151. Idea – What is MES?


00:00 Mayuri: 

I would say one of the most important features of MES is reducing downtime. So it costs a lot for the plant to deal with downtime because whenever a machine is down, whenever the equipment is down, it also requires enhanced maintenance. And they just end up losing more money. Like I said before giving an insight into what is going to cause a downtime and then making sure that there are measures put in place so that you can work on getting a better throughput that would just reduce the overall downtime. So I think with these the manager would be convinced to use MES in their plant.

00:36 Chris: 

Welcome to EECO Asks Why. Today, we have an idea episode and we’re going to be breaking down MES and this is a topic we haven’t talked about on EECO Asks Why. I’m very excited to go through this, and I know it’s going to have a lot of value for our listeners out there, and to help us understand this concept and what MES systems are we have Maryuri Dahibhate, who is the MES engineer at E Technologies Group. So, Maryuri, how are you doing today? 

01:31 Mayuri: 

Hey, Chris, I’m doing good. How are you? 

01:35 Chris: 

I’m good. I am so excited to talk with you. You actually were a referral from one of our EECO Asks Why alumni, Mr. Matthew Simmons. So I was excited that he connected us. So I’m very excited to talk to you today and maybe just help us to get started, lay a base for that listeners out there because some of our listeners may not even know what MES stands for. So how would you explain that to someone who’s new to the topic? 

01:59 Mayuri: 

So I have been working as an MES engineer for almost all of my career after I graduated from college. So MES stands for manufacturing execution systems. Someone who works in a shop floor environment would know what an MES is but I’m pretty sure that a normal person would not know what an MES can do for a shop floor. I’m really excited about this opportunity to talk about MES because it’s evolving and as more and more people start knowing more about it I’m sure it’s going to be a new technological evolution. 

What MES is, it’s basically a middle layer between the enterprise planning and the shop floor. So whatever happens at the control system level in a plant gets transferred over to ERP using MES and all the KPIs for production that help a plant achieve their overall effectiveness is given by MES. So MES solutions are basically something that help achieve the overall equipment efficiency of a plant and help improving the productivity of a plant.

Manufacturing execution system also helps in tracking all of the production data. And in turn, it helps in better efficiency management, quality management, inventory management. And it also helps in a lot of scheduling, any processes that are predefined in a plant can be carried out using an MES system. And the output can be measured in terms of what the performance of the plant was. So that gives the users a handle or what is exactly happening in the plant. And they have all of the data to do a further analysis. 

03:46 Chris: 

Okay. Now, when you’re talking about manufacturing companies in general, is there a compelling why behind the MES on why to embrace that from that manufacturing industry specifically? 

03:57 Mayuri: 

Yeah. So a lot of times there are plants that are still doing a lot of paperwork. So operators are doing manual work, writing down their results on paper and all of that is not really accountable for most of the time. There could be any physical situation in which the paperwork could be lost or tampered with, but whenever an MES system comes into place it just gives a lot of accountability for all of the users at the site.

So it helps the plan keep the processes flowing just the way they should be and all of the data accountable for. So if anyone is entering any production data into MES it gets stored in a database that is dedicated to MES. So in future, if you wanted to retrieve that data, and if you wanted to see who did what or the productivity accountable then you have that data available versus keeping manual records, which might not be available in say X number of years.

05:01 Chris: 

Now, so that sounds like to me, that evolution has really come a long way. You talked about a lot of basically pen to paper type data tracking over the years where that’s evolved now more to actually connecting some of these systems together like chronically, but being able to mine the data in a systematic way, that makes sense where you can actually understand how it is affecting your processes. Is that kind of the evolution that MES is going?

05:30 Mayuri: 

Yeah. Back in the day, it used to be on a manual paperwork and a single person used to do a job of multiple people. Someone who was also maintaining quality records would be doing inventory tracking. So in that way, there was no streamline in the flow of activities that the person was responsible for. So when MES came into picture, one of the many advantages of MES is that the person has a typical workflow assigned to that person on the shop floor and they have to follow whatever is their work processes. 

Imagine having a to-do list for the day. And you have to check off everything on your to-do list. It gives you a better idea about planning, how to do it. And also once you’re done executing, you feel better that you have completed that task and then you doing it makes you accountable that, “Okay, I have completed it. And maybe I can show this in on paper to someone that I have completed it”, whereas in the past it would be all haphazardly. Someone is doing QA checks and then someone gets called off to do something else. And then those QA checks are not accounted for. 

06:42 Chris: 

Right. So that traceability, it sounds like it really goes up big time. 

06:47 Mayuri: 

Yes. So MES has come a long way from just being a data entry tool to now being something that is associated with the industry 4.0 when you know that all of the data that is stored into MES has been moved to cloud-based system. So that there is more data analysis and then people can also get like real-time dashboards where they can monitor their operation processes in real time. Whereas initially it would have been like, you have to wait for the entire process to complete to generate all those paper reports and in the end analyze the system, but now it is moving on to be more real-time. 

07:27 Chris: 

Now you mentioned industry 4.0, but like digital transformation, smart manufacturing, all these new technologies out there that are pulling data, even down to simple stuff, like power meters, we have more data available at our fingertips now than we ever have in manufacturing, pulling that into the MES, is that where you’re seeing a lot of that transformation in that evolution taking place? 

07:49 Mayuri: 

Yes. So MES has predominantly been a very data-driven system. So KPIs are key process indicators. So how would you know that your process is optimum? How would you know that your output is optimum? That’s where the KPIs come into picture, where there are a few indicators that every site has. And so for example, process reliability, so that’s a parameter that every shop, every plant has and they track what the process reliability for each of the batch was.

So how each batch, what was the output of each batch? As compared to what the inputs were. So that just gives you how much was the waste, how much was the actual production? So in terms of that, in terms of analyzing all the KPIs and everything, it’s a very data driven system, MES. That’s one of the major chunks of industry 4.0 being data driven and getting that data and analyzing that data for the betterment of the future.

08:49 Chris: 

Right. So where’s it going next? I mean, if you look from an MES standpoint, right now we’re in 4.0, where do you see the next big leap from an MES standpoint?

09:00 Mayuri: 

When I said that it has evolved from being just a data entry tool to going on to cloud. From my experience, what I’ve seen is users used to just have a standalone system where they would use to put data in and they’re done with their work, but now they are moving more towards mobility solutions.

So everyone has an iPad or some tablet of sorts on which they can continuously monitor operations. They can make sure that failures are avoided which again, improves the throughput of the system. So you catch the failures before they happen and avoid them. So initially, if someone was busy with the actual manufacturing operation, the physical part of it, they were never able to go back and look at the system of what’s happening in MES.

But now with MES going in the direction of mobility they have their own systems. They carry it everywhere throughout the shop floor and they just know what’s happening at that time when I said that the have those real-time dashboards. So I think the future of MES is just having everything right there and getting to make decisions even at individual levels. So they don’t even have to wait for a supervisor to make some decisions, which could just, save a lot of dollars in the long run. 

10:19 Chris: 

Have you thought about, or have you seen anybody with the glasses `yet? You mentioned the iPad for augmented reality and things like that. So, is that the type of stuff that you envision in the future on the plant floor? 

10:30 Mayuri: 

Yep. Yep. Yep. There is this article I read about some MES being developed, not now, they just have a prototype where it would be like Google glass. So they just put on the glasses and they see the entire shop floor or getting augmented in front of them. So they know even before the production begins they can envision how the production will move and how the final product will look like even before it is even made. 

10:57 Chris: 

Now that’s pretty cool. That’s awesome. That’s the stuff that gets us amped up here. And I know our listeners too. 

11:04 Mayuri: 

Yep. Yep. That’s pretty cool. I mean, I’m intrigued and I would love to work on a technology like that. 

11:09 Chris: 

You’re one of our heroes you will, for sure. And as speaking about working on a MES system, who typically is doing that, Mayuri? Is that MES engineers only, or is it other people and what does that day-to-day look like? 

11:23 Mayuri: 

So that, there’s a fun fact about MES. I find it fun. So almost 80% of the users at the plant use MES if they have an MES system. So anyone walking in and out of the door on the shop floor can touch MES at any point of time during the day.

So typically it’s not just MES engineers. So when I say that I’m an MES engineer, I am basically helping the plant achieve their MES goals. I’m helping them resolve issues. I’m helping them in implementation of new lines. I’m helping them in implementation of new technologies when it comes to MES.

But the actual users are the site users. So it ranges from people like SSOs. So SSOs are site system owners. They have a dedicated owner who would look after all of the MES activities at the site. And that person would typically resolve issues at the site level, or just coordinate between different users or just remind people if they need to do some tasks, which they have not done yet.

And then there are the base users, which are called operators. So the operators are the ones who would typically enter data into the MES system, looking at what’s going on. So for example there was a final product and there were a few parameters on the MES screen asking the user to check off to determine the quality of the product. So that could be like, does the product look red in color? Does the product smell like lavender. Some quality checks like that, that the user performed. So those are and even those operators are divided into different zones. So quality operators would be different, scheduling operators would be different.

Maintenance is another big part when it comes to running a plant. So maintenance operators could be different. So basically anyone from operators to top level management and when I say top level management that comes into picture, when they want to view the real-time dashboards and take some corporate decisions based on whether a quality product is going out in the market, or how do you want to improve the quality, or how do you want to improve the efficiency of the system. Almost 80% of the site uses MES day to day on some level, either at the corporate level or directly at the base level entering data. 

13:48 Chris: 

For sure. It sounds like it touches so many different people in different parts of the organization. And it almost sounds too once it’s there, it’s very sticky. A lot of people will get a lot of value out of it. It’s wonderful. And you mentioned earlier that MES and the ERP, they work together. And I was thinking the IT and OT convergence, we hear a lot about, we talked a lot about on our show just to, there has to be that line of delineation between the two, sometimes how they play together, particularly from a manufacturing standpoint. So how does that work with MES and ERP systems? Is there a similar type of structure there? Just curious on what that tie is. 

14:24 Mayuri: 

So there definitely is. like I said before, MES is a middle layer between the ERP and the shop floor. So every MES system, there are different types of MES systems in the market today. So every MES system has its own technology to connect to ERP, but the functional concept behind it is that typically ERP system will have something called a process orders. So process orders are something that tells operator which product is going to be manufactured, which batch is going to be manufactured at that time. What does the scheduling for that product look like? So what time will it start? How much should it be produced? And everything that’s related to that particular run. So these process are, those are typically prepared at the ERP level. That’s the planning that the ERP does.

So after the planning they send down these process orders down to the MES system. And then, like I said, it would be any technology that any of the different MES platforms use. So once those process orders are received into MES so typically there’s a scheduling screen in MES, which would show the operators, which process order begins when, and they would just go and activate that process order, which would then send a message down to the PLC that this is the process order that needs to begin. That’s when the PLC or the site level or the operators will start that particular run of the product. So that’s the flow from ERP to the shop floor. 

15:55 Chris: 

Very good. Now I’ve traveled around a lot of manufacturers across the Southeast, been a bunch of different plants. How would I know if I walk into a manufacturer, what looks different for one that’s utilizing an MES system versus one that’s not?

16:13 Mayuri: 

So definitely one thing that would look different is having paper records, or even if, for someone who is not using paper records, it would be a very primitive approach of either having something like an Excel-based tool or a primitive approach to managing data and then calculated approach of someone having the calculations in there and it would be a very primitive approach of having the excel calculate the final value, but in MES you would get the data to the last two decimal places also. 

So if you wanted to know for a particular product what was the batch ID. And for that batch ID, how many number of samples were produced and what was the quality output of those samples? You would get that within few seconds generating reports. You could get that within a few seconds and everything would be up to two decimal points accurate. 

17:09 Chris:

So if I’m in a plant and I see maybe dashboards up on a wall and that data is refreshed, in real time is that a leading indicator that there’s probably MES, platform in place that is managing that?

17:22 Mayuri: 

Yeah, it could be because MES, like I said, is data-driven so anything that is giving you data and anything that’s showing you the entire information about a site or their products that definitely could lead you to believe that the site is using MES at some level. And also another factor that let’s you know that the site is using MES is the connection between ERP and control system.

So many times there’s no direct connection between the ERP and control system. It’s, again, it’s like at a manual level. So someone would physically take a process order form from SAP, go onto the shop floor physically and hand over that to the operator to tell them that this is the next process order that needs to be started, but MES is doing all of that. Automating it for you and also, getting rid of any manual errors during that transition. It’s just making sure whatever is being sent from SAP or for that matter from ERP is being transferred over to the plant floor without any errors. 

18:24 Chris: 

Cool. Now there’s a lot of listeners out there who may be interested in MES and trying to take their career down that path. Where should they start investing time, or what should they be studying or following to really get a good understanding of MES and start working towards that path? 

18:43 Mayuri: 

To start off with, I think you would need an engineering background because that would just give you the analytical capability of how everything works at a shop floor. So anything, it could be manufacturing engineering, or it could be information technology. To add onto the engineering background. There are many different companies that offer certifications for their own MES systems. So taking any of those certifications could also be helpful.

And the third thing I would say is now MES is a very emerging technology, more and more people are getting to know about it. So I know I don’t know exactly which colleges, but I do know that some colleges do provide courses in MES. So if you’re interested to take that as one of the cores in your studies, then some colleges are definitely offering that. So I would say that they should look up for such courses because that would be part of their curriculum. 

19:37 Chris: 

So that was computer engineering. You said is probably the leading one? And what was the other one? 

19:42 Mayuri: 

Yeah. So it could be manufacturing engineering, or it could be information technology or computer engineering would just give you an upper hand in knowing all the technologies. So a good mix of both like manufacturing and information that’s what MES is, it’s a mix of IT plus the operations. 

20:02 Chris: 

Well, one thing I can tell is that you love MES systems, so I’m just curious, what do you love so much about them? 

20:08 Mayuri: 

To say it in one word, I would say the ease that MES systems offer to the site and also the amount of money a site or a plant or a company for that matter could save using and implementing an MES system. And comparatively, if you see, if you compare data-driven software or cloud-based software these days. If you compare the price that a company has to invest in an MES system, that’s pretty low. I mean, a company can invest in MES and still get a lot of gains. You know improving their output or improving their overall efficiency.

20:45 Chris: 

Yeah. Well, this has been wonderful. Thank you so much. We call it EECO Asks Why. I’m curious on this one, you got a plant manager sitting in front of you, Mayuri, and you need to give them the ultimate why behind why should they start really embracing MES to take their business to the next level? What are you going to tell them?

21:06 Mayuri: 

MES has a lot of benefits. So I would like to go point by point explaining what the benefits are. The first and foremost being better utilization of plant assets. So be it man-power be it equipment, be it resources, be it inventory, managing everything becomes easier with MES because you are reducing human effort, just making life easier for the operators, giving them a workflow of what they want to do. 

Then you are improving the life of the equipment because you’re going to be doing maintenance as a part of MES. And then again, because you’re using MES, the maintenance would still be accountable for because the operators have to follow the exact process for maintaining the equipment every single day. So that’s the second one. 

And then inventory management. When you have a connection with ERP, you are sending a message back to ERP. How much, raw materials have been consumed at the shop floor level. So when ERP knows how much is the consumption rate they can then forecast the quantities that are needed in the future and they can order the raw materials well in advance. And so that, just keeps the equipment running that just keeps the plant running lesser downtimes and again, more efficiency.

So the third benefit would be getting a good product out. So since you are running extensive quality checks on all the products that have been produced at the plant level, and you are storing all that data and then analyzing the reports in the future for sure that whatever you’re getting out there in the market is going to be compatible. It’s going to be quality checked. So that’s just, that just adds to the peace of mind that everything is just working fine. 

The fourth advantage is that you are getting a plant wide web reporting with MES. So even if you wanted to find out that 10 days before some batch was running and it created some issues and you wanted to track down to the raw materials and then track down to the vendor who’s provided the raw materials. You could just go run a report and you could get all of those details just in few seconds. So it provides for a better traceability. And then, you know, improving based on that you can improve your quality in the future. 

23:25 Chris: 

I think you just got the PO that’s it. If the plant manager doesn’t jump on one of those five items probably need to move on. Great way to summarize the MES systems and the power behind them for the listeners out there who wants to learn more or to connect directly with Mayuri to get some more of her insight, check out the show notes. You’ll find that information right there, as well as E- Technologies Group we’ll have links there for all of that. And thank you so much today for sharing your insights on this wonderful idea. 

23:55 Mayuri: 

Thanks a lot, Chris. Thanks for this opportunity. I really had fun sharing all the insights and yes, definitely. They can reach out to me if anyone needs more information or insights, and I would be happy too help. 

24:07 Chris: 

Awesome. Well, you have a wonderful day. 

24:09 Mayuri: 

Thank you, you too. 

24:13 Chris: 

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