Pushing the Envelope with MES and Paperless Manufacturing

Want to get the most out of your paperless manufacturing system? Evaluate the push technology in your system using a few simple tips.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

In manufacturing, a few seconds can mean the difference between success and scrap.  A single error can snowball and lead to missed shipping deadlines, lost profit and angry customers.  Consistency and repeatable processes is the key to success, while complexity leads to errors, waste and worse.

Push technology systems, which automatically deliver contextually relevant data to the shop floor user, have significant benefits for manufacturers.  Despite this, many companies still rely on less efficient pull technology systems for their MES and paperless manufacturing.  Pull systems require the user request the data each time, adding complexity and introducing opportunities for errors.

Pull Technology

Pull technology requires a specific user request for the release of data.  Typing the URL or clicking the link of a web page is an example of pull technology at work.  The user requests information using specific input and the information is delivered.  Logging in to a work station terminal, following system-based procedures, sorting through the work of the day, and then requesting the work instructions is an example of pull technology.

Pull technology can be error prone and requires effort and time from the user.  With some complex or overly engineered MES, this can be significant time, unnecessary effort, and any errors in the input can be costly.  Users request the wrong work instructions, or unapproved plans are released.  Template-based systems utilize pull technology.  Users input data in specific fields, and the system dictates the work process.  This introduces unnecessary complexity and additional training.  The effort needed to log in and find the work instructions is non-value added time.  With many systems, unnecessary steps are added simply to suit the system or accommodate system-based processes.  There is a tradeoff between making the solution easier to program and making it more efficient for the manufacturer using the software.

Push Technology

What can push technology do for your shop floor production? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

What can push technology do for your shop floor production? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

With push technology, data is automatically delivered to the user, either on a set schedule or when a specific circumstance or trigger is met.  An automatic calendar update is an example of push technology.   With automated information transmission, errors are eliminated.  The correct information reaches the right people at the right time in the process, every time.  Complexity is reduced, since non value-added procedures are removed.  With the right operation being sent at the correct time, you have better control over the process.

An example of push technology on the shop floor could include an RFID badge, barcode or fingerprint scanner keying a user to a work station.   With a swipe of the barcode or the RFID, the system is aware of the user at the station, and the prepared work is pushed to them.  Before the day begins, new orders have been pulled from the ERP or MRP systems, the work instructions assembled and routed.   Staff prepares the kitting and delivers parts, tools and materials to the work station.  The worker arrives can begin work moments after they arrive.

As the process becomes more automated, using procedural enforcement, repeatable processes, automated data collection, and automatic validation of tolerances, the shop floor can now focus on value-added tasks such as eliminating errors and improving production.  The administrative tasks such as verification of processes and data collected, while necessary, add less value and can be automated.  Push technology automates the administrative work to optimize production processes and profits.

Delivering on the Promise of Push Technology

There are shop floor solutions, MES and paperless manufacturing systems, on the market designed to deliver the benefits of push technology when appropriate.  As you evaluate potential solutions, ask a few key questions of the system:

  • Does the system use a newer platform technology? Web-based solutions enable the adaptable systems found with push technology.  If the system used an older platform requiring additional work to integrate or additional steps to simply start, then it won’t deliver the benefits found in push technology.
  • Will it match and benefit your existing workflow processes? Can you reuse your existing work plans and best practices?  If the system is forcing an entirely new process on your shop floor, or requiring you to rewrite or recreate your work instructions in a new format, then you have a system based entirely around pull technology.
  • How much training is necessary? How complex are the work screens?  If training is a significant cost in the implementation, or the screen is busy with buttons and input fields, then you can be sure your team is going to need to use that training and all those buttons with pull technology, rather than focusing on shop floor production.

The goal of a paperless manufacturing system should be to synchronize the people, information, and materials on the shop floor.  Utilizing push technology in the system ensures a tighter synchronization, getting the right information to the right people at the right time with fewer errors.  It’s another way you can ensure you’re maximizing the benefit of a shop floor system.

Questions, or want to see how paperless manufacturing can improve production and remove errors on your shop floor, then give us a call.  We’re happy to help.

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