Whether you're a tree hugger or tree cutter, greening your supply chain with a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) is proving to be an efficient technique businesses are using to meet their bottom line. We've already seen numerous industries progress from paper-based systems to fully-integrated electronic systems. For example, all of my banking is paperless; I can transfer money online, receive balance account updates via text message and opt-out of receiving paper statements. Medical records are going electronic too. We are living in a lean and green world! Already the number of manufacturers adopting MES is on the rise and expected to double (35 percent to 71 percent), with more than one third extending these functions into the supply chain. 1 Given the increasingly demanding environment, job seekers should understand the lean and green value a MES really adds to shop floor operations. I'll explain...
When it comes to the supply chain, there is no question that the manufacturing process is the most significant area of value and waste creation. In an ideal manufacturing setting, the corporate office has the ability to view or modify operations, extract reports containing resource and production data, and reduce cost by eliminating the waste involved with faulty batch cycles. For these abilities to be of most value, supervisors must have real-time data collection and visibility, internal and external linkages, and capability to quickly adapt to changing business needs. Unlike other nodes in the supply chain, improvements in product production are heavily dependant upon: product quality, production speed, machine deployment and labor productivity. Currently, most manufacturers are operating with Automation Control Systems (SCADA) and Enterprise Resource Planner (ERP) technology. While these technology systems have set the industry standard and will deliver some early lean and green benefits, their paper-based environment often results in labor-intensive processes. These systems can not provide the real-time capabilities needed to establish a lean manufacturing enterprise.
A lean manufacturing enterprise has a production process that achieves more value with less work. Lean manufacturing is a generic process management philosophy derived mostly from the Toyota Production System (TPS). The key principles of a lean manufacturing enterprise include:
- Builds integrity in the customer
- Rapid delivery of a quality product
- Flexibility for late decision making
- Visibility of the whole production process
- Empowerment of the team
- Elimination of waste everywhere, including:
As businesses and industries across all sectors upgrade their operational systems to support the lean enterprise model, we consistently are finding most of the tactics and strategy solutions are green. Going green may not be just another trend, but rather a keystone in how companies conduct business. Therefore, it is a strong possibility that employers will want to know if you are up-to-speed on the latest technology systems, such as MES.
I'm guessing your next question might be: How does MES contribute to more sustainable development? Quite simply, MES seeks to take all aspects of manufacturing command and control from paper-based to a paperless, fully-integrated electronic platform. MES can allow you to manage, optimize and execute mission-critical manufacturing processes with a touch of a screen. By collecting and measuring real-time data, MES offers companies unsurpassed visibility of the whole production process. MES electronically communicates with each shop floor operator on exactly what to do, from prioritizing their work to preventing mistakes and rework along the way. This ability eliminates "crystal ball" management and the "hope and pray" method of disaster prevention. Some say MES will give supervisors the "Midas Touch" to block errors, eliminate waste and increase productivity.
Additionally, some vendors have begun to educate their customers on the elements of MES. Take a few minutes to review HighJump Software's great overview of MES. It puts the system's promise in very clear terms.
Does MES Replace My Job?
As with any new technology, employees are always concerned that they could be replaced by an automation system. Let me assure you that MES does not replace your job, rather it offers you tools to increase your productivity. For example, the paperless banking industry still needs bankers and hospitals still need nurses and doctors.
MES is Making Green a Reality
As an IT professional, it's important to stay abreast of rising technologies in the marketplace. For example, last year, Managing Automation Magazine awarded General Dynamics AIS with its 2008 Progressive Manufacturing Award for their modernization efforts in their factory leading to a paperless manufacturing process facilitated by iBASEt's Solumina MES solution. Clearly, green tech's star is rising. Make sure you know what it takes to be "Lean and Green."
1 Aberdeen Group report: "Global Manufacturing: MES and Beyond Benchmark Report," May 2006.
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