A brief history of MES in the cable industry
In the late 1970s, MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) started to be used within industry, as computing power became cheaper and programming skills became widely available. In the wire and cable industry, MES was limited to conveying a list of jobs to the shop floor and collecting progress updates on each of the jobs. Data use from the MES system was limited to planning and the costing of work-in-progress.
However, as the 1990s began, manufacturers started to adopt new manufacturing improvement initiatives to maintain a competitive advantage. Data became central to company strategy and became the engine that drove a vast array of manufacturing improvements.
Within wire and cable manufacturers, this data was used to help make savings in efficiency and material, and over time had a profound impact on manufacturing processes. As MES systems continued to monitor savings, data provided confidence that improvement initiatives were working, both from an operational and commercial point of view.
From passive to proactive – MES systems today
In 2020, MES systems look very different. MES still has all the elements of controlling the workflow on the shop floor, but now combines this information with live information from production lines and testing equipment.
MES these days is no longer passive. It no longer waits for the user to analyse the data it collects but will notify the user if something is about to go wrong – enabling the user to make decisions based on real-time data. Furthermore, users are able to access this data through customised dashboards on devices of all kinds, anywhere in the world.
MES – from luxury to necessity
For early adopters of MES in the cable industry, the cost and complexity of implementation were prohibitive to all but the wealthiest of manufacturers. The market and technology have matured and Commercial, Off-the-Shelf (COTS) offerings such as CableMES from Cimteq, mean that MES implementation is now achievable for the majority of cable manufacturers.
Indeed, as more manufacturers deploy MES technology, it ceases to be a luxury and becomes a necessity to retain competitiveness in an industry where margins are increasingly under pressure.
So, the question is: what will MES look like in the future?
These days, it seems everyone is talking about AI or Artificial Intelligence, and MES is no exception: AI is set to provide a huge boost to the development of MES systems of the future.
For instance, currently notification, configuration and decision-making are done by a human. With AI, the human may be taken out of the loop of day-to-day decisions, freeing up their time for other tasks. People will be used to educate the AI system so that it can make autonomous decisions, and then people will validate the decisions made by AI, but this development will mean that MES systems will continue to provide an ever more intelligent manufacturing process for the companies that are brave and bold enough to invest in the future.
CableMES – a dedicated MES system for wire and cable manufacturers
Author: Ali Shehab, President of Cimteq