Avoid Common System Pitfalls with MES

Manufacturing operations are intricate processes that demand sophisticated supply chains, specialist labor, and complex machinery. As a result, many businesses find it challenging to discover pitfalls and potential ways to boost their operating efficiency. That’s where Management Execution Systems (MES) comes into play.

In short, MES take data across an industrial operation’s lifecycle. MES use this data to deliver insights to improve a business’s operating efficiency. Over the past several articles in this in-depth series on MES, we first covered what MES are and their role in a modern manufacturing operation. Then we explored how MES optimize industrial processes, before covering how teams can effectively leverage their MES

In this article, we’ll explore some common system pitfalls that MES can address. In particular, we’ll focus on two universal issues MES are ripe to help you avoid: poor production quality and lapses in communication.

Using MES to Avoid Poor Production Quality

Tracking the Variables

One of the most significant benefits of MES for your processes is providing overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) metrics. These measurements represent the operating efficiency of an industrial or manufacturing operation.

OEE metrics provide excellent means to track the influence of environmental variables such as humidity, temperature, and air pressure. OEE can illustrate the relationship between output, throughput, and quality control incidents with these environmental conditions. Teams can then see the top challenges to their production quality and when an intervention is suitable.

From there, teams can develop statistical process controls (SPCs). These provide specific prescriptions to improve a process, or help counteract environmental variables. For example, suppose high humidity causes a drop in overall output quality, such as via food spoilage in a snack production line. In that case, SPC can provide a protocol for turning on and operating dehumidifiers.

Beyond environmental metrics, MES can also help evaluate the relationship between processes and product quality. For example, MES can establish how production line speed impacts the rate of manufacturing quality issues. This allows organizations to balance throughput and quality consistency.

Improving the Review Pipeline

Once, quality control meant a final review of a product by an inspector. Those days are long gone, however, with quality control standards adapting to the complexity of modern manufacturing and industrial operations.

Today, most processes are designed to build quality assurance right into the process, rather than test and fix final products. This approach embeds quality control in every production phase rather than delegating it to an inspector auditing end products. Such an approach reduces the need for rework and cuts delays and waste, enabling significant operating efficiency improvements. 

With this becoming the norm, more and more businesses are expecting workers and technicians on production lines to participate in quality control, conducting regular reviews of outputs to ensure they comply with quality standards. As a result, today’s workers and technicians must handle large volumes of information. MES offer a solution to help simplify and standardize the quality control process across all levels and functions of an organization. 

This can mean something as simple as automated logging of in-process quality control checks, but it also can mean partial or complete automation of some analyses. For example, MES can deploy and enforce skipping or sampling rules like only requiring every tenth, hundredth, or thousandth output to be logged by a technician, thus maintaining overall quality while dramatically reducing the number of product reviews needed by technicians. 

Further, via implementing SPC, MES can even change the rules and frequency of on-shift product reviews. SPC can tailor the number of reviews required from a given technician, reflecting the employee’s experience and track record. Automating these personalized rules and processes via SPC can dramatically reduce the time needed for end-product inspectors to communicate with technicians on the production line.

Using MES to Improve Communication

Another pitfall that can be avoided with MES is a lapse in staff communication about the status of a production process. Production line issues often necessitate emails, calls, or messages between departments. This introduces the risk of human error and communication lapses, but it can also bog down regular reporting and sharing of “low-priority” information across departments and teams.

Poor or irregular communication can cause a host of problems. In a worst-case scenario, it can directly sabotage end products through unbalanced ingredients, product deformities, or quality control failures. 

However, poor communications can also more subtly undermine business operations. Imagine if a production team achieves a slight improvement in their processes, meaning a boost in the efficiency of a given input. This team continues on, neglecting to log the small change. Over time, this may mean that procurement teams over-order the input in question. As a result, more warehouse space may be used than is needed, and the business ends up overspending on raw materials.

Instead, MES can require the regular logging of production line information. The MES can then automatically share this data throughout an organization. Along with saving time, a business now has the ability to react rapidly to capitalize on opportunities and respond to problems.

Your Experts in MES Operations

Alongside quality control and communications, one of the leading benefits of MES deployments is boosting organizational resilience. Used properly, MES can be a critical tool in helping your organization prevent failures in your processes. In our next article, we’ll explore this topic and show how MES can be a powerful preventative tool for your operations.

If you’re interested in embarking on or improving your MES journey, reach out to the ICA Engineering team today. Contact us to discuss where and how MES solutions can fit into your operations.

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