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Root Cause Analysis & The Role of MES In Its Effective Execution!

Over the years Manufacturing has become more precise and process dependent, any deviation from the set procedures and norms can have dire consequences for the factory. In operations like Semiconductor manufacturing a spec of dust can destroy an entire production lot, such controlled and highly automated environments call for much tighter and fool proof production and process control, than ever required in older more manual processes. Modern manufacturers rely on early detection and prevention of any deviations and excursions in their fabs, generally the burden of such activities is borne by an IT application, which in most cases is the MES.
MES applications are employed not only to execute a process in entirety, but also to exercise tight control and precision in workflow. In automated environments where human intervention is less than 10% the MES is expected to communicate directly with process equipment and report valuable process information, in a user-friendly manner.When it comes to issues, such as deviations in the process, the MES should be capable of detecting and highlighting the issues in real-time so that they are noticed by the requisite personnel.In paper-based and legacy MES systems issues which were detected, got reported only when they could no longer be controlled, which made the entire process reactive in nature. These issues have been mitigated by the modern MES which not only detects issues, as or even before they happen but reports them instantaneously to multiple individuals, making sure every issue is dealt with before it escalates and becomes a major problem.
This unique capability of the MES to act as an interface between workforce and equipment allows it to be an ideal platform for root cause analysis and process control. Since every deviation right from material quality to equipment errors are reported, it becomes easy for process owners to pin-point the location of the problem, once the problem is localized, it can then be analyzed using the MES by either drilling down the historical/genealogy data or simply asking the activity owner for explanations. Once a problem is analyzed both subjectively and statistically, its root cause can be determined by allocating assignable causes or special events, like the material thickness being 0.2 mm more than usual etc.
Once a root cause of an issue is determined, it can be archived in the system as a problem type and can be inculcated in the company’s knowledge system, so that whenever similar issues occur the workers can reference the system to find the best way to deal with the issue. This power of pro-activeness that the MES brings to the table is unparalleled and just can’t be matched by any other application, which is because the MES is designed for executing the process and not for reporting financials or planning inventory, this statement however does not mean that the MES cannot perform these functions as well.
Sticking to the topics, having served in Operations myself, I believe for any operations professional, knowing what the problem is, and where it occurred in the process itself is half the battle won, the MES goes a step further and provides information to cross-reference the issue with other similar ones in the past and the specification for that particular jobs. Knowing all this a skilled team of operations professionals can not only detect the root cause of an issue but also increase the money-making capacity of an operation by preventing issues from ever occurring again.The MES is an ideal solution for mature-automated processes, which are in pursuit of improving continually and are practicing Lean or Six-Sigma.The MES would actually allow such processes to channel their improvement efforts towards the areas that need greater attention, thereby reflecting results faster. So if you are looking for better process control and enhanced problem detection/correction, think MES.

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