This blog series continues as we discuss the 5Ms of manufacturing – material, man, machine, measure, and method. Part 3 focuses on control of machines.
In the previous blogs, we said that the pursuit of product quality means getting back to basics – controlling the variables in the manufacturing process. The caveat is that controlling the 5Ms is a lot easier today, because manufacturers have access to a Manufacturing Execution System (MES), which automates control of the production process.
In general, what we mean by controlling the “machine” is that we want to use only manufacturing equipment that is proper for the task, and that those machines are properly maintained and calibrated.
How does an MES enforce the use of the right equipment? Let’s look at an example.
Say an operator reaches a step in the manufacturing process that requires the use of a piece of equipment, or a “resource.” In an environment with an MES, the operator will be viewing a monitor displaying the MES interface, which guides every step of the process. The operator will select a particular unit or lot, and activate, or “move in” the unit to start work.
The operator needs to select the resource he or she is going to use to assemble the product. The operator will have a drop-down menu to select the resource to use. An MES should display only the valid resources that may be used, as defined by the SOP or recipe. When the operator selects a valid resource from the list, and starts the operation, the MES should verify that the proper preventive maintenance has been performed on the machine. If it has not, the MES displays an error message, with visual warning indicators, that the machine does not meet its maintenance requirements, and prevent the operator from continuing the operation. In addition, the MES can determine whether a resource is available, preventing the operator from continuing if the resource is in use elsewhere, or down.
These seem like straight-forward checks that should be present in any process. But many manufacturers are still operating with paper-based systems, making these simple checks difficult. Using today’s manufacturing execution systems ensures that operators are using only equipment that is valid, up and running, and in good condition
An MES system today is critical if you are pursuing product quality. In regulated industries, like Medical Devices, it is a must-have. Tracking that the proper machines are used in the manufacturing process is required. And the MES does it for you automatically.
In the next blog, we will talk about the control of fourth M – Measure.