiences.
Important: Show all parties involved what is at stake and what task is assigned to them - everyone must have understood this.
From our experience this first step needs time. Machine data collection (MDC) cannot be implemented on the side and needs 2-4 months challenging work until everyone is pulling together in the same direction. And even after the implementation of MDC it is important that you don’t slack – a machine optimization won’t run itself.
With this experience you can continue with the next steps of an MES implementation even more convinced than before.
Not all MES are equal. Pay attention and make sure that all relevant MES functional modules are available and that you don’t incorrectly decide for a pure Machine Data Collection (MDC) / Production Data Collection (PDC) system. These systems will often be promoted as an MES systems. The price can be tempting. However, it can be costly after the fact if you will need additional MES modules, such as maintenance, quality or warehouse/logistics. Sometimes you are required to use solutions from third parties, which can require interfaces that can be prone to errors and complicated to integrate. Having different user interfaces, potentially makes use and acceptance from users difficult.
An MES should be built modularly with all the various modules, that you need, to cover all the areas of production. Your system is thereby expandable according to your needs. And this without requiring you to use siloed solutions with new interfaces that must be developed. In addition, your system will work with a uniform data base where all processes perform stable and as expected.
MES modules can be flexibly put together like building blocks. You can, for example, assemble modules, based on your needs, such as MDC, PDC, Maintenance, Quality, warehouse/logistics, etc. This provides you with the possibility to start the process where optimization is absolutely needed.
At this point, your employees can be convinced of the benefits of the system and can slowly become familiar with it. Any further module integrations will go smoothly, once your employees have gotten used to the new system, are able to operate it and have lost any possible reservations they may have had.
Your union or staff council should be informed from the start when implementing an MES. By doing so, the collection of person specific information can be accounted for in the employee agreement.
The staff council knows the fears and worries of employee, such as fear of being monitored, changes or losing a job. In this case the staff council can be very helpful and remove any angst an employee might have about a project ahead of time. The can convince the employee that the automated collection of machine data and the feedback of production data can reduce workload and increase productivity and thereby securing employment.
The early involvement of the staff council or union also immensely reduces the risk of refusal after the fact. It is also possible to enthuse these groups for this project, by reducing the workload of employees. In the best cases it would even be possible to have these groups as references for other unions and staff councils.
You need to information all participants early and extensively on what you plan to do. Gather all members – from Production Supervisor, the IT department and on to the machine operators and the staff
council – on board. And only then will the project be successful. Everyone should know about the MES implementation and what it means for everyone. Fears and worries can be cleared out of the way from the beginning – only this way can
everyone pull in one direction and maintain the project timeline.