Manufacturing Analytics is Not the Same as MES or ERP

If you don’t want to read this whole post I will summarize: Manufacturing Analytics is not ERP or MES. Simple, right?

Manufacturing analytics is a different tool with a different goal. So do you need both? Probably not, right?

Not surprisingly, I would say that is wrong.

“I’m Good With What I’ve Got…I Think”

The goal of any manufacturing analytics application is to increase capacity and throughput, doing more with the same resources.

It does this by using machine and operator data to find and eliminate inefficiencies in manufacturing processes.

ERP and MES were not designed to do any of that.

But… but… but…

We already have an MES system.

We already have an ERP.

We use our ERP or MES for that.

While it is true that there is some overlapping functionality between manufacturing analytics, ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) they are distinctly different tools designed for different jobs.


What is MES – Manufacturing Execution System?

“A manufacturing execution system (MES) is a control system for managing work in process on the factory floor.”

MES systems come in many sizes, complexities, and features. From the most basic shop floor data collection solutions attached to an ERP system to full-blown automated solutions that are as large and complex to an SAP ERP system.

Most MES solutions allow a user to enter counts, scrap, start and stop jobs, or production runs. They can provide online documentation, traceability, job tracking, and status. They can track downtime and scrap by reason code at a high level. Many of them provide scheduling solutions too.

The operative word in the description of MES is CONTROL.

An MES system is designed to control the process, which is fine in process manufacturing or some highly repetitive manufacturing, but for most companies, MES does not work as well.

Most manufacturers are fluid operations that have constantly changing schedules and needs. The more a system wants to control the process, the more likely users are to tell the system what it wants to hear rather than what actually happened.

The more functions the MES provides the more detailed data they need which requires more input from operators.


What is ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning?

Here is the definition from SAP’s website.

“Think about all the core processes needed to run a company: finance, HR, manufacturing, supply chain, services, procurement, and others. At its most basic level, ERP integrates these processes into a single system. But new ERP systems are anything but basic. They provide intelligence, visibility, analytics, and efficiency across every aspect of a business. Using the latest technologies, ERP systems facilitate the flow of real-time information across departments and ecosystems, so businesses can make data-driven decisions and manage performance – live.”

Basically, ERP is designed to integrate every business process into one system.

Most people who use ERP systems agree that it does this, and if done properly, it can create a lot of valuable visibility within an organization.

Like I mentioned at the top of this post, ERP software is plumbing. Once your company reaches a certain size you have to have it, period.

ERP is designed to plan for the future and keep track of history. It helps create quotes and orders, it plans purchasing, inventory and production, and in the end, it is all accounted for in the financial modules.

All ERPs that focus on manufacturing have a way to collect data from the plant floor either as a core module or as an add-on MES solution. These add-ons are designed to feed the core ERP system and help it keep track at a high level of what is happening in the plant.


What is Manufacturing Analytics?

I have written about manufacturing analytics many times. You can read the overview post here “What is Manufacturing Analytics?” Below is a quick summary:

The goal of SensrTrx or any manufacturing analytics product is to increase capacity and throughput, doing more with the same resources. It does this by using machine and operator data to find and eliminate inefficiencies in their manufacturing process.

Manufacturing analytics systems should do 4 things well:

  1. Acquire Data
  2. Clean & Contextualize Data
  3. Calculate Manufacturing KPIs
  4. Produce Role-Based Visualizations & Dashboards

It must be able to do all these things, well, to produce the end goal of Producing More with the Same Resources (labor and equipment).


What Can You Do with Analytics That You Can’t with ERP or MES Software?

This is pretty simple actually, both ERP and MES are designed to collect and process data in a certain way.

Neither one deals with unstructured, fast-moving data that is produced by manufacturing equipment.

ERP and MES software really want summarized data

How much scrap did we have on this job? How much did we product on this shift? What is the cycle time for this product?

This is fine at a high-level but when you are trying to improve efficiency, it is not enough detail.

For example, if you want to improve the cycle time of a product or machine, where do you start?

From your ERP or MES, you can pull a list of production records and see which ran slower or faster than the others. Now that you know this what do you do next?

You can talk to the operators or supervisors in that area. They likely won’t remember why one ran faster than the others.

Next time you run that product you can run a time study, find the inefficiencies make and make a plan to speed it up.

Then, you run reports in the ERP or MES to see if those improvements stuck.

This is a very different process with a manufacturing analytics system. Using SensrTrx, you have detailed records down to the second that tells you what the machine was doing. You can see setup times, changeovers, tool breaks, shortstops, lunches and everything else that happened on the machine.

You don’t have to run a time study because SensrTrx is running one every minute of every day. Manufacturing analytics is monitoring performance in real-time and can alert you when it falls below the standard. This allows you to fix the problem when it happens, not diagnose it after the fact.


ERP and MES Were Just Not Designed to Do That.

Honestly, manufacturing analytics will have a bigger impact on a manufacturing company that ERP or MES.

Remember, ERP is plumbing, any company of sufficient size needs it. But no one ever gets the expected efficiency gains out of an ERP. And, if they do get them, they are in the back office, accounting, purchasing, planning, etc. not on the factory floor.

My suggestion is that if you are growing fast, or having trouble fixing production issues, implement a true manufacturing analytics software solution that can help you manage and collect the right data in context.

See How SensrTrx Compares to Other Solutions

SensrTrx vs. General

While the benefits you’ll get from SensrTrx are specific to you and will largely be based on your needs and goals, there are 5 key components that differentiate us from the competition.

See the differences >

SensrTrx vs. ERP

Manufacturing analytics provides value that you can’t find in an ERP; real-time analytics which allows for immediate action and contextual data goes far beyond your ERP capabilities.

See the differences >

SensrTrx vs. IoT

Compared to an IoT platform, SensrTrx is purpose-built to connect machines and operators to the cloud in order to track production KPIs impacted by availability, performance, and quality.

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SensrTrx vs. SCADA

SCADA doesn’t explain what is going right or wrong, only concentrating on control and what’s not supposed to happen. Manufacturing analytics provides visibility.

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SensrTrx vs. Power BI

Power BI will take additional implementations, products, and possibly consultants to perform many of the same functions manufacturing analytics provides.

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SensrTrx vs. Tableau

Tableau is a general business platform that does not help you understand data to improve uptime, quality, and performance of your factory.

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SensrTrx vs. Business Intelligence

Business intelligence is analytics that provides insights into processes, but many BI solutions are general, not specifically built for manufacturing. It lacks the ability to track many essential KPIs.

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SensrTrx vs. ThingWorx IIoT

ThingWorx is an IIoT platform used to build solutions on top of. With ThingWorx, manufacturers will have to build the solution themselves and is not a purpose-built, out of the box solution.

See the differences >