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Every manufacturer faces quality control challenges.

Tools break. People slip up. Lines shut down (hopefully not too often). Each manufacturer handles challenges differently, which directly affects the bottom line today as well as the long-term health of the organization moving forward.

Using a manufacturing execution system (MES) doesn’t guarantee you’ll eliminate all future challenges, but it greatly changes how many you’ll experience and how drastically they’ll affect your productivity.

Let’s focus on some situations that commonly challenge a manufacturing line’s quality. This article contains a handful of examples (I’m sure you can add to this list).

The short story: Having an MES solution uncovers the “why” behind a challenge. It helps create long-term solutions using data to enforce a repeatable process. That’s when day-in, day-out continuous improvement happens and quality jumps.

Line Stoppage

An operator discovers that an important piece of equipment is broken, let’s say an electric fastening system. What happens next?

WITHOUT an MES solution: The operator is provided with a click wrench and begins using that to tighten bolts. However, there’s no traceability that the work is being done.

WITH an MES solution: A click wrench is also utilized (temporarily, at least), and the MES forces the operator to acknowledge that the work is properly done. This confirms and tracks that event, ensuring that quality can be maintained and the repeatable process is not compromised.

Not Enforcing A Repeatable Process

Speaking of ensuring quality, following a repeatable process is critical. This situation is different, because no equipment is broken, and the operator correctly uses all five tools at the station. However, the sequence is wrong. What happens next?

WITHOUT an MES solution: All tools are enabled, and the operator grabs whichever they think is correct. So, the right work is done to the wrong fastener. You’ve trusted the operator to complete the steps in the order shown, but that failed to happen.

WITH an MES solution: The operator sees the step to be done on a display screen. Only the tool required for the next process is enabled; the others are locked until the previous step is completed properly. It’s impossible for the process not to be repeatable.

Failing To Root Cause A Chronic Issue

This situation involves a challenge that’s occurring over and over. Numbers aren’t being hit, and many people have many opinions on it, including specific stations that may or may not be underproducing. A decision is made to root cause it. So, what happens next?

WITHOUT an MES solution: Management doesn’t have data to know how often this is happening, so they must rely on people’s subjective analyses, which includes their biases. It’s even unclear if it’s a chronic issue or not.

WITH an MES solution: Historical data shows what’s actually going on, not what people think is happening. Reason codes and descriptions allow management to identify the real cause of the problem. Is this a big issue or not? The answer will be clear.

Not Double-Checking An Automation System

For this one, a maintenance person adjusted the setting of a fastening tool, lowering the amount of torque that should be applied. A full shift’s worth of product was built using the incorrect torque before the next operator identified that the limits were moved by mistake. So, what happens next?

WITHOUT an MES solution: An operator receives the same false-positive result message from the controller's display over and over, as does the automation control system via a contact relay. That automation system’s mistake continues until a person catches the error.

WITH an MES solution: The system provides double verification of the product’s quality: the tool provides a positive result message AND empirical data is analyzed within the software. The product being manufactured is too important to not be checked and double-checked.

Not Planning For The Future

Just about all modern manufacturing is being done using computers in some way, with full visibility and information sharing. The digital enterprise and Industry 4.0’s IoT devices need a focal point of contact, which is the MES. So, what happens next?

WITHOUT an MES solution: If there’s no MES, there’s no computer, and no new technology can be added. It really puts a roadblock to future development.

WITH an MES solution: A manufacturer is set up for the future, whatever it may bring, when an MES solution is implemented. The system has the capacity to add new technology while keeping all scheduling and workflows on track.

Improving the quality of the products you make should be a priority, but the fire for continuous improvement doesn’t burn within every organization. An MES solution inherently has that built in, so driving improvement initiatives is a natural result of the system. It doesn’t mean you can sit back and automatically get better; it means the data you’ll have is actionable within a repeatable process, inspiring a shift toward improvement.

Quality control challenges will always test a manufacturer’s resolve. They can shut down lines and crush profit margins, or they can quickly be overcome and lead to positive change. Having an MES solution on your side can make all the difference.

Not all MES solutions do everything you need them to do. To help you achieve quality excellence and manufacturing efficiency, consider PINpoint’s V5 MES solution. Contact us to arrange a demo!

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