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Uncovering the Real Benefits of MES and Paperless Manufacturing

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Curious to know the real benefits of MES, we asked a shop floor production team what the top benefits of the system were one month after their successful rollout.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Ever read a press release about an MES implementation project and marveled at the carefully worded quotes? Full of buzzwords like, “synergistically,” or “significantly reduced (or increased)” and “comprehensively,” each press release reads like a carefully scripted marketing piece – only the names are changed.

Let’s be honest, you don’t read a press release for the truth. The Vice President of What-everness quoted in the press release isn’t the one using the system, he’s following the script and looking at a report someone prepared for him.

Not long ago, we implemented a complete MES and Paperless Manufacturing system for a customer. To help meet new FDA regulations, they needed the complete solution installed and implemented across their production lines in less than 4 months. To uncover the “true” story regarding the benefits of MES and paperless manufacturing, we asked the shop floor production team what they thought about the software. How is it making their life easier, their work better, and benefiting their operation? Here are the “top” benefits they identified one month after the successful rollout:

Shop Floor Benefits of Paperless Manufacturing

  • Solving compliance and regulation challenges. Meeting the changing FDA and customer regulations was a constant effort before the project, but the system has solved nearly all the challenges with minimal effort or extra work. No other solution could provide so many answers in a single tool.

  • Real-time access to Quality Data. Before implementing the solution, Quality Control (QC) was forced to wander the shop floor to collect data, or they would evaluate historical (and often outdated) data. QC now has remote access to the real-time quality data of any order with the single press of a button. According to the customer, Quality Control is now proactive, focusing effort on improvement. Improving quality wasn’t a primary driver for the project, but the benefits from paperless manufacturing are exciting.

  • No more paper. Simply removing paper from the shop floor was a huge improvement. Before the system, massive build books and orders were assembled and used, leading to piles and piles (and more piles) of paper. Paper (moving paper, organizing paper, using paper, fixing mistakes from paper, and more) was one of the top frustrations for many shop floor employees. Now, paper is only used when and where it makes sense. Records, orders and work instructions are digital and much easier to use.

  • Visibility of the shop floor. Before the system, planners had research the progress of each order before planning work for the next shift – a time-consuming and error-prone process. Now, planners have instant access to a dashboard updated in real-time for the status of each order. Time isn’t wasted creating status reports just so they can tell what orders to prepare. Future work can be accurately planned with minimal effort.

  • Easier data collection and quality control. The shop floor once had to write data collections and quality checks on a spreadsheet attached to the work travelers. So much data had to be collected, it, “… gave everyone carpal tunnel.” Collecting data interrupted work and slowed production. Now, data is easily and accurately collected as work is completed, and is automatically attached to the relevant order, saving time and eliminating a frustration.

  • Process control, accountability, and visibility. Prior to the system, it was difficult to enforce policies or shop floor improvement projects, or even implement a system of process enforcement. Now it is much easier to implement a system to enforce best practices and track employee work. Workers must now open plans before work begins, so revisions can be accurately communicated to the shop floor. Through the as-built report, all work is tracked. Everyone is accountable for their work – success and failures. When corrective action on an order is needed, it can be done quickly and appropriately. Overall, quality and productivity have significantly increased.

  • Library of planning. All plans are stored in a single database under revision control, ensuring only the latest approved plans are used. Planning has confidence they are using the “right” plan. There is no need to research whether revisions have been made or not before the plan is added to an order. Planning is easier and more efficient, and many of the errors that occasionally creep into work orders are eliminated.

Many times with an MES or Paperless Manufacturing implementation (especially an off-the-shelf system), there will be unexpected benefits that add significantly to the ROI. For example, this system was installed to support data collection on the shop floor and help facilitate meeting FDA regulations. These goals were met, but the shop floor is also benefiting from increased accountability. Quality Control benefits from access to real-time quality data, and planners now work from a library of revision-controlled planning. Each of these points, while not a primary focus of the project or a requirement, figured prominently in our discussion of the benefits of the system and was praised by the shop floor team.

Overall, the project has been extremely successful, and the customer is already looking at other ways the software can benefit their business. Want to know more, or see how a system can benefit your shop floor? Give us a call or leave us a message. We’re happy to help.