Here we are, about halfway through the year. And it’s delivering even more economic turmoil because of inflation, geopolitical upheavals driving supply chain disruptions, and a likely economic recession. In the face of so much uncertainty, businesses are looking to improve their safety, quality, and equipment reliability performance. Manufacturers are recognizing that they will have to re-shore manufacturing, improve efficiency, and redesign plants to attract the next generation of employees.
Media reports have cited numerous studies that document increased digital transformation spending as companies seek to overcome current challenges and prepare for those expected in the future. In a recent blog post by Max Eitel, Don’t Ignore a Critical Safety Tool: Your Manufacturing Execution System, Eitel explains how an MES can help improve your safety performance. But an effective MES also offers tools to help with quality and plant reliability by increasing process stability and integration.
Why Stability is So Critical
Depending on your manufacturing segment, research shows that a stable process provides safety, quality, and reliability gains anywhere from 50% to as much as 80%. In many discrete industries where machining is a critical component of the manufacturing process, the majority of non-material-related quality issues occur during process disruptions, such as product changeover and setup cycles.
Manufacturers often look to the motorsports industry for inspirational speakers for user group meetings. These speakers frequently discuss the importance of teamwork or why training and practice, such as for pit stops, are critical to success. But the analogies don’t stop there. Another lesson from racing is that caution periods (where the cars are slowed behind a pace car due to an on-track accident or debris) invariably result in more caution periods. This is because it is often during restarts, when drivers are operating cars that are not at optimal operating conditions and at speed, that subsequent accidents occur.
The same holds true in manufacturing. Most machining processes are designed to deliver optimal quality by occurring at a single speed with constant feed rates and process dynamics. The more you can keep the process within the process design specifications, the less scrap or downgraded product is produced. As with automobile racing, equipment failures most often occur during startup and shutdown cycles. One of the basic tenants of reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) is to not over-maintain your equipment. Often, just disassembling a machine to inspect it leads to performance issues that were not present before the maintenance activity.
The Role of a Manufacturing Operations Platform in Process Stability
An MES can offer even more when it comes to enhancing process stability and operational performance. And to truly leverage all that your MES can do, integrating with solutions like supplier quality management (SQM), maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) – as well as key external platforms like PLM and ERP – can create an integrated manufacturing operations platform that improves accuracy, efficiency, and process stability at every stage of your manufacturing process.
The integration of MES with SQM and MRO solutions extends your manufacturing operations management beyond the shopfloor, enabling dynamic quality tracking and control at the source and efficiency and traceability in aftermarket maintenance. This integrated system extends quality and visibility across the value chain, an invaluable advantage in the current climate of supply chain uncertainty and upheaval.
When tightly integrated to your PLM, your MES ensures the proper materials are used in the right sequence during manufacturing, reducing start/stop issues as workers search for materials or try to locate the correct work instructions. When shop floor issues occur, PLM-MES integration allows faster isolation of the root cause, so issues can be contained and corrected, and normal processes can be resumed as quickly as possible.
Similarly, effective integration between your MES and ERP orchestrates work orders with resource needs so that every business process is synchronized. The collaboration of business systems also means that data entry only needs to be done one time, which streamlines production by removing repetitive processes.
The extended manufacturing operations platform enabled by an integrated MES not only enhances stability at every stage of your manufacturing process – it also creates a digital thread: a connected data flow and integrated view of an asset’s data throughout its lifecycle. This integration of data across traditionally siloed functional perspectives simply isn’t possible with a siloed or paper-based approach.
So, while the business climate may be in turmoil, an integrated manufacturing operations platform can help you drive process stability, delivering performance that will allow your business to prosper in even the most unpredictable conditions.
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