Motorcycles, ERP, and the Art of Manufacturing Operations

Have I mentioned my love affair with motorcycles? For years I’ve been addicted to the two-wheeled adventure mode – on-road and off. My favourite bike, the Triumph Tiger Explorer, has evolved to include advanced bells and whistles that make it a miracle of modern technology. Some of the Tiger’s key features include traction control, multiple-mode throttle control, hill-start assistance, and brakes that adapt their functionality to weather conditions. Believe me, the Tiger is a beautiful ride, with an almost terrifying amount of power. Which brings us around to another favourite topic of mine – Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) software – the pinnacle of modern ERP performance.

Historically speaking, MOM evolved from Manufacturing Execution Systems (for a discussion of the differences between MOM and MES, please read this blog. ) MOM has some very important features that will help ease our transition into the new millennium. By embracing Industry 4.0 opportunities, technologies and protocols, MOM is an important stepping-stone towards the realization of the Smart Factory.

Of course, like any technologically advanced tool, MOM has too many features to talk about in one blog, so let’s take a birds-eye-view of four main areas that I think of, roughly, like Information, Automation, Factory Performance and Lean.

1 – Information

To start with, MOM leverages the latest technologies to provide a modern, intuitive, browser-based user interface. That allows managers and executives to gain visibility over every stage of the manufacturing process, from any device they choose. MOM software helps to digitize your factory by collecting – and reporting – data from devices and machines. This is the foundation of a Smart Factory – by embedding technology in key equipment, manufacturers create increasingly intelligent manufacturing processes.

Not only does MOM help connect the factory, it also helps to disseminate critical data to the right people at the right time, while keeping resource and production planning up-to-date. It does this through a variety of features, such as Visual Planning Boards, Dashboards, Production Plans, and Equipment Plans. Easy access to Production Status makes it a simple matter to review open jobs, Job Lists and Production History.

2 – Automation

Connecting machines, measuring equipment and devices to collect and interpret data (automatically, without the need for manual inputs) is central to the concept of a Smart Factory.

With MOM, you gain real-time visibility into:

  • Start/stop and downtime
  • Job assignment
  • Operation status
  • Machine status
  • Parts count
  • Component count
  • Performance issues
  • Custom values (such as temperature; pressure; spindle speed, etc.)

As we all know, knowledge is power, and there is enormous power to be found in your factory automation data.

3 – Factory Performance and Loss Management

MOM provides advanced factory performance and loss analytics. This is an amazing tool for driving improvements in overall labour effectiveness (OLE), overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and total effective equipment performance (TEEP).

Among a host of Lean Manufacturing tools offered by the better MOM systems (amongst which I count SYSPRO MOM), I highly recommend Six Big Losses. Initiating Six Big Losses will help you identify, classify and quantify the most common causes of lost productivity in discrete manufacturing, and will help to boost Availability, Performance and Quality. Some of MOM’s out-of-the-box features include dashboards for loss management and equipment analytics (including KPIs such as OEE and TEEP), as well as Employee Analysis, Product Analysis, Loading, Employee and Equipment Availability, Performance and Quality. It helps you to run, in a phrase, a very tight, and increasingly profitable, ship.

4 – Lean Manufacturing and Continuous Improvement

Lean manufacturing tools and programs have proven their utility, and the best MOM systems are designed with a host of features that drive Lean, Six Sigma and Continuous Improvement initiatives. Management Alerts, for example, deliver performance notifications that help to improve efficiencies, and, through early intervention, prevent issues from becoming problems. Messaging sends alerts to and from the shop floor. Issue Workflow allows you to view, assign and resolve custom and/or performance-related production issues.

One of my favorite features in this category is Paperless Shop, which manages and maintains static attachments or online forms related to jobs, operations, employees, and equipment. It also allows you to add hyperlinks to videos and/or document management systems where audit trail or document versioning control is required.

In Conclusion

To return to my other favourite subject, the Triumph Tiger, I suppose a word of caution is in order.

Despite all the aforementioned miracles of modern technology, and despite my long riding history, I still managed to break my leg a few months ago while riding. As I stumped around in my cast I had plenty of time to reflect on the irony of my accident. I’m an experienced rider who let down his guard for a single moment and paid the price.

Believe it or not, this can also happen with ERP and even MOM – especially if you delay updates and maintenance, or avoid regular user training to keep skills up-to-date. Well-trained employees know how to handle just about any scenario as it occurs, with creativity and innovation.

Please don’t ignore your ERP, or your MOM. Just like motorcycles, business systems must be loved, monitored and maintained.

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