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Smart MES is the basis for better performance and continuous improvement

Almost everyone knows that a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) forms the bridge between planning (ERP system) and process control. But too little attention is paid to the fact that it can be much more than that. Many production firms overlook the fact that a carefully developed and intelligently implemented MES can serve as the only pure information platform for better performance management, and for the continuous improvement of that performance.

Production companies tend to use a MES as information system, to translate customer orders into the actual processing of them, and to provide feedback information about how those orders have been filled. A form of vertically integrated information, in other words, focusing on the chain from order to supply, and commonly traceability-driven as well. We often run into the MES as a patchwork landscape of partial systems, both linked and unlinked. Each with its own sets of data that may exhibit mutual discrepancies or even contradict each other. All this makes for a situation in which the search for the right data – the actual truth – becomes time-consuming and may lead to disagreement. In such situations, after all, there is no pure source, no single point of truth. As a result, essential data is either left aside or used only marginally to run, steer and improve processes. A missed opportunity.

Single point of truth ánd practical analytical tools

The development and implementation of an MES is often approached as a system implementation. Stepwise project management, frequent and careful pre-testing and the proper scope are usually lacking. This results in fewer benefits than expected, higher costs and longer lead times.
Yet if, in designing an MES, one takes as premise that which truly determines performance in the production process, one can make the best possible use of the many opportunities such a system offers. To do that, once must focus on all those sub-processes, factors and details that can influence the performance one ultimately strives for and the satisfaction experienced by the customer. The goal in all of this is an MES in which central information is registered uniformly and in mutual connection. Detailed information about such essential elements as recipes, pressure, temperature, batch times and malfunctions. Horizontally integrated, available immediately online, always up-to-date and “pure”. Data which allows no room for disagreement. The final result: a single point of truth. All combined with practical analytical tools to make the best possible use of this data for the steering, correction and improvement of processes. 

Short-term steering 

Based on that single point of truth, and with practical analytical tools at hand, a member of the organization with an idea for improvement will have a greater tendency to consult his data in order to test the feasibility of that idea and to carry it out. Doing so, after all, requires almost no effort at all. What’s more, based on that single point of truth, consultations can be held on the production line and concrete decisions can be made. Where do we see a deviation in performance, what is the cause and what are the facts? Operators and production management can act and react quickly, adequately and within the short term. Exhausting searches through “piles” of data, meant to uncover what went wrong and how things can go better, are then a thing of the past. The system functions entirely in the service of the people and their processes. This leads to a situation in which everyone almost automatically adopts a focus on continuous improvement. That is the true power of a smart MES.

Frank Bekkers
Senior Consultant ARV Group

"Based on a single point of truth, the focus on continuous improvement arises automatically."

Publish date 15 January 2018