MES or Production Analytics: What Is The Best Solution for My Packaging Factory?

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By Mariana Costa, Marketing Specialist at PackIOT

Production Analytics is not the same as Manufacturing Execution System – MES. Both are different tools with different goals. We want to help you understand and spot the main differences between these two distinct systems and hopefully help you make better decisions for your factory in the future.

The goal of any manufacturing analytics application is always to increase capacity, productivity and throughput. Basically, what all this means is doing more with the same already existing resources. This is achieved by using machine and operator data through which is possible to find and eliminate bottlenecks in the manufacturing processes. In this sense, MES software might present some limitations. While it is possible to identify common functionalities between production (or manufacturing) analytics and MES they are completely different tools used for different jobs.

1_MES – Manufacturing Execution System

MES is an information system that leads the execution of manufacturing operations. The goal is always to achieve and maintain high performance. To meet these goals MES is able to perform and complete a group of tasks on the factory floor that are integrated with other systems across the organization:

  • Monitor and enforce the correct execution of the production process
  • Monitor and control the material used in the production process
  • Gather information about the production process
  • Provide the tools for the analysis of the data to optimize efficiency
  • Deliver and manage work-instructions
  • Provide the tools to solve problems and optimize procedures

MES systems vary in sizes, complexity and features. It can go from the very basic shop floor data collection solutions attached to an ERP system to completely automated solutions as complex as a SAP REP system. It was a major contribution to Industry 4.0 as it includes the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). However, not every MES system is designed to accommodate more advanced capabilities, such as integration, decentralization and new technologies of Industry 4.0

The operation key word of MES is CONTROL as it allows the control of the manufacturing process in highly repetitive activities. Nevertheless, for most companies MES might not be the solution.

Most manufacturing companies consist of fluid operations with constant change in schedules and needs. The controlling capabilities of a MES system might actually play against its favour since it does not meet the reality lived inside a factory. Besides, for a MES system to meet its goals it needs data input from operators and the more functions it has the more input it will need from the workforce.

2_Production Analytics

Production or Manufacturing analytics is a software that brings predictive analytics, big data, IIoT and mobile design to manufacturing companies. This new software technology was created to ensure better product quality, increase performance, reduce costs and optimize supply chains. This movement came with the advances of the Industry 4.0 revolution.

In today’s highly competitive world, it is unthinkable to wait weeks or even days to have important answers or to make key decisions. It is a necessity for manufacturers to have a 360 degree view into the entire process with the right data and optimize their outputs and decision quality.

For all these reasons, the main goal of production analytics is to increase capacity and throughput with the same resources. By using machine and operator data, it is possible to find the inefficiencies of the production line and act upon it to help the manufacturing process. This way, any production analytics should do four things well: acquire data, contextualize data, calculate manufacturing KPIs and produce analysis dashboards. With production analytics you will be able to transform data into immediate insights which, consequently, will help you adopt a preventive maintenance approach when making decisions.

3_What can you do with production analytics that you can’t with MES?

In short, MES is really made to summarize data. You will be able to have the answers to questions like: “How much scrap did we have on this job?”, “How much did we produce in this shift?” or “What is the cycle time for this product?”. These are obviously very important questions that will improve the workflow in a way but it stays far from the real intent on improving efficiency. It is just not enough detail.

Let’s have an example: if you would like to improve the cycle time of a product, where would you start?

With MES, it is possible to get a list of production records and see which one was faster or slower than the other. The operators and supervisors will have access to this information but might have some difficulty in remembering why one is faster than the other. Then, next time you run this product cycle again you will also make sure to include a time study, find the inefficiencies and design a plan to improve velocity. In the end, you will run the reports again in the MES and check if the improvements were verified.

Things become very different if we decide to approach the initial question with a production analytics system. This system will allow you to have detailed records on the second showing you the behaviour of the machine in real time. It is possible to observe a great amount of diverse variables such as: setup times, changeovers, tool breaks, short stops, lunches, among other possibilities.

It is not needed to run a time study or any other study because the analytics system already does it for you every minute of the day. With manufacturing analytics the performance of your factory is monitored in real time and once it goes below standard expectations it can alert you. This is huge since you are now capable of fixing the problem in the moment and not just diagnose it after the fact.

This is without a doubt a great competitive edge since manufacturing analytics is providing real-time contextual analysis. Digitizing your business will allow you to:

  • optimize costs
  • improve quality
  • accelerate innovation
  • increase productivity and profitability of operations
  • uncover immediate insights in the data
  • overall processes and performance optimization

It’s highly expected that production analytics will have a bigger impact on manufacturing companies than a MES system. Any company of sufficient size needs MES but it won’t get the expected efficiency gains with it, at least not on the shop floor. 

If you are growing or aim to do so or having trouble finding solutions to production issues, production analytics will give you the leverage you need, helping you to collect and manage the key data in context.