Finding the Best MES Software: Is Your MES Worker-Centric?

By: Ben Baldwin

May 20, 2021

best MES software

Finding the best MES software for your operation can be a daunting task. Many MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) share similarities within their purpose, capabilities, and focus. Not to mention, an MES can also share similarities with other programs such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA).

But finding the right MES for your operation may be simpler than you think. The answer lies within the people on your shop floor.

From discrete manufacturing to process manufacturing, people are integrated into every factor of production. That is why having an MES that focuses on the worker will gather the widest pool of data and make the greatest contribution to operational synchronization.

With the incredible capabilities of Industry 4.0 behind it, the Worker-Centric MES is surpassing the boundaries of the traditional Manufacturing Execution System.

Going Beyond the Traditional MES

best MES software

MES is most commonly defined as a system that tracks and records the transformation of raw materials into complete products. But this definition can be a bit misleading as modern MES software does a lot more than this.

A better description of an MES would be a system that works to connect, monitor, and coordinate systems, machines, and people on an operational level. The main focus of an MES is to harmonize the whole manufacturing operation and improve production efficiency, output, and reliability.

One of the key strengths of an MES is its ability to provide manufacturers with real-time knowledge about their operation. If you are looking for a system that can provide a complete breakdown of your facility’s performance and behavior, you’ll need your MES to communicate a wide variety of operational factors. This includes elements like:

  • Resource and inventory management
  • Quality control
  • Equipment maintenance
  • Labor/workforce management
  • Process learning and standardization

The best MES software is there for every step of your operation and gathers information from every factor of production and every worker involved. This enables you to obtain the most accurate information, gain a complete perspective, and make smart decisions.

Why is a Worker-Centric MES so Useful for Modern Manufacturing?

Within manufacturing, every action taken by a machine, system, or person generates useful and unique data. From mixing components, creating packaging, connecting wires, and tightening bolts with smart tools, every step of production and action taken is an opportunity to gain more knowledge about the current condition of your operation.

The Worker-Centric MES engages your employees and collects data from the people and actions that create value. With this increased flow of data comes an enhanced insight into the performance of the shop floor. With a greater knowledge base, manufacturers can optimize their production, better coordinate workers, and experience the following benefits:

  • Reduction in set-up time
  • Increased process control and standardization
  • Enhanced quality measures
  • Better documentation of expenses
  • Increased machine uptime
  • Reduction in waste
  • Enhanced inventory management

Greater visibility and increased employee engagement across your operations open up the pathway for continuous improvement to become a progressively easier process. Making the right decisions at the right time also then becomes more intuitive.

Applying Knowledge with a Worker-Centric MES

Applying knowledge

Here at VKS, we believe that knowledge is power. But it is also true that knowledge yields no power without proper application. That is to say, knowledge is only useful when applied to a specific purpose.

The Worker-Centric MES not only provides a firm basis for gathering data but also provides a pathway to apply this knowledge and continuously improve.

As the MES gathers data from the current conditions of the operation, manufacturing initiatives are also flowing in the opposite direction back to the person on the shop floor. This means that data flows in both ways along the data stream; capturing data and applying the goals/initiatives of the company.

With an MES system built into work instruction software, continuous improvement initiatives such as the DMAIC approach and Lean Manufacturing can be enacted directly into the system that is already interacting with people and coordinating the functions of your operation.

Finding the Best MES Software: The 3 Types of MES

To further define the Worker-Centric MES, it will be helpful to look at other MES types. What differentiates one MES from another is based on how it derives visibility from the elements in a given operation. Understanding the category and focus of a Manufacturing Execution System will help you decide if it is the best MES software for your organization.

Let's take a look at the following three categories of modern MES software and evaluate what factors of operation they target to gain knowledge.

  • ERP-Centric MES

Much like a traditional ERP, this type of MES is mainly focused on the materials, resources, and financial impact of manufacturing the end product. To put it simply, this MES will look at production in a linear direction; from start to finish.

Though this MES will thoroughly tell you what it took to manufacture the end product, it lacks some visibility on how the operation took place. Manufacturing is not always linear and operations can rarely be summed up into an A to B formula.

  • Machine-Centric MES

The machine-centric MES focuses specifically on the machine and equipment aspects of production. This includes factors like maintenance schedules, set-up, equipment temperature, and production speeds. This captured data enables manufacturers to monitor machine health and calibration in real-time. With equipment connected by IoT, a Machine-Centric MES helps machine maintenance to be predictive as opposed to preventative.

The issue with this MES is that it lacks the operational focus that most modern manufacturers need. Your operation is more than the machines your workers use, especially in the ever-expanding mixed-model manufacturing environment.

  • Worker-Centric MES

The Worker-Centric MES derives visibility from the workers and the processes they are connected to. This system works well because your workers are at the core of every process and procedure. They transform the materials, operate the machines, and perform the procedures that create value.

The Worker-Centric MES lays down the foundation for a multi-directional and advanced data flow between workers, machines, and other systems like an ERP or CMMS (computerized maintenance management system) with its people-oriented approach.

With an MES that engages every employee, you gain the unique insight, knowledge, and perspective of every person on the shop floor. This amounts to a massive amount of quality data specific to your operation and your workforce.

The Worker-Centric MES synchronizes the processing and tracking power of a computer system with the knowledge and experience of your workers.

As we’ve discussed, this type of MES enables the greatest level of process control. It guides operators through their complex steps and gives them the right information at the right time; enabling the gathered knowledge to be targeted and applied to a specific purpose.

People Are at the Core of Every Operation

people manufacturing with the best MES software

VKS is a firm believer in focusing on the people that create value. Since workers are the core of any company, a Worker-Centric MES like VKS Enterprise gives modern manufacturers a superhighway of both widespread visibility into their operations and process management.

By optimizing manufacturing systems to primarily gather data and distribute knowledge with the people that create value, a full operational perspective and control are advantages that must be seized.

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