Frequently Asked Questions

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About MES

What is an MES?

A manufacturing execution system (MES) is a digital information system that connects, monitors and manages complex manufacturing systems and data flows on the factory floor. The main goal of an MES is to ensure effective execution of manufacturing operations and to improve productivity.

What benefits can be expected by implementing the AspectPL MES?

Easy, real time scheduling, full production floor visibility and ERP system integration. The ability to analyse accurate data collected at each manufacturing moment to review and improve manufacturing processes and productivity.

“The traceability AspectPL provides, gives our customers confidence that we can meet their quality, capacity and delivery requirements.”

Scheduling

What is live production scheduling?

A live ‘machine connected’ schedule is always up to date – it’s running in actual ‘real time’. AspectPL is hard wired to the machines so it constantly gathers and records machine data as production is happening on the floor.

How does an MES improve scheduling?

An MES schedule is produced quickly and easily and as it runs in real time, the schedule and production data are always up to date. The production plan may be updated on the go without having to recreate the entire schedule. Using the AspectPL scheduler reduces production planning time by up to two thirds. Allowances for die changes, maintenance, rejects and downtimes are also included in the AspectPL schedule.

Why are spreadsheets a poor option for planning production?

Spreadsheets are static – they do not update automatically. They are out of date from the moment they are created.
  • Spreadsheets are slow and labour intensive.
  • Spreadsheets are vulnerable to (human) mistakes.
  • Paper spreadsheets are not easily shared and changes are not easily communicated.
  • Spreadsheets are not agile enough for real time planning and analysis.

“As soon as we installed AspectPL we scrapped the paper production plan completely.”

Costs, Implementation, ROI and Support

What does it cost to implement and run AspectPL?

There is an initial implementation cost and an affordable monthly SaaS license fee. Costs vary between sites depending on the scale of the plant, however in most cases implementing and running AspectPL is usually 50 - 75% less than installing a new ERP system.

How long does implementation take?

Installation is usually completed within 3 months of sign off. We work directly with the client’s IT and electrical teams as well as the ERP vendor or in-house ERP staff to install AspectPL.

In what timeframe is there an ROI and what productivity gains can we expect?

Most clients see a positive return on investment within 12 months, some even less. Customer results include:
  • Increases in productivity (OEE) of 10-15% year on year
  • Reduced initial scheduling time by 2 or more days per month and 20 hours reporting time per week
  • Increased utilisation of machines by up to 95%
  • One plant reported operational savings of $400k in one year
  • Another site reported generation of 15% more revenue, with 20% fewer staff, and they no longer work on the weekends
  • On average for AspectPT customers, every 1% improvement in OEE is worth approx. $50k per year
  • OEE increases greater than 5% per year are achievable. Time is money, and it’s vital to improve the production performance of expensive capital equipment on the floor.

Is it true AspectPL offers unlimited users?

Yes. AspectPL is licensed per machine, line or workstation - not per user. There is no limit as to how many people can be logged on to AspectPL at one time.

What technical support does AspectPT offer?

Support is a critical component of the AspectPT continuous improvement methodology. AspectPT offers phone and email support as well as online customer support and onsite support when required. During implementation, AspectPT offers initial staff and management training followed by secondary (& often tertiary) training 2-3+ months after installation.

“We saw a return on investment within 6 months. AspectPL is an essential tool for us now.”

ERP/ MES Integration

Can AspectPL really integrate with any ERP system?

Yes. AspectPL - ERP integration is achieved quite easily with minimal involvement required from the ERP vendor. AspectPL can configure data fields to link under different import/export scenarios from the ERP. Complicated scenarios such as large multi-level BOMs, product dependencies, alternative routings, family tools and multiple classes of products are easily handled once set up.

My ERP vendor says they can offer a similar system and it will cost a lot for them to integrate with AspectPL.

No on both counts. ERP systems cannot and do not provide the MES functionality and real time visibility of AspectPL on the production floor. Furthermore, the AspectPT team works with your existing ERP vendor or in-house IT staff to complete the integration – often at a capped cost so as to avoid any risk exposure.

What is the difference between an ERP and an MES?

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems manage the front office or ‘carpet’ side of the business – e.g. financials, inventory and customer demand information. Manufacturing execution systems (MES) manage the ‘concrete’ side of the business – they monitor and report on manufacturing.

Will implementing an MES leverage more value from our ERP?

Yes. An MES system extends the value of the ERP by providing real time visibility to production order status and inventory levels. This provides better business decision support, planning and collaboration across the organisation. You’ve spent a great deal of money on an ERP system, why not leverage the benefits and investment in that ERP by supplementing it with a world class MES solution?

Why is the ISA-95 standard important for MES and ERP integration?

Most ERP systems are designed to a standard known as ISA-95 for the integration of enterprise (ERP) and control (MES) systems. AspectPL has a relational database that is structured according to the ISA-95 standard, the same as most ERP systems. What this means is that AspectPL is speaking the same language as the ERP. This facilitates the data exchange between the ERP and MES. AspectPL can easily mirror your ERP system, receiving and sending data between the manufacturing floor and the ERP – without ongoing configuration or programming. This enables AspectPL to monitor the actual ‘machine connected’ performance of your machines and send selected data like job progress and yield to the ERP in real time – effectively making the ERP ‘live’. Traditional SCADA or automation software cannot achieve this level of integration.

What controller is used for the plant interface – is it Industry 4.0 ready?

AspectPL MES software uses the latest in automation control – high-tech, German built, Beckhoff Embedded PC Automation Controllers. A traditional PLC has just 1 or 2 MB of memory while the Beckhoff Controller’s memory starts at 500MB and is so sleek, you can fit two of them in a shoe box. Beckhoff controllers are the latest technology to facilitate data exchange and are Industry 4.0 ready.

“With AspectPL we are now able to plan what we are physically able to do. Before the plan was theoretical.”

Other

What industries has AspectPL be applied to?

To date, AspectPL has been mainly deployed in discrete manufacturing. However, if the manufacturing machines can supply a regular measurable pulse, AspectPL can usually be configured to monitor production.

I’m not sure if our production team will adjust from a manual system?

Your production team are probably already using technology in their lives. Most will use smartphones, tablets and laptops outside of work and are comfortable with social media platforms and online shopping. AspectPL is simple to use and runs on tablets, PCs and work stations. Part of the installation offer includes a training programme for your team.

How do I know this software is current and robust?

AspectPL releases one major software upgrade every year.  The AspectPL license/subscription model means customers are always using the latest version. Our developers listen to our client’s needs and employ the latest industry technologies to consistently enhance the AspectPL software.

What happens if we install AspectPL but decide it’s not the right system for us?

We offer a six month right of termination. We guarantee to buy back the Beckhoff controller and stop the license fee if you reject the solution for any reason within the initial six month period.

How do we know AspectPT will be around in 10 years?

AspectPT founder Allan Orr has been at the helm of AspectPT since 2009. To help achieve stability and maintain longevity Allan brought Evander Management Ltd on to the shareholding register, along with key executive staff. Evander is the majority owner of Datacom, New Zealand’s largest IT company with over 4,000 staff and $1B in revenue per annum.

Who owns the AspectPL IP?

The AspectPL software IP was developed and is owned by Aspect Productivity Technology Limited, a New Zealand registered and owned company. This means the AspectPT team has both the flexibility and agility to determine the software development pathway. Decisions and improvements can be made quickly without reference to a cumbersome multi-national corporate structure.

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