3 Ways an MES Creates a Smarter Supply Chain

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Todd Montpas currently acts as a Product Manager, Information Software at Rockwell Automation.

Whether it’s running shoes, packaged foods or cosmetics, the number of personalized products available to consumers continues to grow. More SKUs and customized products require faster, more flexible manufacturing operations. And creating a more responsive operation is just part of the equation.

To remain competitive, you must also build a more effective supply chain. One that can maximize yield and reduce waste from raw materials to finished goods. A manufacturing execution system (MES) can help you achieve these goals in some key ways:

1. Replace Assumptions with Insight-based Decisions

When you rely on a paper-based system, spreadsheets – or even an ERP system – to track materials through your supply chain, your access to information is limited. These methods cannot deliver the granular, plant-floor information you need to make production decisions efficiently.

So how do you keep orders on track when there’s a raw material delivery delay or equipment failure? Chances are, you consult with plant personnel to make the best decision you can regarding how to reroute production. But with limited visibility into your process, you must rely heavily on your workers’ experiences. “What if” scenarios, assumptions and best guesses regarding equipment availability and impact to the schedule are all part of the process.

An MES changes this equation. The core functionality of an MES is centered on the supply chain and production management. And the beauty of the system is its ability to effectively communicate with both the ERP and plant-level control systems in real time.

The MES brings an order into production, orchestrates the manufacturing process, and tracks the order as it moves through the system. It can show you exactly where an order is in the process, track raw material consumptions and report back up to the ERP level.

But an MES that’s tightly tied to the automation layer can do much more. The system leverages smart technology on the plant floor to continuously monitor and act upon KPIs, including machine readiness – which encompasses cleaning, previous order completion and material delivery systems.

The result? Better visibility to critical information you can quickly assess. And better, faster production decisions.

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2. Reduce Waste and Inventory Levels

Everyone plans to use raw materials efficiently, but plant floor scenarios are dynamic. One key to minimizing waste is choosing the best way to route perishable ingredients – like milk – through a production facility.

Using an MES to track raw material lots and work-in-progress (WIP) inventories in real time can optimize raw material usage – and have a dramatic impact on your inventory levels.

One global cheese producer was able to reduce raw material inventory levels by 15% after applying an MES.

How? First an MES tracks incoming supply, as well as expiration dates, storage temperature values and other data that affect raw material quality. As a result, you have access to up-to-date, granular and contextualized information that an ERP or manual system simply cannot provide.

Then, an MES enables you to use those raw materials most efficiently – depending on the real-time equipment status on the production floor.

The MES will alert you to changes in supply and manufacturing capacity. And based on rulesets you define, it dynamically adjusts and orchestrates production runs so materials are used in an order that maximizes freshness and reduces waste.

3. Take the Guesswork Out of Yield

In the low-margin CPG industry, improving yield is one of the surest ways to increase profitability. However, many companies simply don’t understand where all raw materials are consumed in a process.

Of course, companies do their best to establish reasonable yields upfront. After all, you have experts that know the machines, manufacturing process and expected performance. But unanticipated losses during production often mean that actual yield falls short of projections.

Most companies track and record actual yield on the backend. But this information isn’t available in real time during the production process. Because of this, you may end up over-producing to hit your targets.

An MES delivers the insight you need to stop the losses – and match yield to production targets. And, an MES tracks KPIs such as “actual vs. planned consumption” in real time throughout the process. As a result, the system can also monitor yields at various manufacturing stages – and dynamically orchestrate adjustments.


    Todd Montpas currently acts as a Product Manager, Information Software at Rockwell Automation. Prior to this role, Montpas managed marketing for the company’s Automotive & Tire division and facilitated Rockwell’s global sales to Ford Motor Company. His tenure in the industry also includes experience at Cognex Corporation and McNaughton-McKay Electric Company. Montpas received his BSEE in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Michigan in 1992.