Choosing the Right Manufacturing Execution System (MES)
An MES offers a variety of benefits to manufacturers seeking to maximize operational efficiency and improve profitability. However, finding the right MES solution to help manage your shop floor can be challenging. There are many options available, so how do you know which one is the best fit for your manufacturing plant?
Key MES Features and Functionality
When searching for an MES solution, it’s important to first define and clarify the features and benefits that you need ━ and how you will measure the success of your MES efforts. This approach will ensure that you don’t invest time researching solutions that don’t have the minimum functionality, flexibility, and capabilities needed. We recommend an MES solution that, at the bare minimum, includes the following seven major components:
1. Integrates with Multiple Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Solutions
Ideally, you want to find a solution that will work with your existing ERP, and also offers flexibility should your ERP strategy change. Does the vendor have a successful track record with ERP integrations? Have they worked with yours before? Have they worked with others? Good ERP integration is basic functionality and a critical success factor for improving your factory floor performance.
2. Flexibility to Scale & Customize
Some MES packages offer no or little ability to accommodate what’s unique about your business. Others offer a monolithic architecture that is an all-or-nothing solution. What is ideal? The ideal is a modular architecture allowing you to buy what you need, when you need it, and is one that scales with your business. Therefore, look for a flexible, modular based system so it aligns with your manufacturing operations and then change as your business evolves. Of course, it’s important to understand the “out-of-the-box” capabilities and the extent to which you can configure and if necessary customize the solution. The more flexible the solution, the easier it will be to tailor it to your specific shop floor needs today and in the future.
3. Robust Functionality to Meet Your Shop Floor Needs
Complex manufacturing operations require appropriately robust solutions. Don’t neglect to do your research regarding the breadth and depth of functionality in MES solutions. Some MES solutions offer more than you may realize or, in some cases, far more than you need and require complex, long and costly implementations. Others may be limited in ways that could decrease its ability to help you meet your goals. In either case, document your work flow and have a checklist of the functionality that you require today, rank it by priority, and don’t forget to include your list of future needs.
4. User-Friendly Interface & Fast Implementation
The best MES solution will offer user interfaces that are intuitive to all and easy to learn especially by Operators on the factory floor. Complex user interfaces increase the time for user adoption, and can decrease the likelihood of a successful implementation. Furthermore, an MES solution that can be implemented in a reasonably short period of time (90-120 days) is optimal. One benefit of a quick implementation process is the potential to see a visible ROI in a shorter period of time. Implementations that are more than 9 months and require many hundreds (or even thousands) of costly professional services hours may not be appropriate for your shop.
5. Integrates with Common 3rd Party Platforms
Beyond integrating with your existing ERP, it’s also important to determine whether the MES solution connects to common 3rd party platforms such as PLM, APS, QMS/QCS, and Payroll systems. Be sure to review the specifications and integrations in detail to determine if it works with these platforms and how efficiently those systems communicate on a daily basis.
6. Offers Role-Based Access & Unique Permissions
Additionally, look for a solution that enables role-based access permissions. With so much functionality and visibility into real-time operations, it’s important to ensure each user has access to what they need, and that confidential data remains secure.
7. Reporting and Dashboards
Lastly, clear reporting and easy to read dashboards are the foundation for measuring your progress towards improving operations. Can you adjust the OOE or OEE calculations to reflect how you run your business? Are you able to create and distribute a clear, consistent set of reports out to key recipients? Is there dashboarding functionality that allows Supervisors and Team Leaders on the factory floor to see immediately (or be alerted) if there is a critical issue, such as unscheduled machine down time?
What to Look for in an MES Vendor
When shopping for an MES solution, take into consideration the quality and experience of the MES vendor. While the MES software itself is undoubtedly important, the MES partner (not vendor) you select is going to play a significant role in your long-term success. While conducting your research, keep an eye out for a vendor with a:
Focus on continuous improvement and with regular enhancements and upgrades to the software
Substantial experience in manufacturing operations and long-tenured customers
Proven track record of providing significant ROI in a short period of time
Library of successful case studies and metric-informed testimonials
- Focus on continuous improvement and with regular enhancements and upgrades to the software
- Substantial experience in manufacturing operations and long-tenured customers
- Proven track record of providing significant ROI in a short period of time
- Library of successful case studies and metric-informed testimonials
Shopping for an MES?
At ShopVue, we understand how critical it is to find an MES that fits your unique needs. If you’re interested in partnering with an MES provider that offers all of the above and more, ShopVue might be the right MES solution for you. Download the ShopVue Buying Guide now to find out.