Today, there are many internal and external challenges manufacturers must navigate to efficiently manage orders such as constantly changing supply chains and disparate and disconnected internal systems that lead to inconsistent production data. To alleviate these challenges, you need a system that provides a complete picture of production, including real-time production data, as well as production scheduling that is easy to adapt as production needs and resource availability change. Sound impossible to implement? It’s not.
To start, optimizing production order management requires strategic integration of your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and manufacturing execution system (MES). Your ERP system is one of the most powerful tools for managing site inventory, production orders, and supply chain, yet we frequently see that a link between the ERP and the MES is missing. Without this connection, it is difficult to have an accurate picture of product and ingredient inventory and production schedules cannot account for real-time information, are rigid, and are prone to errors.
Instead, automating information sharing using an established framework such as ISA-95 can create a digital thread between these two systems where each system can leverage data from the other. To secure the resources required to implement an optimization and automation project like this, the return on investment (ROI) must be clearly articulated in advance. In the next part of this post, we explore five of the biggest benefits of integrating your ERP and MES and using this exchange of information to implement an automated production order management system.
Benefit 1: Performing Detailed Scheduling, and Rescheduling, of Production Equipment
As a manufacturer, 100 percent availability is the goal, but everyday events such as machine downtime will occur, people and material availability will fluctuate, and variable changeovers between production runs will be required. While dealing with these production inefficiencies, you can optimize your production scheduling system to minimize the impact of these inevitable events.
When using an automated order management solution that receives real-time information from your ERP, your production schedule will adapt in real time based on the availability of required resources such as production equipment, raw materials, and operators. With this data, you can then optimize your schedule according to rules that consider line speeds, interchangeability, due dates, inventory, and other constraints so that the impacts to production are minimized when unforeseen circumstances occur.
Consider this example. You only have 20-unit boxes left in stock and the next order scheduled for today requires 50-unit boxes. Additionally, an order in the queue for later today can use just 20-unit boxes. Can your scheduling system alert you about this so you can make an adjustment and run the order now that only requires 20-unit boxes, keeping production moving forward? Or will production come to a standstill as you wait for your next unit box delivery? Do you know when that delivery will happen?
Benefit 2: Minimizing Human Involvement and Removing Process Errors
Does your facility have a single person, or small group, performing manual production scheduling tasks? If so, are they overseeing most of your facility’s production knowledge, from adjusting scheduling to communicating status issues to providing thoughts on production optimization? Integrating your ERP and MES will help you move away from this closed, manually managed system to a much more flexible software-based order management system that intelligently automates manual tasks from production scheduling to inventory tracking.
An automated system will also eliminate many of the common errors and inefficiencies associated with manual order management and will collect a wealth of plant floor data in real time, leading to a range of productivity, cost, and safety improvements. And while people will still need to interact with the system, those interactions will be traceable.
Benefit 3: Producing and Maintaining Electronic Records
Building on the ability to remove human involvement, another key benefit of automating order management is electronic record generation. Automated electronic records inherently remove the potential for human-generated data collection and report generation errors since key data such as lot information and raw material usage is automatically recorded and fed back to the ERP in real time. This real-time data is then available to stakeholders throughout the organization. Plus, for manufacturers working in heavily regulated industries such as pharmaceutical and food and beverage, electronic records help improve data integrity and compliance.
Benefit 4: Achieving Transparency and Real-Time Process Visibility
When production knowledge is maintained electronically, anyone with access to the system can see the information. When order tracking is part of this electronic system and communicated from the MES to the ERP, real-time production data is available to more people in the organization. With order progress visible end to end, sales can accurately communicate order status with customers; procurement can have more realistic conversations with suppliers regarding material needs; and operations has a clear view of future production needs so that overtime or maintenance can be scheduled. Plus, when decisions need to be made that change planned production scheduling, all stakeholders can be on the same page regarding the reasons that drove certain decisions.
Benefit 5: Closing the Loop with Continuous Improvement for Production Control
Like any part of the manufacturing process, you always need to be looking for ways to get more out of your existing assets. With electronic production data that can be contextualized and associated with customer orders that is visible throughout the organization, you can continuously evaluate production processes to ensure production orders are fulfilled both accurately and efficiently and identify areas for further optimization.
Talk to ACE today to discuss how you can achieve the benefits of automating and optimizing your order management.
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