Today’s manufacturing environment is more complex and challenging than ever before. Supply chain challenges. High energy and material costs. Talent shortages. Changing customer demands. A wide array of factors are making it difficult for manufacturers to thrive and grow, whether they’re focused on discrete or process manufacturing.
Growing concerns about climate change and ESG are only expected to add to this complexity over the next few years—with evolving regulations likely to require adjustments to the management of manufacturing processes to improve transparency, accountability, and traceability of products.
With a potential global recession also on the horizon, manufacturers need to get the most out of every dollar they spend. This means looking for ways to be more efficient, more productive, and more responsive to the needs of their customers.
One major roadblock keeping many manufacturers from achieving these goals is the lack of a robust manufacturing execution system (MES). In today’s manufacturing environment, many small and mid-sized manufacturers don’t have an MES solution in place, relying instead on other mechanisms to manage plant activities like resource scheduling, problem resolution, maintenance, and reporting. These often-manual processes can be time consuming. They can also hinder a manufacturer’s ability to get the most value out of innovative technologies or to be responsive in the face of a manufacturing issues.
This is where a Cloud MES solution like SAP Digital Manufacturing Cloud (DMC) can help. SAP DMC acts as the operating backbone of a company’s manufacturing facilities—providing the structure and monitoring tools needed to ensure efficient plant operations, the data and analytics to make better operation decisions, and the agility to act quickly in the event of an issue.
Recognizing the value of SAP DMC
SAP DMC combines the power of cloud computing with automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, smart data analytics, and other innovative technologies to control key facets of the manufacturing process, while also providing robust data-driven insights that plant managers and corporate executives can use to make quicker and more effective operational decisions. SAP DMC can help manufacturers:
- Automate previously manual processes, such as planning, resource scheduling, and machine maintenance.
- 100% end-to-end transparency of all manufacturing processes
- Combine manufacturing process data seamlessly with other data (e.g., materials availability, customer order details) to better identify and address inefficiencies from the top floor to the shop floor and across the end-to-end value chain.
- Give plant managers anytime and anywhere access to manufacturing data and insights so they can make more informed decisions.
- Visual inspection of manufactured materials, enabled by machine learning.
- Reduce manufacturing cycle time and utilize resource uptime/optimization.
- Improve problem solving and traceability—both within the manufacturing process and across the value chain.
- Adhere to compliance requirements in the case of regulated industries.
- Manage carbon emissions reporting requirements (e.g., EU battery passport).
Unlike on-premise systems, a Cloud MES solution such as SAP DMC provides companies with the ability to enact transformation activities quickly, so they can start deriving benefits within months—not years. A cloud system also gives manufacturers agility; it can be implemented within one shop or scaled to fit the complex and multifaceted needs of companies with global operations and manufacturing facilities.
Getting the most value from MES: Where to start
Embracing a new MES solution—whether on-premise or cloud-based—can be an anxiety-inducing endeavour for company executives and plant managers. As a starting point, it can be helpful to consider the following activities:
Assess where you are today
Take time to understand your existing manufacturing processes, including core activities, processes, resource requirements, what works well, and where there are issues that need to be addressed. This knowledge can help you assess the potential value of different MES options, your capacity to implement and support a new solution, and your employees’ readiness for change.
If you have limited resources, highly manual processes, or outdated technology infrastructure, a Cloud MES solution could help you make change quickly, while allowing your employees to focus on higher-value tasks.
Define where you want to be in the future
In tandem with understanding your current state, define what you want your company to be—and what it will need to be—in the future. In addition to your short and long-term business objectives and growth goals, consider how key trends, such as climate change, talent shortages, technology innovations, and changing customer and employee behaviours, could reshape your industry and workforce in the months and years ahead.
If your industry is evolving more rapidly than you can keep pace with, or you aren’t certain what challenges or opportunities the future might hold, a Cloud MES solution could give you the flexibility adjust course as needed.
Identify the MES that can best support your ongoing journey
As you begin investigating MES options, focus in identifying the one that can help you address your most pressing issues today while also giving you the building blocks for future success. Too often, companies get caught up on recreating their existing processes using technology. Be open-minded: look at how solutions can help you leap forward, rather than simply cement you in the present.
One of the biggest benefits of Cloud MES is that you can benefit from iterative innovation. If you’re considering Cloud MES, look for a vendor that understands your business and key trends in your industry--and who is committed to helping you stay ahead of the curve by getting the most out of your MES.