Two things especially struck me about this year’s conference. One, there were many companies reporting huge production efficiency and performance gains resulting from their manufacturing transformation to a global operations platform. And two, that’s not what they wanted to talk about the most.
I was surprised by this, not only because production efficiency has always been one of the big benefits of implementing a Manufacturing Execution System or MES, but because the numbers we heard were so impressive. In various sessions, I heard an engine company report throughput increases at a single plant of 25% – without adding new staff, factory space or equipment. Another company told how they had increased OEE by 17%. A medical device company improved production CHF by 35% (with only a 13% increase in employees), and reduced manufacturing scrap by 72%. Those kinds of ROI results are enough to justify manufacturing transformation, and they generated a lot of interest at Community Days.
Yet production efficiency was not the main topic of the conference. Instead, quality got the most attention. In fact, more than half the sessions this year, at both the North American and European events, were on some topic related to quality. The same engine company that reported a 25% increase in throughput presented how they were using a common manufacturing operations management (MOM) platform across multiple manufacturing models (e.g. discrete, batch, etc.) to drive improved quality. A Mexican division of a global tobacco firm reported improved quality and intelligence with their MOM platform. Many other enterprises made similar presentations.
Of course, quality has always mattered to manufacturers. In the old days, however, it was not an MES “problem.” It was something the quality team worried about, which was addressed by using “quality” department methodologies, technology, data and analyses. But part of the transformation taking place in manufacturing is the breaking down of the four walls of the plant – ending the era of production, quality, warehouse and other applications working in isolation. Once that happens, manufacturers gain new information and new insights into each of the various departments and operations. These interactions drive increases to both manufacturing efficiency and quality, as well as other key business metrics.
Breaking out of the four walls of the manufacturing plant can free enterprises to think outside the box. By collaborating across a shared platform for manufacturing operations, it is easier to work together to solve common problems. With this increased visibility, manufacturers are now finding new ways to profit from their manufacturing execution platform. MES is not just for productivity and throughput anymore.