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Many manufacturers in today’s demanding marketplace are realizing that they need something to help increase quality and boost productivity. They just don’t know exactly what it is.

Let’s say your specific challenge is consistently producing defect-free parts. Installing new error-proofing software is one option, even though you may understand it’s really a stopgap. It doesn’t do enough to control your production and create a trustworthy, repeatable process.

Being the “big picture” thinker you are, you consider an IT system, such as an MES (Manufacturing Execution System), which collects data that’s used to make better decisions moving forward. But you’ve heard some drawbacks, and you have a few of your own.

It’s time to get all concerns on the table and uncover the real truth behind six MES misconceptions.

1. “It costs too much”

How many manufacturers these days have money to throw around? Any expense may feel like too much of an expense. And surely, a new system that does everything an MES is rumored to do must be expensive, right? 

Truth is…an MES solution is a bargain. Here’s why: when you’re searching for one solution to one problem, your initial reaction to an MES’s price tag may be legitimate surprise. But, that’s before you know all the functions and benefits of having one and the many solutions it provides:

  1. Establishing a plan. Staying on schedule. The system takes your input and calculates your TAKT time. Operators see real-time progress on dashboard graphics.
  2. Enforcing a repeatable process. Every step, from fastening to product routing, is nailed every time, just as you defined it.
  3. Creating a rich data set. Use your business intelligence platform, explore your data set, and identify and solve your hidden inefficiencies.

So, when you consider that an MES is a system for digitally transforming manufacturing throughout your entire facility, the cost is actually reasonable.

2. “It will disrupt my process”

Truth is…it will. It’s supposed to! And it’s why an MES is so effective.

Here’s an example. When a product comes into a station, a fastening tool is enabled by the MES, which knows only four bolts need to be tightened. When those are finished, the tool becomes disabled by the MES to ensure the operator doesn’t mistakenly use it again.

Initially, an operator may not appreciate that feature, thinking that freedom is lost somehow. Yet once it’s realized that the process becomes more controlled (and effective with all the data collected), the MES is seen as the proper way to execute that task.

Processes will be “disrupted” in order for a better way to be implemented.

3. “It will confuse my operators”

Having to learn new software doesn’t sound too exciting to many operators.

Truth is…the right MES solution is flexible, intuitive, and simple. Most operators require only 5-10 minutes of instruction before they’re using an MES. Usually, they become comfortable with the user-friendly interface in less than an hour.

Not all MES solutions are the same, but the top-end solutions are designed to be easy to learn and simple to use.

4. “It’s the same thing as my ERP”

Many organizations use enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to manage common business activities (accounting, project management, supply chain operations, etc.). While an ERP performs many helpful tasks, it doesn’t have the precise manufacturing functionality of an MES.

Truth is…most ERP systems lack the level of detail found in most MES solutions. Back to the fastening tool example for a moment. The tool communicates manufacturing details: a specific IP address for connection over the network, and programs within the tool for use when needed. That level of detail is unheard of in an ERP yet standard in an MES.

Think of an MES as your manufacturing team being in control of a manufacturing system, which complements, and is connected to, an ERP.

5. “It can’t adapt to my changing needs”

Speaking of avoiding future headaches, the best MES solutions are designed to expand usefulness as a company grows. To be clear: not all do that.

As an example, some MES’s are installed and do a great job. Yet, when a tool needs to be moved from one station to another, it requires additional input and programming from the MES supplier, slowing down manufacturing and adding costs.

Truth is…the top-end MES solutions today are highly flexible and adaptable, allowing the manufacturer to make changes on their own and manage their own processes. So, this “misconception” isn’t really off-base; it just needs to be addressed as systems are evaluated before purchase.

Plus, it’s reassuring to know that a solid MES solution perfectly positions a manufacturer for the future, especially Industry 4.0’s data-hungry model. Selecting an infrastructure now that supports collecting and sharing of vital data is key, no matter when that may happen in your plant.

6. “It’s not as good as PLC industrial software”

Some manufacturers have the perception that software running on the production floor needs to be industrial software; that Microsoft-based software is inadequate.

While some MES solutions are a server software-based solution, others are a mixture of server and a programmable logic control (PLC) system. A PLC is an industrial computer control system that uses coding to program various functions and control the state of output devices.

Truth is…this misconception is fading away as more and more manufacturers experience the benefits and reliability of Microsoft-based software systems. Plus, a younger workforce is continually growing up with familiarity working on this type of technology.

Hopefully, some misconceptions are cleared up, and you now see an MES as a holistic solution; an investment that controls your process to improve quality and productivity now and into the future. If you’d like to learn more about how to select the right MES solution, read our guide, MES for Discrete Manufacturers. Just click on the image below.

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