4 Truths to Cut Through the MES Myths

4 Truths to Cut Through the MES Myths

The moment you realize your manufacturing operations needs an upgrade can be painful.  Making a change is a big decision, opening you up to risk, potential new costs, and more.  But, it can also be the best decision you’ll make.  This is the first of a new series of blogs to help those readers who have decided to make a change.  Our goal is to give you facts, help minimize the risk and cost, and help you find the best solution possible to improve your shop floor.

An MES isn’t a unicorn. Don’t rely on myths. Get the facts before you begin planning a project.

This week, we’re taking a close look at the current beliefs about MES.  In the past, MES projects involved high costs, long implementation cycles, and did not always provide the expected benefits.  This has led to a lot of MES misinformation, and seeing through the haze of myths can be difficult.  Without a clear vision and realistic expectations of what a project can do for you, there will be missed opportunities and frustration.  So, let’s take a moment to cut through the assumptions and take a close look at a few things MES can, and can’t, do for you.

1)      Document Control.  How are you currently managing documents on the shop floor?  Do you use build books with notes scribbled in the margins?  If a customer requests complete documentation of an order, how quickly can you turn around the request?  Accurate and complete document control is an important benefit of an MES project.  Different software may offer different ways of reaching this goal, but a strong manufacturing solution should automatically keep ALL documents attached to an order.  It should ensure you’re using only the latest, most accurate documents, and keep a complete as-built record of all orders.

2)      Quality Checks. With a tight schedule and customer deadlines to meet, skipping quality checks is common on a busy shop floor.  Additionally, a QA “team” is often one person walking the shop floor with a clip board taking measurements.  In both situations, mistakes can be made.  The benefit of a strong MES system isn’t in directly making quality checks, but in quality check enforcement.  The QA team should have real-time access to the data they need to do their job better, faster, and more efficiently.

3)      Production. Production has always been a dizzying array of moving parts.  The key to improving production with an MES isn’t making everything go “faster,” but eliminating bottlenecks by ensuring the right people have the most accurate, relevant information at the right time.  With an MES, all work instructions, work orders and production information can be updated and communicated instantly and electronically.  Look for an MES that offers multimedia work instructions to improve training and quality.  The MES shouldn’t impose new processes on your shop floor, but facilitate multimedia communication and collaborative manufacturing.

4)      Shop Floor Visibility. How many manufacturers wait for the ERP to be manually updated to see the status of orders?  How many times do your sales people run to the shop floor to get an update on an order for an important customer?  Shop floor visibility isn’t just supervisors tracking operations attendance and work.  The MES should be fully integrated with the ERP or other enterprise systems.  Anyone who needs production information should be able to access real-time updates anytime and anywhere in the plant.

Don’t let a bad decision get the best of you! Find the facts before you begin your next manufacturing solution or paperless manufacturing project.

Many MES projects involved years of effort and cost millions of dollars.  It is easy to see how the “myths” around MES were born.  With so many vendors and so many people telling the story, and so many potential sources of information, the truth gets distorted.

Today, there are more options to solving manufacturing operations problems, including Paperless Manufacturing.  This approach achieves many of the benefits of MES at far lower costs and in far less time.  Don’t let the misconceptions of MES or fear of change stop you from achieving improved production or increased profits.  Paperless Manufacturing may be the solution many shop floors need.

The first step in any manufacturing improvement project is to make sure you have all the facts, and you understand all the possibilities and aren’t relying on myths.  Interested in learning more?  Contact us today and don’t hesitate to ask questions!

Next week, we’re going to look at how you can start an improvement project on the right foot and position yourself for success.

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