|The five reasons why Excel is not a Manufacturing Execution System|
|Blog - Supply Chain|
|Written by John Broadbent|
|Friday, 17 February 2012|
MES is supposed to stand for Manufacturing Execution System, however in our world it often refers to Many Excel Spreadsheets!
MES stands for Manufacturing Execution System which is software that manages the execution of work orders, work in progress (WIP), Lot management and a host of other functions specific to manufacturing.
The pervasiveness of Excel in the manufacturing environment is one that is certainly good for Microsoft, but is it good for business? We invariably see manufacturers turn to Excel to capture manually-collected information such as downtime, production, waste, system values and other process information collected via paper forms.
The spreadsheet may be something created by the user, or a business-created sheet stored in a central location, but either way, it is a spreadsheet doomed to failure, especially when compared against real-time systems.
Firstly, spreadsheet systems are not real-time. While some companies have written interfaces to allow Excel to capture near-real-time information, the majority are manually updated, sometimes at the end of a shift, sometimes days later. Not only does this introduce inherent latency but also the opportunity for ‘human error’ (aka ‘typos’). This means business decisions are being made on inaccurate, late and sometimes completely incorrect information.
Secondly, spreadsheets generally don’t store historical information, in that the sheet updated today loses the information from yesterday. Unless the sheet is stored under a different name making handling multiple sheets unwieldy, or the data is stored under a new tab ensuring the workbook gets larger and larger until it eventually becomes unwieldy. Also spreadsheets are single-user and when opened by one contributor, lock others out until they are closed.
Thirdly, spreadsheets don’t keep an audit trail. Any cell changed by a spreadsheet user overwrites the previous information and is lost forever.
Fourthly, spreadsheets are often stored on local PCs and not backed up, so no contingency for PC or hard disk failure.
And when it comes to reporting from multiple spreadsheet sources, information is typically copied from one spreadsheet to another, or combined, with many hours per week consumed manipulating, massaging and correcting.
How ubiquitous is Excel in your organisation? One challenge for manufacturing organisations is to actually audit the number and nature of spreadsheets that are used, along with the frequency of use and hours spent daily on them, and to note the replication of data. When the cost of Excel use alone is measured it can often easily justify capital investment in systems that can remove most, if not all need for manual data collection and entry, plus the added benefit of accurate and timely information.
When you think about the volume, nature and timeliness of information needed today to run an agile, responsive and customer-centric business, is Excel really the tool to use?
At Plaut we have successfully assisted many businesses achieve their real-time reporting goals, removed the need for Many Excel Spreadsheets, provided intelligent dashboards and ensured the data that is delivered is accurate, timely and in context.
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