How a Manufacturing Execution System Can Help You With a Labor Shortage

Epicor for Manufacturing


Business process automation in the manufacturing industry will help increase productivity, visibility, and efficiency, but you still need skilled workers to operate. Creating the optimal balance between automation and worker skills lies in using systems designed to measure and automate operating activities so you can achieve continuous improvement. Manufacturers around the world face a significant shortage of skilled labor. Record unfilled jobs are likely to cap higher productivity and cap growth in 2021.


The pandemic exacerbates the labor shortage residing in manufacturing, along with most of the world's workforce. The challenging environment is driving fear of new virus variants, increasing demands for child care, and leading workers to seek more flexible work arrangements. A challenge for manufacturers to ensure. With that background, how do you attract and retain skilled workers, operate efficiently, support customers, and drive revenue?


Using a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) can help you streamline and succeed despite a workforce shortage. Simplifying and automating your operations can help you increase productivity, increase the performance of minimal employees to be faster, and access data remotely.


Let's take a look at some of the specific benefits of MES for manufacturers experiencing labor challenges.


1. Speed up Onboarding

Every manufacturing facility faces a turnover battle and is challenged with keeping staff levels stable. New hires and temporary workers are constantly assigned to handle urgent needs or seasonal demands. New hires may not know your industry, but you need to scale things up quickly.


The MES solution helps with an intuitive touchscreen interface that provides access to the information they need to get up to speed quickly including:

  • Training documentation and videos

  • Work instructions and part drawings

  • Process steps

  • “Call for help” assistance


2. Automate Production Data Collection and Reporting

To reduce the complexity that accompanies orientation increasing efficiencies as figuring out what part number is being made, calculating the part with manual math, writing down information, and scrambling to find a drawing or drawing reduces productivity. Things that can happen manual process errors that often experience interruptions and handoffs.


Manual data collection drains productivity and accuracy with issues that include:

  • The wrong part number or job is tracked

  • Wrong quantities

  • Transposed numbers

  • Incorrect time

  • Overproduction

  • Inaccurate inventory

  • Increased need for cycle counting

  • Employee job satisfaction


An MES solution automates and streamlines all of that with:

  • Automated changeovers—the part number for the item being made comes directly from your PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) system. It eliminates the need for operators to write down or go to a screen and choose what part/job they’re working on.

  • Automated part counts.

  • Alerts—automatically alert workers when scheduled quantities of parts are fulfilled.


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3. Get Accurate Real-Time Visibility

The data you collect in an MES solution also provides more accurate, real-time information for your business—that you can use to make faster, real-time decisions. The cumulative effect helps you reduce overall labor by:

  • Improving inventory accuracy and checking part availability. No more walks to the plant floor.

  • Creating visibility into how parts are running, and machines are performing that general managers can see remotely.

  • Monitoring performance at individual machines also allows machine operators to see how their machine is performing. This leads to more efficient and proactive improvements.

  • Allowing office workers more flexibility and access to systems so they can work remotely or from home.

4. Automate Process Monitoring to Reduce Frequency of Physical Inspections

The MES system also collects process data when parts are manufactured. For example, temperature, pressure, and vibration levels can be monitored and collected. Information is collected directly from the PLC on the machine or from IoT sensors or actuators. Using statistical processes and automated parts qualification and quality control methodologies, MES capabilities help you determine when a part is outside of an acceptable process variable so you can program:

  • Turning on a red light

  • Turning on an alarm

  • Making an announcement over your PA system

  • Shutting down a machine

  • Opening a door on a conveyer belt to eject parts


5. Improve Productivity with Performance Analytics

MES data also provides information to help you understand exactly what activities employees perform and how efficiently they operate with detailed data on each operator. You can monitor performance and schedule your best workers where you need them most. You can also determine how to assign workers based on their level of experience or see where work instructions or training are needed for poor performance.


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6. Track the Performance of Your Operations

Tracking your business progress with the MES system helps you understand how your business operates and provides more clarity on how to adjust and optimize. You'll get a better understanding of the number of parts that need to be made and how quickly you need to make them. You can track the following:

  • The number of workers and shifts you need for production demand

  • The quantity of parts you need to manufacture

  • When parts batches need to be ready

  • What your OEE should be

  • Your hiring needs

7. Attract Talent with Technology

Employee loyalty will be built into the workplace with the tools they need to be successful. An easy-to-use operator interface where it is easy to enter data is essential for optimal performance and worker satisfaction. The built-in “call for help” capability also means employees get help when they need it. No more wandering around looking for help with shop floor machines.