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Manufacturing Execution System – Make it work for you!

Are you having to deal with low percentage of on-time completions, high throughput times, frequent line down situations or high WIP? Obviously something is very wrong, particularly if you said "Yes" to more than one of the above. Having consulted for several discrete manufacturing clients has made one thing very apparent to me - a lean and agile manufacturing environment is not an option but an imperative for manufacturing industries to achieve operational excellence. All of the above were contra-indicators of operational excellence. A manufacturing execution system (MES) can support a manufacturing firm in achieving this very objective. An MES system works in tandem with a mainstream ERP system to execute, monitor and manage the production processes on a shop floor. Together with an ERP system, an MES system can nudge (or push, if required!) an enterprise into adopting standardized processes and at the same time creating key data elements for performance measurements.

Consider the ways in which an MES system can assist you:

  • Detailed scheduling: An MES system can take input from capacities defined for work centers and hourly usage of machines and labor (in routings) to perform detail scheduling. Sophisticated MES systems can take setup times into cognizance to minimize setups and maximize utilization
  • Dispatching: A MES system can use a dispatch list format to feed work to work centers. It can be used to perform real time prioritization of work orders to reflect reality on the floor - component shortages, current work center availability, downstream work center availability, premium customers and even executive diktats (a late evening call from the plant manager overrides everything else!!)
  • Operational Reporting: An MES system, complemented by the use of the mobile devices using radio frequency, can be used to perform move transactions from one operation to another. This is important in a job shop environment which may have long lead times, to track work orders, correctly reflect work in process costs and perform dispatching of jobs
  • Nonconformance tracking: An MES system will provide ways of tracking and managing non-conformances. While eliminating waste such as non-conformances remains a top priority for organizations, managing them on occurrence remains a grim reality. Ways to quickly identify, segregate and disposition non-conformances will aid in minimizing impact upon customer orders

    An MES system is now frequently offered by ERP vendors as an add-on or they provide integration with best-of-breed MES vendors. So its time for companies who have not yet invested in MES systems to see how they can make it work for them!


Deploying MES systems in tandem with ERP systems has become more of a mandatory requirement these days. ERP systems are designed to be more generic in nature capturing the high level needs of any shop floor. But the MES deployment brings in the next level of detail required for managing the shop floor. Some of the MES systems in use today are really sophisticated.
MES systems actually vary by industry as well. You may need to select the MES for your industry based on your needs. There are some industry wide accepted packages in the MES space but still one would need to evaluate the product very minutely to ensure it's the right fit for the particular industry.
ERP package vendors like Oracle and SAP have a long way to go in terms of building in house MES packages - the big issue there is all MES packages need to be very industry specific whereas all ERP vendors end up creating products that are more generic in nature. Also best of breed MES systems have a very good user interface to carry out the transactions - this is again a limitation for ERP Product vendors who are sometimes constrained by the underlying technology used in the ERP to have such User Interfaces built.

During all of my ERP implementations in manufacturing companies, I found out that production managers are paranoid about tracking and tracing material on shop floor. They assign lesser priority to other aspects like costs and financial accounting associated with the shop floor transactions. That creates a problem in ERP- configuring so many tracking features (also not all are possible due to complex RDBMS constraints) creates a lot of data entry and so it becomes a huge overhead. This can be very well addressed by implementing a state of art MES system with an ERP. The MES system can collect operational data from several line level transactions and store them to give the shop floor visibility. This data collection can be automated at various points like from work centers (operators will punch in few details into the machine controller), swapping job cards, mobile devices etc. This data then can be feed to the manufacturing module of an ERP system in a way to store the summary level transactions so that associated processes like costing and financial accounting can be completed. The ERP system will become enabled to give a high level tracking for the Manufacturing Head, while the Production Manager/Supervisor will be able to get his detailed level tracking through the MES system. Therefore while making a MES system work, one need to be very attentive of the Operational Reporting and Tracking (non conformance and production status) features so that they are enabled in the right way. During design, technology considerations (in integrating MES with devices attached to machines and mobile devices and as well as ERP) may need to be properly looked into and designed so that the data exchange happens smoothly. In some cases there may be a need to have a two way data exchange between ERP and MES to have a real time picture of forward planning and status reporting.

Great Article..It was very informative..I need more details from your side..include some tips..

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