On the surface, manufacturers consider the MES (Manufacturing Execution System) the de facto standard operating system for the factory floor. Today, many forward-thinking leaders in the manufacturing space recognize that traditional manufacturing execution system software is a dated concept based on the historical notion that optimizing efficiency is every manufacturer’s top priority.
While every business strives to improve efficiency, visionary manufacturers understand that accelerating innovation and tracking iterative processes are equally essential. For those looking to solve next-generation problems in the physical world, like space exploration, renewable energy, and affordable housing, it’s the primary priority.
Technology is too advanced today not to support innovators. While MES systems focus on using technology to create standardized production runs, Factory OS systems shine in utilizing technology to support engineers and operation personnel closest to the factory floor to optimize iterative runs. Additionally, manufacturers that prioritize data, collaboration, and automation to predict problems and provide real-time insights nearest to the operation. Removing the barriers between design, manufacturing, and product delivery by connecting factory workflows and collecting data in the background. These disruptive systems track and trace all materials at every stage of production and make all factory floor data immediately available to all who need it.
To understand what makes a factory operating system so different from a manufacturing execution system, we must first answer the question of what an MES is.
MES stands for manufacturing execution system, or sometimes manufacturing execution software. It can also be referred to as manufacturing execution systems software. No matter the name, the meaning is the same. MES systems were created decades ago to optimize mass production manufacturing. MES systems are inflexible and require larger budgets and long lead times to implement. Manufacturing execution systems rely on customized implementations.
As manufacturers rushed to use technology to increase efficiency, they invested heavily in manufacturing software built from scratch or with significant customizations. These customized implementations often took months to implement, sometimes years. Every iterative upgrade became a pricey investment requiring help from 3rd party integrators and technical experts. These custom solutions were deployed on-premise, which made automatic updates virtually impossible and stifled the system’s ability to connect to other parts of the enterprise.
Because of the precision within their custom coding, manufacturing execution system software often creates data silos that don’t connect to other parts of the factory. Without a holistic way to review and evaluate data, information gets stuck in the silos and fails to provide factory personnel and leadership teams with meaningful, actionable insights. A report may show station downtime but adds no context as to why it happened. Without context providing meaningful insights, teams must decipher other clues instead of having all the operational data at their fingertips. These time-consuming activities impede problem-solving on the factory floor.
Next-generation Factory OS software fulfills the promises of traditional MES systems. Instead of being a monolithic, top-down system, the Factory OS is a bottom-up solution built on flexibility. It’s a factory production software built to connect to the factory ecosystem immediately. Accelerated, low-code solutions deliver meaningful improvements to factory floors in days and weeks, not months and years.
Using APIs and SDKs, cloud-based SaaS Factory OS solutions ensure that legacy machines and silos are never left behind. Front office ERP systems, IIoT devices, sensors, and factory worker notes can be stored, accessed, and manipulated to accelerate problem-solving and solutions. PLM software, manufacturing MRP software, ERP systems, and more can easily connect to the Factory OS, creating a digital thread throughout the manufacturing operation
With Factory OS tools like ION’s aBOM, all bill of material parts are traced throughout the product lifecycle, from the moment they’re ordered to end-of-life. This level of granular traceability allows next-generation manufacturers to track and trace the efficacy and reliability of every part in a run, large or small. If a part is ever found to need replacing, the specific units impacted by that lot can easily be identified and replaced without needing expensive recalls.
Historically, MES software served the purpose of capitalizing on new technology to optimize production runs. Like so many other technologies, from mainframes to VHS tapes, they have been replaced with newer, nimbler, and flexible solutions that enhance our ability to innovate. ION Factory OS is the disruptor returning decision-making to the factory floor, with data-based insights and analytics meant to accelerate problem-solving. For the first time, the front office benefits from Factory OS by gaining clear insights into precisely what’s happening on the factory floor: eliminating guesswork about scrap percentages or production run times.
While traditional legacy MES systems work from the top-down, Factory OS systems work from the bottom-up. Engineers on the factory floor can finally collect meaningful, contextual data and say goodbye to disconnected spreadsheets and hand-written process notes.
Lengthy custom-coded upgrades are the hallmark of legacy manufacturing execution system software. Forward-thinking physical world visionaries are turning to ION Factory OS solutions with flexible configurations out of the box. A solution that grows to suit the needs of the manufacturer. Solutions like ION are accelerating the manufacturing process for next-generation creators in aerospace, energy, renewables, and more.
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