In a report at the beginning of the decade, the International Society of Automation (ISA) took note of the growing belief in Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES). At a European conference held by MESA International, attendees were asked a series of questions, having been given green, red and yellow cards (for agree, disagree, and no opinion) to raise in response. When the question was “Who believes MES can produce significant advantages for industrial companies?” the overwhelmingly dominant color was green. As the author noted, “Evidently MES was a belief.”
Subsequently that belief has been backed up by research. In a study cited in the ISA article, 151 manufacturing executives responded to an Internet questionnaire regarding process improvements:
Based on a list of widely used key performance indicators, like labor cost per unit and on time delivery, respondents to the study indicated how many improvements they had realized in the past three years. The consulting team then divided the companies into two groups, “Business Movers” and “Others.” The Business Movers are those companies that demonstrated considerable improvements, in breadth or in depth. That is, they started performing more than 1% better on six of the 11 business metrics in the study, or they demonstrated more than 10% improvement on at least one of the business metrics. These Business Movers serve as a model for other companies.
What qualities did they have that were possibly the source for realizing so many improvements?
One quality was clear: Business Movers more often use MES and information dashboards. This group clearly shows more improvements than do companies that have not adopted these types of systems.
A recent study by industry analyst Axendia adds further credence to these results. In a series of white papers on process improvement in the medical technology industry, Axendia found that the implementation of new technology systems for process improvement initiatives such as Lean, Six Sigma Enablement, waste removal and Kaizen didn’t typically deliver value, with one notable exception:
One system bucked the trend of use versus value. Of those using MES, 75% reported that they see high value in their system to support process improvement, outranking every other system in use.
Why is MES delivering process improvement value when other systems are struggling to do so?
The answer lies in what MES delivers.
Even with clear strategic business initiatives, it is essential for manufacturers to make rapid, informed decisions in fast-changing operating environments. Enterprise MES monitors and synchronizes manufacturing activities across globally distributed plants; and links them in real-time to the enterprise for optimal performance. MES also tracks product and order details on the plant floor, collects transactions for reporting to financial and planning systems, and electronically dispatches orders and manufacturing instructions to shop floor personnel. Further, MES helps eliminate human error in manufacturing by providing real-time quality data checks, yield monitoring, automatic enforcement of specifications and business rules, and as-manufactured lot, batch, device or unit traceability. These all result in improved product and process quality, and higher productivity. Additionally, MES provides the real-time feedback needed to quickly identify and resolve issues for continuous product and process improvement and optimization of Lean manufacturing processes.
The benefits of using MES are significant, including:
- Rapid time to volume
- Increased yields
- Lower operating costs
- Increased compliance
- Elimination of non-value add activities
- Proactive and systematic standardization and enforcement of processes across all sites
- Provision of real-time visibility and control across the manufacturing supply chain
- Accelerated trace analysis, root cause diagnosis and issue resolution
- Lower cost of quality
- Continuous improvement of product quality and new designs
- Enhanced ability for rapid, fact-based operational and strategic decisions
- Complete control over the manufacturing process
MES’ ability to support very complex process workflows and high volume automated data collection further enhances its role as the key enabler of process improvements across a wide range of industrial sectors. For companies wanting to improve their processes— an increasingly strategic objective in today’s highly competitive global marketplace— the data continues to point in a clear direction: to do it right, to do it effectively, to see its bottom line value, implement Manufacturing Execution Systems.
To learn more about the Axendia research and how MES is greatly impacting process improvement initiatives download the research here.