What is MES?
How can an MES solution benefit your manufacturing organisation?
An MES system can, essentially, be any system that is designed for the control of manufacturing production. The letters stand for Manufacturing Execution Software.
But they could have been understood to stand for Manufacturing Execution System – something that leaves the door open for a variety of interpretations, meanings and understandings and could even include manual, spreadsheet-based operations control.
Manual systems are inefficient, open to human error, time consuming, have restricted availability but extremely vulnerable to unauthorised or misunderstood amendments, not compiled in real time – in short, a source of problems rather than a solution.
However, if MES can be interpreted so widely, how can a manufacturing business – whose core competency is manufacturing and production – be expected to pick its way through the minefield of acronyms and definitions to the solution that is right for them?
Fortunately, help is at hand.
VDI Guideline 5600, developed in Germany, defines MES as a “process-oriented manufacturing management system” and as the “comprehensive driving force for the organisation and execution of the production process”. The related IEC 62264 “Enterprise-Control System Integration” set of standards, also known as DIN EN 62264, goes into more detail.
For practical purposes, MES definitions can be distilled down to ‘functionality that covers all chronological aspects of the production process’. Specifically:
- Planning of the production processes
- Management in real time
- Analysis and evaluation
People often think of ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems as being the backbone of business planning. That is reasonable but, technically, a full ERP sits at the top – Level 4 – of business operations and MES is part of it, according to VDI.
- Level 4 – ERP covers Business Planning and Logistics and establishes the basic plant schedule, production, material use, delivery and shipping, and determines inventory levels.
- Level 3 – is Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM), which manages the workflow to produce the desired end products, maintains records and optimises the production process.
- Level 2 – includes monitoring, supervisory control and automatic control of production.
- Level 1 – undertakes sensing and manipulation of the actual process.
- Level 0 – is the production process itself.
The technical definitions may seem a bit complex but adopting common definitions, as specified above, means that there will be less confusion between different teams within an organisation and, indeed, less confusion about different software solutions from vendors. Having awareness of the definitions will help in making the right choice.
MES itself has four ‘pillars’: manufacturing operations management (MOM); maintenance operations; quality operations; and inventory management.
MOM (Manufacturing Operations Management)
LYNQ MES is essentially a MOM software system but it has a bearing on the performance of the others and is also, in turn, influenced by them. For example, inventory operations and control can be more effective if the production processes are better controlled and more transparent, and actual demand is then more accurately understood and communicated. Effective quality management will help identify errors and reduce rework and rejects, which will contribute to better production. Maintenance operations management helps to reduce unscheduled downtime and lost production.
APS (Advanced Planning and Scheduling)
LYNQ MES also features Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS), to add complex planning functionality and visual scheduling features to your software toolkit. APS and MOM come together in one solution under the umbrella of LYNQ MES to deliver a fully integrated, bi-directional, closed loop, planning and production system.
One Solution – MES
The functionality gained from this one solution includes production planning and scheduling, shopfloor data collection and tracking, factory digitalisation and automation, factory/ loss analysis and factory collaboration and document control. Efficiency can be improved and cycle times reduced by connecting machines and digitalising the factory with automated shopfloor data collection, helping to reduce losses and deliver faster cycle times. More visible data helps to improve production organisation, minimise changeover and increase resource utilisation.
It also enables businesses to track, review and reduce downtime, both of employees and equipment. Better analysis and loss visualisation helps boost performance. By identifying, visualising and enabling the elimination of losses in the manufacturing process, enterprises can drive to greater profitability through lower production costs and increased product margins. Automation is about automatic data capture from machines and other devices. Tracking of production means real-time data collection and tracking of employees, equipment and jobs.
Getting clearer, more up to date and accurate information helps to optimise production and work towards a paperless shop floor, with automatic downtime alerts and collaborative messaging. The result of moving from manual operations management and execution to software like LYNQ MES brings a range of benefits. More than half (55%) of businesses that have invested in LYNQ MES have reported labour costs reduction; 45% report reduction of defects and errors and about the same level noted reductions in materials costs. Around a third reported an increase in output and the same proportion identified improved delivery and service performance.
In the next piece, we will look in more detail at how MES enhances business’ ERP solutions.