MES, which stands for Manufacturing Execution Systems, encompasses a wide range of functionality. There’s everything from equipment management to labor management, quality management to material management, and recipe management to batch management, not to mention decision support, visibility, reporting, and a whole host of other functions. Just look at the MESA models to see how big MES really can be. Even looking at the MES software packages the various MES vendors sell will tell you how big MES really can be.
As big as MES is, you need an approach that will ensure your success with MES. You need an approach that allows you to start small and build and show a lot of success along the way. Biting off more than you can chew, trying to make MES be all things to all people, will almost certainly ensure that it fails. There have been too many MES projects that have failed over the years because they were trying to be too big, too complex, or just do too much. It’s a recipe for failure.
Starting small and building is the best road to success with MES. If your organization doesn’t have much experience with MES, if your people are a little skeptical, if there have been some MES projects that weren’t as successful as hoped, then starting small and showing a lot of success along the way is the best way to make MES a big success. I like to advocate the crawl, walk, run approach. It’s a familiar analogy but one that makes a lot of sense and easily fits with the MES framework.
So, what does crawl, walk, run, really mean when it comes to MES? Well, here are a few examples to give you some ideas on where to start and how to use the crawl, walk, run, analogy.
Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). OEE is always a great place to start with MES. OEE is used to measure and then increase equipment effectiveness by focusing on runtime, performance, and quality. Start with OEE on just one or two lines, the lines that are having the biggest performance problems. And then only focus on the bottleneck pieces of equipment, the pieces of equipment that are holding back the entire line. Use OEE on these pieces of equipment and increase the line’s performance. OEE is a powerful tool and you’ll be demonstrating some real improvements in no time. Then, with some success under your belt, you can move on to more lines, more equipment, and even move to other sites or facilities.
Yields. Yields is another great place to start with MES. Yields are crucial in many process manufacturing operations where there are materials coming in and materials going out but some materials getting lost or wasted in the process. Start with yields on just one or two lines, the lines that are having the biggest yield losses. And then only focus on the pieces of equipment where the majority of the losses are really occurring. Use Yields on these pieces of equipment and increase the output and yield of the lines. Yields is another powerful tool in the MES toolbox and you’ll be demonstrating some real improvements in no time. And, again, with that success under your belt, you can move on to more lines in no time.
Statistical Process Control (SPC). SPC is another great way to start with MES. SPC is a tool that uses statistical methods to help better control a process and reduce the overall variability of the process, thus producing higher quality and more consistent products. Start with the processes or equipment or lines that seem to have the most process and/or product variability. Then pick just a few of the crucial variables that must be controlled to minimize the variability. Use SPC to control those variables and you’ll reduce the variability of the process and increase the quality of the product. SPC is just one more powerful tool in the MES toolbox and, just like with OEE and yields, you’ll be demonstrating some real improvements in no time. From there, just keep it going and move on to more variables and more lines, just making sure you show lots of success along the way.
So, MES is pretty big and pretty complex. Lots of people try to do a lot of things with MES which are all good, but trying to do too much too quickly is just a recipe for a failure. So, instead, start small. Crawl before you walk and walk before you run. That’s a prescription for success with MES. Just follow that prescription and you’ll be making some real improvements and showing some real success with MES in no time.