5 Ways Lean Principles and MES Improve Production Efficiency

Jan 20, 2022 5:15:00 PM / by David Crowley


Every company in the manufacturing industry has the same goal: operate as efficiently as possible. By adopting lean business processes, they strip out waste from the manufacturing process. Combining lean principles and Manufacturing Execution System (MES) solutions empowers suppliers to gain visibility, automate processes, make adjustments in real time, reduce waste, and boost productivity.

Lean manufacturing principles became popular in the 1980s. This approach, which is also known as lean production, Just-In-Time (JIT) manufacturing, and Just-In-time Production, is a manufacturing methodology. The goal is to reduce the frequency and time materials and personnel spend sitting idly somewhere in the supply chain or manufacturing process. Such delays drive up expenses, create inefficiencies, and reduce customer satisfaction. The ultimate goal is to have materials and manpower arrive right when they are needed on the plant floor.

Lean is most closely associated with automobile manufacturing. However, just about every large volume production facility in every industry adopted some of its tenets. Leading smaller volume production facilities also find that implementing lean processes improves their manufacturing operations and create smart factories.

A MES gathers a wide range of device performance data. They note items, like Cycle Time, Shot Size, Injection Pressure, Hold Pressure, Hold Time, Cushion, and Position. Production process data including Machine and Tool Cycles, Good and Bad Part Counts, Up Time and Down Time, Reject, Assist and Downtime Events. The solutions then use artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics to create a better understanding of how materials are flowing, goods being produced, and shipments made. With such a solution, manufacturers reap a handful of benefits.

1. Gain Visibility

Traditionally, the multiple steps involved the manufacturing process created friction and numerous inefficiencies. Performance data was generated and stored in distinct information silos. As a result, plant personnel lack visibility into how well materials flow through the supply chain and the status of manufacturing runs. In most cases, they do not know how many items were produced and how efficient a run was until it is over. Therefore, they manage the processes reactively rather than proactively.  

A MES consolidates information in one location. Consequently, managers understand what is happening before, during, and after the production run. They spend more time analyzing events and less collecting data about them.

2. Automate Alert Generation

As the manufacturing process unfolds, tasks are completed at multiple locations, by multiple devices, and overseen by multiple individuals. Manufacturing workers often spend a great deal of time correlating information from the different systems to understand manufacturing workflow.

A MES system takes on the work for them. For example, PlantStar 4.0 generates an alert whenever a problem, such as robot malfunctioning or materials missing their shipment date, arises.

Users easily customize their preferred types of alerts and receiving methods.  They receive email, text, and voice alerts concerning the status of any shop-floor machine. The system also maintains a record of each occurrence, tracks the top causes of downtime for each machine, and displays the percentage of time taken up by each.

3. Make Real Time Adjustments

The lack of visibility has long created problems for goods suppliers. For instance, a customer changes the number of items it needs, but the manufacturer produces too few or too many of the items, thus increasing run times, lowering yield, boosting expenses, and decreasing customer satisfaction. A MES improves visibility and enables suppliers to adopt lean best practices. With real-time information, they understand what is happening on the production floor and adjust as needed. Managers then right-sized staff, work orders, and materials in real time. As a result, they produced items faster and more efficiently.

Similarly, the lack of visibility into maintenance has created problems for manufacturing managers trying to ensure that equipment is running. They must wait until it breaks down to fix it — often resulting in lost productivity and downtime. The use of an MES enables manufacturers to streamline their processes and improve performance across all areas of production. Instead of buying new machinery or hiring more staff, manufacturers can focus on the core problem — the lack of visibility — and find a solution that boosts their processes.

4. Improve Inventory Turn and Material Usage

Lean manufacturing invokes a Goldilocks approach to supply chain and manufacturing processes, not too much or too little, but just right. With an MES system, corporations gain access to real-time workflow information. With such insights, they better manage their raw materials. If new orders arise, they request more. If a snafu slows production, they immediately inform their suppliers and change the order. They no longer find themselves flummoxed with production over-runs or under-runs. As a result, they maximize material usage and inventory turns.

5. A Bevy of Improvements

SYSCON customers combined MES with lean principals and realized:

  • 30% average increase in productivity (OEE)
  • Reduced initial scheduling time by an average of 2 or more days per month and 20+ hours reporting time per week
  • Average 95% increase in machine utilization
  • On average for PlantStar customers, every 1% improvement in OEE is worth approximately $50k per year.
  • One plant reported operational savings of over $400k in one year.
  • Another site generated 15% more revenue with a 20% smaller workforce. 

Lean manufacturing gained traction because it empowers manufacturers to improve their business. Coupling it with an MES system enables a supplier to spend more time managing and less collecting information. By having the information they need to make changes in real time, suppliers improve manufacturing efficiency, get a better return on their investments, and become more formidable competitors in their markets.


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