Production plant managers invest a lot of time and money in establishing new production resources. Naturally, they expect to see evidence which proves that the investment was worth making. That’s why it is absolutely essential to measure key performance indicators (KPIs) like OEE – Overall Equipment Effectiveness, in order to get a real time view of production process efficiency. A business should measure quantities produced, lead times, quality and substandard goods etc. to maximize efficiency and reveal hidden capacities.
Unfortunately, in an age of increasing technological sophistication, sometimes we forget about the human factor – the most important and valuable resource a company possesses. It is still this human element that dictates true operational efficiency.
Therefore, in order to gain the full picture of a manufacturing process, implementation of an OEE monitoring tool is not enough. To gain a meaningful insight into shop floor processes, what is required is a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) which integrates and complements all production data in one combined IT solution.
Unfortunately, many of the MES solutions are derived from ERP layer systems. They forget about the human element and are massively flawed and difficult to use for production operators. Data entry is manual, complicated and frequently neglected as a result – it may even be reliant on an endless paper trail, which is far from ideal for anybody involved. As a result, KPI metrics are not available in real time and there is no overall visualization of performance.
Seemingly obvious problems from the factory floor remain unsolved and most of the issues are not effectively communicated to decision makers. This leaves our hard-working staff feeling omitted and disillusioned and machine operator effectiveness remains below the expected level.
Fortunately, there are systems which directly involve production personnel in production process optimization. The idea is about empowering staff with MES solutions which focus on their personal performance levels and utilize their abilities. We need to make sure that everyone within a company, from the shop-floor through to mid and senior level management, can contribute their expertise to the benefit of production and, ultimately, profitability.
Production personnel know ‘their’ machines best, they are best positioned to inform management on a given production process step. Businesses should treat this expertise and experience with the respect it deserves.
The best MES solutions engage production operators in the system implementation process from start to finish. The system should be intuitive, ergonomic and easy to use. The software automatically collects and collates all the information acquired from the production process to give management full, real time visibility for every machine and process.
The information should be available not only to the factory management but also, maybe most importantly, to the shop floor staff. This allows operators to monitor current efficiency by calling up relevant equipment KPIs at the touch of a button. It provides instant motivation by informing staff that they are hitting targets. The system should also deliver all additional information needed for production order realization, whilst enabling reporting and immediate response to any errors or disruptions that are causing downtime or quality defects.
This removes unnecessary steps during production dispatching and reporting. The MES system should provide transparency between the factory floor and management. This removes morale-sapping doubts and gives staff the personal satisfaction of knowing that their actions have made a genuine difference to the company.
The modern MES system is something much more than other solutions in the company IT landscape. It is designed to provide more complete visibility of manufacturing processes. The best MES solutions give employees the opportunity to incorporate their knowledge and experience into the business. Don’t forget the human factor because motivated employees along with sophisticated production resources and modern software raise the efficiency of any factory.
Tommy V. Larsen