MES and Lean – a great team
How does MES fit into the Lean picture?
Every production company has heard of the Lean principle: analyzing the value stream with the aim of eliminating ‘waste’, increasing productivity and efficiency. Process control is an important factor here.
In this blog we start from the following 2 Lean principles:
- Only do work that adds value to the product
- Avoiding work that adds no value
In practice we see a form, branching or adjacent Lean principle in every company; 5S, PDCA, Kaizen, Kanban. The list can be expanded even further.
But how does MES (Manufacturing Execution System) fit into the Lean picture? Is MES part of Lean Manufacturing?
Our answer: a resounding yes! We will delve into this further below.
Production and chain integration
What we often see:
- Production departments operate in isolation, with intermediate buffers, and are not integrated as a chain;
- The status of the production process cannot be viewed in real time or can be retrieved afterwards, and the status of the entire (production) chain is not known;
- Data from production is on paper, Excel,.. at least minimal.
Starting with the last example: MES is integrated throughout the entire production chain and linked to the machines. One of the basic functionalities of MES is data collection. This allows you to know the status of machines, pipeline stocks, production progress and so on at any time; all related to a frame of reference; an order, article, line,..
Due to these insights of the processes, but especially the total overview, the production process in its entirety can be controlled by means of MES. All production lines and processes are known in MES, which provides a good insight into the entire value stream.
A pillar in Lean is continuous improvement. The data collection by MES and the insight into the total process fits perfectly in this Lean pillar: the results are minimal waste and maximum efficiency.
On a production line, the operator spends a lot of time on the physical production process; after all, this is his core task. But of the available time, he also spends time on requesting stock, keeping track of stocks, reading instructions, setting up machines, filling in various papers and keeping track of how much has been used.
MES can automate and facilitate all these mentioned tasks:
- Stock is automatically requested when the order is released;
- Consumption and available stock is tracked by MES, based on coupled machines;
- Instructions can be requested digitally step-by-step, or are displayed;
- MES download settings and parameters to the controller;
- Checks are done easily in MES. MES also indicates whether corrections should be made;
- Disruptions, standstill registration, OEE: this is largely done automatically thanks to the linked machines.
MES allows an operator to focus much more on his core task: controlling the production process as well as possible and thereby maximizing both output and quality and keeping it stable.
As mentioned, MES collects data. With this, a detailed disturbance and standstill registration can be drawn up by MES. This makes it possible to prioritize which improvements to implement first, based on facts. Doing it this way can increase productivity.
To speak in Lean terms: non-value adding activities are eliminated.
In the Lean principle, repetition of the same is important, always with the same steps and quality. MES is of great added value in this respect. Because MES in many cases controls machines, gives the operator instructions and thereby checks the process, it is not just possible to deviate from the entered standard. Stable production, with the same settings in the same way according to instructions, ensures a highly standardized process, with constant quality and minimal waste as output.
The right MES ensures that the production process runs Lean, by giving the right messages, warnings and checking certain parts
Lean without MES?
Now the question may arise; is Lean possible without MES?
The answer to that is again yes ; it is only less optimal and less effective than with MES.
Lean without MES:
- You lack visibility/transparency of the production process – this leads to more research work for improvements (and this in turn takes time);
- Prioritizing improvements to be tackled is guesswork (gut feeling);
- Results of continuous improvements are not clear, because it is not continuously tested afterwards.
Lean with MES:
- Real-time data available, large set of historical data available to work with;
- Waste can be traced and identified, which ensures a better Lean working method;
- Prioritizing improvements (the ‘top x’) is easy.
‘We work so Lean, we don’t need a MES’
A comment we often hear. There are companies with simple production processes, which have long runs where Lean is in the company DNA. Waste is reduced and productivity is steadily increasing, through continuous improvement initiatives.
An MES will certainly have a positive effect in these companies as well; this is rather an extra tool on top of the Lean method. Through chain integration, transparency of the process, process control and data collection, an MES will also have an effect in a ‘total-Lean’ company. Reliable data is the key word here: for every company this is a gold mine of information to optimize the Lean process of continuous improvement. That is why an MES system is of added value in this case too.
Our conclusion: Lean and MES reinforce each other and go together perfectly. In other words: MES and Lean – a great team!
MES in the food industry
The conviction that an MES is necessary immediately raises a new question: What steps do we need to take to implement MES successfully? This white paper is based on many years of experience with MES in the food industry and with every project new insights are added and our approach is refined.
Part 1: What can a MES do for you?
Part 2: How do you successfully select and implement a MES?
Curious about what a MES can do for you?
Please contact Jos.