How MES and ERP work together to support digital transformation in Industry 4.0
Yves Bourgeois on , updated
Is an outdated MES platform killing the profitability of your business? Here are 7 signs it’s time to say goodbye to your current MES solution and look for a modern alternative.
To a production facility, MES is the most useful piece of software ever invented. By tracking production data and work in progress in real-time, and synchronising with ERP, plant managers and employees are spoiled with countless process insights, visualised in user-friendly dashboards.
That is… if you’re not dealing with a hopelessly outdated MES platform.
Has your current MES system exceeded its shelf life and is it holding your company back from growth? Here are 7 signs it’s time for an upgrade.
Is your proprietary MES only used by a handful of employees on a daily basis? Then it’s probably a good idea to explore new software.
Legacy MES systems require a lot of experience to get valuable insights out of them, and the knowledge is often concentrated in a select number of technically oriented employees. What if two knowledgeable users go on vacation and you need a crucial report? Or what if they leave the company?
One thing’s for sure: your designated MES expert(s) won’t be there forever.
Thereafter, no one will still know how to properly use the software or report production data, which could leave an impact on the bottom line of your business. Or it will force you to set up a new training programme for mastering software that is already as outdated as a pinstriped suit and bowler hat.
So, why not consider implementing an open MES that does not require an expert and enables data visibility from the shop floor to the top floor?
What if a client asks for the process details of a certain production batch that was produced three months ago? Will someone have to dig into cardboard boxes and sort out paper sheets? Then your current MES is definitely not a great fit to meet today’s compliance and traceability needs.
Most legacy MES systems are pretty flawed when it comes down to collecting, storing and visualising historical data automatically. As a follow-up effect of a lack of automated data collection or long-term storage, a lot of unnecessary and time-consuming processes are often set in motion.
We’ve met companies who spend hours a day and thousands a month entering paper-based data manually in the MES, or correcting the manual registrations of machine operators in the warehouse management system.
Are you juggling paper sheets too? Then it’s time to throw in a modern solution that eliminates paperwork, enables full traceability of products and materials, and allows your employees to do more useful tasks from now on.
The top reason for companies to implement a modern manufacturing execution system is to gain better visibility into what’s happening on the shop floor in real-time, and to learn from what went wrong in the past. Closed MES systems, however, will still leave you with a series of blind spots.
How well do you know how your production is running?
Ask yourself these questions:
If the answer to one or more of these questions is ‘no’, then you should consider an MES upgrade.
Are you making stressed-out phone calls to raw material suppliers? Or do you find yourself contacting employees on their day off? Probably a sign your MES is not sufficiently supporting your supply chain and procurement process.
So, where does it go wrong?
With legacy MES systems, data on yield and materials usage is often entered manually by the operator instead of being collected automatically. As a result of inevitable human errors, inventory will rarely match the MES data.
This will always lead to shortages and last-minute orders, and stress levels that are much higher than they need to be at the procurement department.
So if you want to streamline your supply chain, avoid extra costs and have less grumpy employees in the house: you know what to do.
Have you ever tried to integrate a new data source or add features to a legacy MES platform? Then you were probably up for a long and expensive ride – whether you needed help from the vendor or your own team of developers.
Not anymore with a modern, web-based MES solution.
On the one hand, it can be built completely tailor-made without spending millions. On the other hand, you don’t need the supplier’s help anymore to collect and integrate data from new sources, or set up a new production line.
By enabling you to gear up faster, a modern and more flexible MES tool will help you respond much quicker to changing market or client demands.
So, why not replace your current MES with FactryOS?
Legacy MES systems that have outlived their shelf life can be extremely rigid in their data collection and the way in which the collected data can be used. The data is often stored in non-standardised and non-documented databases, meaning it will not always be possible to retrieve it afterwards, let alone share it with other software such as ERP and WMS.
In other terms: you can only get out what the supplier allows you to get out. So, what happens when you need to look at data in a different light, by integrating other sources? It cannot be done - or at least not without a hassle.
Computer says no? Then maybe you should consider a modern MES software solution that enables you to extract, combine and visualise any data you want.
One of the most common issues with legacy MES systems is their legendary lack of usability. Think slow response times, pop-up error messages or a cumbersome visualisation tool.
Well, you know the drill.
Is your current MES software years behind its latest update? Have you learned to live with bugs, band-aid solutions and compatibility issues?
Eventually, people can get used to anything. This doesn’t mean they like it.
What’s worse is that working with outdated tools lacking usability kills the desire in people to continuously improve, since they are not stimulated to think or act outside the black box. Why try to improve if you can’t even measure it?
Whatever you do, don’t make that your company’s mantra.
MES and ERP are both standalone software solutions. But what happens if you make them work together in an Industry 4.0 environment? A lean manufacturing love story.
ERP-MES integration is critical to a successful lean manufacturing implementation. But what does it actually look like on the production floor?
With Andy Vanderpoorten, Supply Chain Manager at Copaco, we talked about his experience in digitising the shop floor, how FactryOS helped solve their business needs, and the challenges the textile industry is facing today.