9 Steps To Smooth MES Implementation

19 Jan 2024

When a small or medium-sized business is ready to take the next step in development, having the right solutions is key for ensuring seamless progress. Managing data efficiently, including both acquisition and analysis, is crucial for organic growth and this is exactly where the Manufacturing Execution System (MES) comes in, streamlining processes to enhance your business.

How MES implementation can help small and medium-sized facilities?

The advanced factory is a result of bidirectional relationship between its management and shop floor workers

Even small facilities have complex infrastructure layers interconnecting shop floor equipment. This complexity makes data monitoring challenging, potentially providing an inaccurate picture of the actual production capacities. MES serves as a connecting service bus, linking existing systems within an isolated layer, often referred to as a data silo. This system stores all information collected from equipment, facilitating easy access and analysis at any given time.

When a small plant owner aims to secure orders from large customers, compliance with international standards becomes crucial. Meeting essential requirements, such as implementing a traceability system, is necessary to effectively monitor production capabilities and collect data for quality control. Most MES solutions include traceability tools, enabling the storage of important data within the system. This not only helps in meeting compliance requirements for large customers but also brings additional benefits.

We understand that MES involves complex functions and can require process restructuring and significant investments, that may not be easy for everyone to manage. That’s why we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help you make this transition efficiently in terms of both time and money.

#1 Identify the pains

The first step is identifying potential disruptions in your production chain. Assess the availability of plant equipment, the frequency of scrapped parts, and your understanding of raw material stock. These answers serve as the starting point for MES implementation, gradually covering all processes.

Since traceability feature is a compliance requirement for international audits, consider starting with its implementation.

To organize the infrastructure for traceability software, connect shop equipment into an ecosystem using sensors, IoT devices, or other connectivity methods. This covers approximately 80% of the work for MES implementation. The final step involves selecting a reliable MES vendor and establishing a network for data processing through cloud or on-premise servers.

#2 Perform the market analysis and choose the MES vendor

Once you’ve identified areas for improvement in your production chain, selecting a reliable MES provider is the next step. You can approach this in two ways:

  • Appoint an MES consultant for market research, provider recommendations, and tender initiation. Choose the optimal vendor and let them build the infrastructure for MES integration.
  • Alternatively, you can connect with companies offering custom MES solutions. They conduct facility audits, propose tailored proprietary solutions for your production chain, providing flexibility in gradual infrastructure building and scaling to minimize cost losses.

#3 Audit the infrastructure

Whether you appoint a MES consultant or choose a specialist from a MES solution company, you need to perform an infrastructural audit at your facility. This audit has two goals:

  • Identifying your connectivity capabilities.
  • Identifying your production capabilities.

When addressing connectivity, the audit delves into equipment, mapping production areas and workstations. It assesses the possibility of connecting all equipment to an ecosystem and the need for third-party solutions.

In terms of production capacities, the focus is on routes, unique parts, and operations derived from equipment performance. Identifying these elements allows for optimized production chains and strategic scheduling of maintenance and training.

#4 Define the scope of work

After establishing your production capacities and choosing a vendor, the roadmap stage begins. Define the scope of work to facilitate communication between the MES implementation team and your contact person. This step sets project structure, estimated timelines, and workflow for each integration stage.

Additionally, focus on creating and updating a Process Change Request (PCR) during this stage. The PCR documents any changes within the project scope that weren’t initially discussed. This ensures you can estimate the budget and additional timeframes for these changes while adhering to project deadlines.

#5 Start the integration stage

Once you’ve defined the scope of work, MES consultants starts the integration process, usually consisting of two parts:

  • Hardware integration: establishing connectivity capacities, installing sensors or trackers on non-directly connectable equipment, and selecting connectivity protocols if necessary. If some factory equipment is still under warranty, this stage allows devising solutions to maintain warranty integrity while enabling MES data collection. Although resource-intensive, it forms the foundation for a network of devices for data harvesting.
  • Software integration: connecting MES to existing systems like ERP and warehouse management. A crucial factor is defining the reporting impulses needed for metrics like scrap parts, downtimes, and quality control. More impulses may require more interface protocols and document types, affecting implementation timelines.

It’s worth reminding that MES acts as a service bus connecting all systems in your enterprise. Consider all integration levels to build a comprehensive layer for data storage and monitoring.

#6 Secure the budget

Ideally, estimate the budget before selecting a vendor by following these guidelines:

  • Consider all costs, including labor, infrastructure creation, and product support, not just the initial purchase price.
  • Include a 30% buffer to the final implementation costs for unexpected circumstances and added security against potential additional expenses.
  • Explore subscription models, ideal for small to medium-sized businesses.

#7 Appoint a project manager

MES implementation is a complex process that requires coordination between different departments.

MES integrators usually appoint a management team to coordinate the process on their part. For example, they might appoint a programme manager to curate the implementation project, a project manager to govern each stage of the process, and a team of technical consultants to support you at each stage, from the initial interface creation to the finishing trainings for shop workers.

#8 Perform user acceptance tests

As MES systems are typically customized per project, ensuring user-friendliness for both shop floor workers and plant management is crucial.

Conduct user acceptance tests and involve end users in day-to-day operations before full implementation. Train plant managers, shop floor workers, and other relevant departments like IT, quality, management, and scheduling staff on basic operations, architecture, and data flows. This helps identify installation issues and highlights areas for future improvements.

At this point, you can determine the ideal dashboard setup for plant management to view key metrics. Also, update and transfer relevant documentation for post go-live support.

#9 Establish the workflow

The most important part comes after setting up MES. Most plant equipment still relies on human operation, so it’s essential to train shop workers to accurately collect and input data in the system. This ensures MES generates effective reports.

Changes take time for people to adjust, so use trial runs to help workers get used to new processes. Along with that, you need to consider the future equipment upgrades, production scalability, the introduction of the new assembly lines and other factors.

That’s why one of the most efficient ways for a smooth MES implementation is gradual scaling. You can start with an MVP that covers the basic needs and then gradually scale it to the entire plant and include other facilities at your enterprise.

And this is one of the many things that our AGW Suite allows you to do. It’s highly customizable and can be used at the enterprises of any size and production capabilities. And you can start with just a single workstation and gradually add new ones to the network to insure smooth transition process for everyone.