Hexagon, parent of Cabinet Vision, launched a Production Software business to integrate factory floors.
Often mislabeled as an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, the Manufacturing Execution System has a much more distinct purpose: it is aimed specifically at integrating data that drives and manages plant floor manufacturing.
How a typical MES differs from ERP
As the name suggests, a Manufacturing Execution System concentrates its usefulness on production, serving as the link between the CAD/CAM design systems, and the delivery of information about work in progress and work completed to the ERP above it.
- Unlike an ERP, the MES tracks all the individual components comprising a cabinetry or furniture project
- an MES updates job status of individual parts (including outsourced hardware and components)
- It also tracks cabinets and entire projects at each step along the way, through shipping
It is even possible to run an MES, and skip the ERP. Some managers feel they get more bang for the buck by concentrating data efforts in manufacturing instead of trying to write the entire business.
An MES will take its original directions from designs of projects done in CAD/CAM systems like Cabinet Vision or Microvellum. It will also read data dynamically from shop operations, such as from nested CNC component cutting and edgebanding. And it will track manual steps like the accumulation of a "kit" with all the cabinet components, or the dowling, gluing and hardware insertion stations - giving manual labor an entree into data-driven production.
How an MES is implemented will vary - with rolling carts, pass-through sorting walls between cells, or other systems altogether. MES usually track everything through bar code scanning, as well as live data contributed by automated equipment as it completes cuts and clamping on work in process.
In the case of American Woodmark, as well as Muskoka Cabinets, the manufacturing system was developed internally, and it relies on RFID codes embedded into individual parts. At Monkey Bar Storage Systems, which operates two 32,000 sq.ft. plants, the MES application is called Production Coach, distributed and implemented in the U.S. by RSA. WB Mfg. uses 2020 Insight, which has been continuously developed and was relaunched at IWF 2018.
It is no wonder Manufacturing Execution Systems are finding favor with plant managers. While ERPs embrace the entire spectrum of a business - including accounting and sales - an MES just gets the work done. Because it integrates business and production companywide, an ERP can take six months to a year, or even longer, to fully implement. ERPs also tend to favor the demands and performance of business management, and adoption is frequently driven by the company finance department. Implementation of a Manufacturing Execution System is most often handled by the plant manager, perhaps working with his IT department and the system provider's team.
Seamless integration of its tightly-knit work cell allows CNC operators to program multiple machines.
In the case of WB Mfg., the impetus for installation of the 2020 Insight application was a diversification from laminate wood tops and panel components used in commercial furniture, into casegoods for the commercial cabinetry market for hospitals and schools, much of it customized. "Over 40 percent of cabinets we made last year were custom," says Barby, with the various versions including specific colors or unique shelf placements in commercial cabinetry projects for hospitals or schools.
WP Mfg.'s lean workcell begins at the Winstore automated material inventory system, also linked to 2020 Insight. Able to anticipate production flow, it “looks ahead” to select and transport the correct panel to a pair of two-axis labelers, which affix barcodes at the spots on the panel where the nested parts will emerge. Labeled panels are fed into a Rover B CNC router equipped with a 42-spindle drill head, or into a Weeke BHP CNC router with automatic tool changer - depending on the cuts required for the specific cabinet.
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