MES for Dummies
When performing projects for manufacturing companies, there is a word that has been getting trendy through the years, Manufacturing Execution Systems, also known as MES, but ¿What does it mean? To understand what MES is, first we should know what ISA 95 is. An international standard that indicates that there are fourth levels of action when we talk about manufacturing, these levels are described in the following figure:
Let’s explain better what a manufacturing execution system is:
MES is located on the third level of the pyramid, these systems are meant to help the operators, supervisors, and plant managers do their daily jobs. Therefore, they help reduce the time people have to spend doing none value tasks that can be automated. Giving them the opportunity to focus their time on the really important tasks in order to increase the income of the plant.
These are some of the most relevant functionalities that the MES has:
1. ERP Integration
Usually, companies have systems to do the administrative tasks such as order creation, billing, formulation, transportation, logistics, etc. due to the complexity of these tasks, ERP systems are usually very expensive and require long and intensive training to adapt the users to the tools and consequently use them properly.
It is very common to hear that a company has their ERPs located in the central offices, which are not always located in their plant, so ¿What happens to the plant? The MES is meant to fill this void, acting as a bridge between the plant and the central offices, talking to the ERP directly, and avoiding the operators to send their information through email, phone, or any other communication form. With this integration, the ability to take better decisions and planning of the administrative staff will be greatly enhanced as they will have reliable data constantly updated as the plant works.
2. PCS Integration
It is also common to find plants that have a great number of control systems from different vendors and even different versions within the same vendor. Due to this nature, many times, these systems don’t talk to each other, and the operators have to input manually the information from one system to the other. In this area MES works as an orchestrator, talking to all the control systems, getting, and sending information across the process. Giving the operators the ability to work only with it and avoiding using the PCSs.
As an operator, the last thing you need is systems that are difficult to learn or use. So, a key driver for MES is to be user friendly as possible, automating most actions such as pull data from other systems and calculating values from formulas. Thus, the operator just needs to spend a few minutes on each activity, and the system will handle it in the background.
4. Offline availability
Commonly, the plants are located far away from a reliable internet connection, due to these constrain it is also a key driver that a MES can operate offline in case the network is not available at any given time. As the plant needs to keep working even if there are outages of internet, it is common that this manufacture system has queues implemented for connection with other systems outside the plant such as the ERPs.
5. Process Standardization
MES is also meant to standardize the processes at the plant by giving the operators’ step by step when executing any given process, preventing them to do actions in a different order than the company wants to. This way the company can ensure that all the operators execute the processes in the same way at all the facilities they have.
To conclude, the main objective of the MES is facilitating the operator’s life by giving them a way to register the data of the processes they run. Taking away the paperwork and the extra time that needs to be spent filling out forms and reports, by using a very friendly and intuitive system that does this work for them.