Generally speaking, there are two major categories of Production Tracking Systems in the market but only one that realistically helps minimize wasted time, control floor activities and analyze opportunities for process improvements.

You can group these systems into two categories. The first is known as Shop Floor Data Collection (SFDC) and is usually accomplished with bar code scanners. The second is a MES (Manufacturing Execution System), which not only collects data but also controls the activities on the factory floor both within and between each work centers (machines, lines, cells assembly areas, etc.).

The MES is focused on ensuring along the entire Production Tracking process all the activities are controlled. This helps in insure the management can maximize efficiency, minimize waste, and improve the accuracy and timeliness of production information. MES can control activities starting from material issues, all the way through to the production cycle to finished goods inventory updates. This assures the accountability of all the resources required (labor, machines, tools) and necessary documents (job packet, WIP tags, instructions, drawing, quality sheets, and time sheets, etc.) are available to the operator(s) when the job is ready and/or running.

The MES is a paperless approach to factory floor visibility and control. SFDC is simply tracking the “accounting” data of labor time and production reporting with little, if any, control functionality.

Both systems minimize or eliminate manual activity and improve accuracy of production tracking. SFDC is an older style approach to shop floor systems. It often is sold with expensive RF Scanner devices costing over $2,000 each. And the scanners must read bar coded shop floor paperwork such as travelers…so by definition it is not paperless. Shop Floor Data Collection is usually a one-way updating of the work order operations file information.

The MES on the other hand is a two way communications approach with the ERP system. The work order information is presented on an intuitive User Interface (UI) to allow the factory floor people to work electronically (and paperless) with the necessary production information. MES systems deploy on inexpensive tablet devices costing under $200 each.

MES integration can also be to a document library or payroll systems (for Time and Attendance). Integration can also be with machines through an OPC Server to assist the operator in accounting for production and identifying downtime and other OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) analytics. Click here for more information more information.