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Changing of the Guard: MES or Not?

By Karan Talati, First Resonance

Innovation and operational changes are essential to maintaining your competitive edge in any industry. This is no different for manufacturing. Times are changing, and today’s manufacturers are re-evaluating their production processes.

Machine efficiency is necessary. It is important to the bottom line but doesn’t drive innovation. MES has been the go-to solution for manufacturers for decades, but it has lagged behind modern challenges facing today’s manufacturers.

Visionary entrepreneurs, startups, and incumbent companies with a new generation of engineers are looking to transform products of the physical world. To that, they need flexible and iterative workflows – not static efficiency measurements. Organizations across industries are rethinking legacy tools’ role in their operations.

MES

A manufacturing execution system, or MES, is a comprehensive software system that monitors, tracks, documents, and controls numerous processes, from parts to finished products. It contributes to productivity and profitability as the manufacturing process is driven by information.

However, these systems have been slow to become modular or connected. Among several things, MES currently falls down in supporting manufacturers in an iterative environment or highly tailored or complex products with speed and affordability.

Factory Operation System

A Factory Operating System (OS) is a connected platform designed for data. A digital thread that, throughout the operation, ties together people, processes, and machines. An alternative for innovative manufacturers to meticulously usher unique products through every stage of the manufacturing process.

Engineers, those closest to production, are empowered by a Factory OS to address daily challenges. They are designing and building innovative, sophisticated, high-value products, and it’s critical that the technology digitally ties them to the workers and operations to track every process from design through delivery.

Advantages for Next-Generation Manufacturers

An end-to-end manufacturing operating system offers many distinct advantages over the traditional software that most companies have in place and fills the gap left by systems solely focused on efficiency and resource utilization, like MES. \Leveraging the platform enables agility and lean principles across production functions, including design, testing, and quality control.

Scalability is a key advantage of factory operating systems. Factory operating systems allow you to make upgrades to individual processes with advanced technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning (ML), or other forms of artificial intelligence (AI), rather than attempting to upgrade all processes at once.

A deeper dive into most features reveals greater insight that not only boosts efficiencies for companies and yields benefits for robotics, additive manufacturers, space exploration, and 3D printing businesses.

Tracking Processes and Parts

Engineers are equipped with the ability to provide visual guides and revise workflows and processes in inline and real-time. With aBOMs or an as-built bill of materials module, manufacturers can realize granular levels of traceability related to serial-numbered parts and all processes throughout the product life cycle.

aBOMs also provide information on who took what action and when that action was taken, saving engineers a considerable number of hours over the entire project’s timeline. Therefore, a digital bill of materials affords instant and enveloping access to all stakeholders driving the production process.

Connecting Software Platforms

The vast majority of inventive manufacturing organizations have kept operations technology (OT) platforms more or less separate from their IT counterparts. Modern manufacturers are connecting these systems with urgency because the need for more real-time information from the factory floor is critical to fast decision-making and getting ahead of the competition.

By adopting open application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs), these visionary manufacturers are accessing data streams to make informed decisions. Transitioning away from legacy systems for more data and insights to improve product quality, reduce risks and improve workflows.

Building Employee Engagement

When innovative systems spawn open collaboration, patterns emerge inside and outside the factory walls. The people involved in design, testing, and operations become tightly connected to the entire manufacturing process.

As a result, the shop floor becomes more of an engaging hub for operators who can embrace new skills, and engineers – empowered with troves of data – can cut to the chase of more productive work like creating the next generation of a product design or saving energy.

Why-Not

With more digital solutions available forward-thinking businesses are reexamining manufacturing software and rethinking their production processes. Manufacturers looking to address existing pain points and immediate needs are looking for answers.

Therefore, evaluating a platform that enables the factory to become a place that transforms one-of-a-kind ideas into incredible new realities and improves operations becomes a no-brainer. People, processes, and machines can join forces in a world where the sum of the whole is greater than its parts.

Interested in reading more about why a Factory OS might be the best platform for you? Visit the blog here to learn more about the innovative, flexible solutions created for their team.

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