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As industrialized nations must compete more often against low manufacturing costs in developing countries, manufacturing businesses are implementing Manufacturing Execution Systems to increase productivity, improve quality and reduce downtime. Typically MES solutions are associated with improvement initiatives such as LEAN, Six Sigma, TQM, TPM, among others.

04/15/2007


As industrialized nations must compete more often against low manufacturing costs in developing countries, manufacturing businesses are implementing Manufacturing Execution Systems to increase productivity, improve quality and reduce downtime.

Typically MES solutions are associated with improvement initiatives such as LEAN, Six Sigma, TQM, TPM, among others. By gaining greater visibility into the plant floor and individual production lines, manufacturers gain valuable information on root cause disturbances and production slowdowns. Many of these disturbances are barely visible in manual reporting processes, yet when identified and corrected businesses can achieve big gains in productivity and quality. Other reasons for implementing an MES solution include increasing the visibility of product and work flow throughout the enterprise to optimize labor %%MDASSML%% every company’s most precious and often most expensive resource.

A detailed AMR Research report notes that a typical MES solution “paid for itself on traditional cost reduction measures within six to 24 months of going live.” There are many examples where companies received a payback in less than six months and some as soon as a few weeks after installing an MES solution.

For example, Adelaide Brighton Cement, Australia’s only national cement supplier, achieved a 50% reduction in stoppages just one month after implementing its MES solution.

In addition to improving production performance and quality, manufacturers are turning to MES solutions as means for increasing production to meet market demand without investing in new machinery and plants.

An example of this is found in the coal industry. After many stagnant years, the coal industry has encountered a huge demand increase as a result of record-breaking oil prices and expanding manufacturing in Asia. Coal processing plants must immediately increase production in order to take advantage of growing market demand; they must get every ounce of production out of existing equipment and facilities as soon as possible. The manufacturing industry faces similar issues when competing with offshore manufacturing vendors, where productivity improvement must offset lower costs.

Although many manufacturers are under considerable pressure to implement a solution right away, it is important to properly evaluate an MES solution. An evaluation process in which certain criteria are met by the solution provider will help ensure the MES solution you select correctly meets your needs. The solution provider should be able to demonstrate a process that will deliver a successful initial implementation and can be later expanded to other areas or plants.

Engaging the right provider

Finding a trustworthy and competent solution provider is the first step in attaining the MES solution that will meet business objectives. Arriving at a simple, easy-to-use MES solution is a complex process. Manufacturers will usually achieve better results when they select an overall solution provider instead just buying software alone. A solution provider will analyze your business challenges and define and implement a solution that helps you achieve the business value you seek.

Therefore, it is important to engage a solution provider who can provide a thorough assessment of your needs and determine the MES solution that will meet your objectives.

A complete solution provider:

  • Provides the experience, professional services and technology enablement necessary to deliver the correct solution

  • Creates a holistic solution that fits the needs of the business and its objectives

  • Provides professional services needed to ensure optimal configuration

  • Offers training to instruct plant personnel how to maintain and expand the system at later stages

  • Delivers continuous support long after the project is implemented

  • Conducts periodic workshops and reviews to ensure optimal usage

  • Ensures the system can be expanded to the full enterprise without significant redevelopment costs

  • Endeavors to provide a low total cost of ownership.

    • Figure out the total cost

      Naturally when evaluating a solution, cost is an important factor. An MES solution is part of a continuous improvement strategy.

      Therefore, factoring all the costs, not just the initial cost, will help you to accurately assess the return from your investment. Evaluating the total cost of ownership is important when deciding which MES solution to deploy.

      Items to consider when evaluating the total cost:

      • How much time will it take to maintain the system?

      • What skills are required to maintain it?

      • What product training is required to run the system?

      • After the software is installed, can it be maintained independently?

      • If the solution is expanded to a second location, what kind of cost reduction in services can be expected?

      • How are productivity and quality gains measured, and what improvements are expected?

      • What are the ongoing support capabilities and costs from the provider?

        • Whether choosing a large or a small company, the solution provider should understand your specific needs and offer a solution that can grow and change with your business.

          This article is excerpted from a white paper written for MESA by Christine Lesher and Ed Patzsch of Citect, Alpharetta, GA, and reviewed by John Plassenthal of International Truck and Engine Corporation and Jeff Nuse of Wonderware. For more information on MESA membership go to www.mesa.org .



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