A Connected MES System for Enhanced Manufacturing
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A Connected MES System for Enhanced Manufacturing

By Pablo Gonzalez, SVP of Engineering, Zume

One of the most vital yardsticks to measure performance in manufacturing organizations is OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness), whose optimization helps increase capacity, increases cost-effectiveness, efficiency, and enhances quality in the manufacturing floor. Every activity we took up when it came to the formulation of MES software was to result in productive and stable yields ultimately. This is one of the major concerns with most industry leaders today because of the dynamic and fluctuating nature of the industry. With the drastic changes in the space, consequentially, the OEE is unstable too. To reverse this issue, from my previous engagement in the MES space, I used my expertise and experience in building MES software from the ground up at Tesla. What I did differently though is the inclusion of an AI engine into the software, and the bi-directional nature of the communications further helped to make changes in the manufacturing equipment or the processes. In my present role as a Senior Vice President of Zume, I engage myself in a lot of activities and work toward introducing an SAP MES into one of the three factories, producing compostable materials. The inclusion of the SAP MES pretty much requires a very different database and database farming than that of Tesla.

At Tesla, I initially encountered a makeshift MES, which proved to be quite problematic. Under the guidance of my then boss Elon Musk, we went ahead to make a new MES software organically. We collected vast amounts of data and added it to the database. We went ahead and created another system, including visualizations and dashboards, which was FIS (Factory Information System) that allowed for proactive data visibility, with an operational view. We also transformed from making decisions manually to automating all the processes with algorithms to form a whole new intelligent database, which would then enable smart decision-making within the organization. We also went ahead and integrated MES into other systems like the ERP and the WMS, which resulted in full flexibility across the floor.

When it came to Zume, I had a completely different experience while integrating MES into the factories, which we went on to call MOS (Manufacturing Operations). In my current work, we have ensured the combination of all aspects like the people, the database, and the various systems in a perfect concoction to enhance the customer journey and the overall productivity we generate. We spent a lot of time in innovating new MES software for our factories, while also having the foresight of AI being the next step ahead in the MES. We are continuously working on our equipment and machines to be more agile and generate valuable and actionable data more efficiently to drive better decisions. The SAP MES is best-suited for us, especially with our PLM and PDM systems. It helps us in making changes within the systems and the processes seamlessly while controlling and monitoring them as well. The SAP MES and Zume seem to have come into a profitable conjoining and has become the standard for us. We have taken an off-the-shop approach in integrating the new systems into our factories. We have no doubt implemented a new system in Zume. However, we still stick to the trial and error process to effectively analyze the data and maintain the efficiency and stability of our manufacturing processes.

"We have ensured the combination of all aspects like the people, the database, and the various systems in a perfect concoction to enhance customer journey and the overall productivity we generate"

In the wave of bringing in new implementations to our systems, we need to focus on two significant areas. One of which is the equipment side. With MES, we can make necessary changes in how the equipment on the shop floor work and bring alignment in the data that is produced from different equipment from varied suppliers. We are also looking at a new trend of connected devices that can help enhance the functionality of MES and as a result, generate valuable data. The data we receive at present is of high-level and no doubt gives the basic understanding of how the equipment works. Still, with connected devices, we can get data that will allow us to employ traceability and ideation within our workflow, which will further bring about a complete transformation in the output of equipment.

On the other hand, the other aspect we need to consider is the MES side. It’s not just vital to have visualization but also to have that active component within MES that helps in making business decisions and change the outcome of the equipment for the better. These changes need to be brought about not just by the suppliers but also the third-party vendors who can go ahead and assist in customizing the processes in tune with the requirements of the industry. It is additionally important to integrate equipment and data efficaciously within the MES system to bring about profitable returns. This can be achieved by seamless plugins for third parties, even at the visualization point, to help end-users to perform customization.

In my opinion, the third parties play a major role in getting the right information and in driving the outcomes in an easier and faster way. This too depends on the type of organization one is, as most small scale companies will opt for building the MES system from scratch while the bigger players in the space will take advice and help from third parties to grow their business. It all ultimately comes down to the size of the company, the end goal they have in mind, and the system they employ to make smart business decisions and establish their mark in the manufacturing world.

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