Manufacturing Execution System (MES) is, in other words, a system of a production implementation. Using information technology, software and automation elements, it allows to collect information directly from workstations in real time. Generally speaking, MES is responsible for ensuring the highest possible quality of production.
Customers often combine MES with business systems such as ERP, as well as with plant control and management solutions. In fact, the basic information supporting the production process management that can be provided by MES relates to the progress of production orders, machine failures and downtime, the level of inventory for in-process production or the results of quality control and records of stocks-out.
Common areas for MES application are:
– analysis of production line efficiency (including determination of OEE, its components and other KPIs),
– tracking production orders and recording their progress (including the full genealogy of the product),
– production quality analysis, including statistical process control.
One of the typical areas of MES application is the analysis of the causes of adverse production events (e.g. downtime).
MES brings Lean Manufacturing to life
Continuous action for improvement, which is the aim of this idea, requires access to information about the course of processes and their long-term analysis. The implementation of lean production management requires flexibility from MES systems, which will allow the participants of the production process to achieve a balance between minimizing costs and work in progress, and handling orders so as to start production of only those items that are required. It is important to combine the different elements of a distributed production system of employees, machines, tools, packaging, means of transport or laboratory equipment into one intelligent network.
Specialists remark that most of the good and proven practices of lean production management are based on the idea once proclaimed by William Deming, the so-called Continuous Improvement Cycle: Plan, Execute, Investigate and Apply. According to this idea, the process of introducing improvements should start with an analysis of the current situation, then plan the changes and define measurable indicators of the assessment of its effects. In the next step, a change in the small scale is introduced. After analysing its effects, it is possible to make a decision to introduce the change to other areas of the organisation.
The system’s functionalities allow for immediate feedback, enabling the analysis of key indicators, making the right decisions on the fly and reacting immediately to any irregularities detected.
The role that MES class solutions have to play in the era of Industry 4.0 concept is crucial. Adam Jednoróg, Head of the Competence Centre at PSI Polska, recalls the results of last year’s “Global Industry 4.0 Survey” (conducted by PwC). The authors of the report indicate specific solutions for manufacturing companies, one of the main ones being the MES system operating in real time, thanks to sensor data and advanced planning allowing for better use of resources and faster execution of orders.
MES solutions must evolve
The combination of MES with business systems (ERP), as well as with plant control and management solutions, results in a production process that is essentially driven by information that can help initiate actions or perform operations…
“Manufacturers reduce the costs of IT infrastructure typically associated with MES by deploying applications to thin clients. By adding these applications to existing structures, they can protect their current investments with extra benefits. At the same time, using information provided by intelligent sources connected via the Internet of Things (IoT), they optimise machinery use, product quality, data analysis and compliance with regulatory requirements. Emerging technologies such as cloud, scalability and IoT can make it much easier for them to run a business,” explained Radosław Rudecki, Account Manager End User at Rockwell Automation in a press release.
Experts have no doubt that MES are an essential element of the Industry 4.0 concept, but in order to fulfil their role they must evolve in the following directions: decentralisation (distribution), cloud computing, integration with all elements of the production process, integration with the supply chain, communication (including with mobile devices), analysis of large amounts of data (Big Data) in real time.
In order to efficiently determine OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) indicator, it is necessary to make precise assumptions based on a precisely calculated working time budget, which takes into account breaks and planned downtime, precisely calculated expected productivity and planned quality factor.
MES systems enable these parameters to be correlated with reality. They take elements of subordinate indicators, usually from external sources such as APS, QMS, MMS and actual production (performance, quality and availability). By combining data from different sources, it is possible to talk about real and reliable OEE, accurately diagnose problem areas and prevent potential problems in the future.