Even so, the glass-half-full benefit here is that Covid has given the apparel industry a great opportunity to be digital leaders and reap the early-adopter benefits that come with the power of data.
We all know that the two most popular data-based solutions in any manufacturing industry are the ERP and MES solutions. And while the apparel sector holds a substantial chunk of ERP’s global market share, MES solutions are yet to have their value recognised in this arena - sounds like a first-mover advantage.
We also know that ERP digitises the transactions on a macro basis and rarely gets granular information of shop floor execution, and neither does it impact or elevate the operations. Whereas, the need of the hour is how businesses become more agile and nimble to market reactions, which is where ERP solutions lack and MES solutions provide.
How is the apparel sector digitised?
Apparel manufacturing, for decades, has locked in working with ERP solutions as the essence of digitisation and data capturing. This was true probably in the early 90s, but after 30 years of seeing the internet boom and a 180-degree turn-around of technology in the form of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and BigData, can we still afford to believe the same?
Many apparel manufacturers invest big bucks in lengthy ERP implementations. It has worked successfully through the decades; however, there is a critical need to update this technology to a more data-centric and real-time tech that is not only intuitive and simple to use but also easily accessible.
A simple solution to all the 21st-century shortcomings of ERP software is an MES solution - Manufacturing Execution System. That is, to do away with just resource planning for efficiency and rather, systematically reinforcing quality and efficiency into the whole manufacturing process and having a real-time tracking system to keep it in check.
What is the big difference between MES and ERP?
The differences between these two systems can be categorised into three stages:
The purpose of an ERP system is information and data sharing within an organisation. It is expected to streamline the information and give the higher management and decision-makers a deeper look into the performance of the business.
On the other hand, An MES solution intends to provide a tool for tangible control over the quality and efficiency of the entire manufacturing process. It generates real-time reports based on current operations. Furthermore, it can also interpret various data points to provide a solution for reduced wastage.
In ERP software, the means of data capturing is majorly manual data entry. Since the purpose of ERP is information sharing for better planning of resources, correct data capturing is imperative for its function. And since manual data entry can lead to many human errors, many modern ERP software provides provisions to minimise such redundancies.
An MES solution can capture data through multiple means - live data feed from checking stations, barcode scanners, sensor systems, etc. The need for such a system is based on the urgent and dynamic nature of a workplace like an apparel manufacturing unit. Reducing latency and providing accurate data in real-time help the management make quick decisions and get maximum monetary benefits from every step of the manufacturing process.
An ERP system primarily performs based on the financial transactions throughout the business process - Ordering raw material, payroll management, supplier payments, order receipts, etc.
And MES, however, is a process-driven system. Thus, in a manufacturing environment, MES triggers actions based on specific events like quality checks. And with the help of real-time monitoring, it helps in meeting and conforming to the set criteria of the process. So, for example, a quality checking process allows the checkers to ensure that the acceptable quality is met while capturing the data.
What are the possible challenges for both systems?