MES applications have long been viewed as an ideal solution for better management of production floors around the world. Their ability to support a wide range of complex production flows is widely recognized and accepted. But is that all? Or is MES software capable of more? This is a question worth considering in the current business environment. MES applications are becoming more collaborative in nature, just as businesses around the world are evolving, so are the software applications which support them.
Today we will consider one such example of how a collaborative MES solution impacts and potentially improves the Warehousing function. Traditionally warehousing activities are carried at both ends of a supply chain. For any manufacturer warehousing of raw material and finished goods is a common practice. The availability of raw materials affects the production process greatly, with the advent of JIT management, having raw material exactly when required is pivotal for success and smooth functioning of a factory/plant. Similarly, warehousing also plays an important role when the raw material is fully processed and becomes the final product or products, if finished goods produced, are not available when required the company faces potential losses which go beyond the economic value of a cancelled order, as the loss of goodwill and future business become imminent. Thus, warehousing becomes an important function, which needs to be proactive at both ends of the supply chain and enable smooth production and delivery, it also needs to be a collaborative function working hand-in-hand with Purchase, Production, Logistics and Sales functions.
So where does MES come into the picture? Well, MES applications have become much more versatile and are capable of working in tandem with ERP and MRP systems. Previously warehousing was a manual process, where goods were stacked on racks based on their item/part numbers, when required workers would manually procure these materials and fulfill the order, once an order was filled, the workers would enter the data in an ERP system, which would then place an order for the materials depending on the pre-set reorder point. However, as technological advances are made, traditional warehousing practices are becoming extinct, modern warehousing is an intelligent activity, which is far more efficient and productive. Modern warehousing is an intelligent activity, which reduces human intervention in most parts of the process, it uses robotic arms or mobile robotic devices to fill orders and collect/place material on racks. In some warehouses racks themselves are mobile and reach the worker filling the order with required material rather than the opposite.
Due to the higher degree of automation, intelligent enterprise applications are extracting data almost at the same instant as an order is filled or a material is stacked. MES applications then communicate with such enterprise applications and both extract raw material data and provide production data to the application. Thus MES basically collaborates with other intelligent systems to provide a real-time picture of the raw material stock to the production/operation managers and at the same time allows sales/logistics and warehousing functions to know the status of the WIP and finished goods from the production process. This sort of collaboration benefits the entire operation of the supply chain and allows for proactive management and faster response time. The MES also acts as a vehicle for improving overall efficiency of the warehousing operation as the information received from the production function allows for better material planning and implementation of practices line JIT and Lean management.
So when you are deciding to choose an MES application for your production unit, take some time and consider whether the MES you are considering has the collaborative capabilities mentioned above. The warehousing example mentioned above is just a small illustration of massive benefits which an intelligent MES application can offer. To end the discussion I would like to stress the fact that an MES application is more capable than what it is considered capable of, it is important to consider all its capabilities and functionalities before selecting the application.