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Efficiency Beyond ERP: The MES Solution

#BlogPost
Zilingo Editorial Team
September 07, 2021
The world witnessed the near-collapse of several industry value chains amidst the pandemic. And the Apparel sector was one of the worst-hit sectors. Analysing this impact on industries worldwide, Mckinsey released a report stating that digital transformation would be critical for businesses to survive now. And, safe to say, every business owner in the apparel sector experienced this escalating need to digitise the apparel value chain as well.
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?
Well, no.
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.
But there is more.

What is the big difference between MES and ERP?

The differences between these two systems can be categorised into three stages:
1. The Purpose
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.
2. The Means
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.

3. The Action
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?

Can they work together?

MES-ERP integration can be seen as a match made in heaven for apparel manufacturers. There are possibilities of more accurate demand forecasting, just-in-time deliveries, floor optimisation, higher efficiency and profitability, etc.
Since both the systems are designed to facilitate efficient manufacturing and accurate decision-making, integrating the two can be ideal for a 360-degree view of the whole manufacturing process with better control.
And the best thing is that with the current level of available technology, it’s not only possible but rather a huge opportunity cost for every apparel manufacturer working solely with an ERP system till now. Given the flexibility of an MES solution, it can be readily integrated with ERP software and help achieve much better control over the entire value chain.

So what’s the solution?

It doesn’t matter whether you have a 20th century ERP or a next-gen cloud-based one; having an end-to-end MES solution, with or without ERP, will ensure you achieve that target efficiency smoothly.
In the world sprinting towards IoT, the next chance it gets, every apparel manufacturer should select a solution that will smoothly update to accommodate this rapid technological evolution. Now that data has become the most crucial resource for any manufacturer, having an MES solution that can do it all can be the most intelligent and cost-effective way forward. Especially now, when a digital transformation is necessary to survive and thrive in the industry.
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