Being a manufacturer is not easy these days. Margins continue to shrink, regulations are
being tightened, and a considerable skills gap is taking hold. One of the many challenges the industry face
is asking for better, more visible data, yet many manufacturers are still
struggling to gather this information.
There is a lack of visibility, a lack of usable metrics, and very little
real-time information. And while
enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems house some of the data, they lack
the functionality to deliver information to the shop floor, which is necessary
to address issues as they occur.
This is where MES makes the difference. It tracks and
documents the entire production process from the raw material to the finished
product. This data is then fed back into
the production process.
The deployment of MES can help manufacturers to use
capabilities they were not even aware they had, and to better allocate
resources with great potential to become more efficient.
It pays to be picky
Although 2017 is a good a time as any to get into MES, many
forward-thinking food and beverage manufacturers did so years ago, and a
growing number of them have now reached a point with their MES solution where
they are asking for add-on features and functions that further capture
production process data, and using it in a way that expands the footprint of
the MES solution. Making the MES data a
visible part of the overall supply chain is also crucial, and key to ensuring
the four walls of the factory do not represent a black hole of
information. Manufacturer wish lists are
Having proven itself a very viable tool for improving
efficiency in manufacturing, MES has reached a point where it is crucial not
only that you deploy the system, but also how you do so.
For some manufacturers, deployment on their premises will
work best, while others will receive greater benefits from a cloud-based
solution. A combination of the two will
be the way forward for many. Subscription-based
models are prevalent now, making it possible for users to deploy MES quicker
and with less effort.
Manufacturers have also started to ask for mobile features
that allow the data that is collected by the MES solution to be displayed on
tablets and other devices. This demand
is also driving MES providers to advance app-based solutions.
It’s only data –
unless you use it
Data collection is not the difficult part; organizing the
data in a way that makes it useful to manufacturers is. There are two phases. This first is selection: what data can be
used for which purpose? The second is
intelligent presentation: how can this data be arranged so that it has real
value for those looking at it?
MES solutions of the future will have to become better and
better at getting the right kind of information to the right person at exactly
the right time. There is no point in
gathering huge amounts of data if people then have to go and dig for it. For MES solutions to be effective, what is being
recorded needs to be automatically turned into targeted actionable
intelligence, facilitating improvement, and a culture of action at all levels
of the organization.
Industry 4.0 is
coming – prepare yourself
Smart manufacturing is more than just a buzzword now: as machines
acquire more and more intelligence, the idea of a so-called Industry 4.0 is
starting to become a reality. Scenarios
where machines order their own parts according to their needs are not pipe
dreams. In less than ten years’ time,
something close to full automation might be possible.
But although some manufacturers stand prepared to embrace
such a future, others- the broad majority, in fact- will take time to
adjust. Advanced MES solutions will help
them along the way. Using the right kind
of data in the right kind of way, manufacturers can make themselves more
flexible and more efficient – steadily progressing to what the manufacturing
industry will look like in a decade.
The future is
Over the coming years, MES is only likely to grow: the
global market for technology is projected to reach $7.4 billion by 2020. With users who are already deploying MES
solutions becoming more demanding – and with new users joining their ranks –
2017 looks set to be a year where MES takes another step towards providing the
tailor-made, purpose-built solutions that will help food and beverage
manufacturers to be as efficient as they need to be in order to stay
successful, and continue their drive towards lower cost producer status.