Shop Floor Control & Manufacturing Execution Systems Meet Computer Vision

Shop Floor Control (SFC) Systems and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) were originally designed to digitally track and document the transformation of raw materials to finished goods, over 40 years ago. Since then, many users have experienced the shortcomings of these systems.

The reasons are varied, but a common criticism is that they are cumbersome to install, difficult to maintain, and lack the fidelity needed to replace MBWA (management by wandering around). Even when MES systems are integrated to read machine data, they still suffer from a fundamental weakness – they tell us very little (if anything) about the human element, inevitably the most difficult part of any operation.

Now imagine an integration-free, touchless, and paper-free version of MES/SFC. The implementation of computer vision, a continuous monitoring application of artificial intelligence, can obsolete the need for these systems. For the first time, operation managers have found a system that can discern the actual routing of work without needing to pre-define it.

Computer vision allows operators to interact with their equipment more accurately and passively. These operators will benefit by using a simple visual dashboard or kiosk to monitor production and receive alerts when a machine is being ignored or a job has been delayed. Better yet, computer vision can also integrate with paper-based shop floor controls.This can be as easy as focusing the camera on a paperwork order or whiteboard for data digitalization.

The irony in applying computer vision is that the implementation effort and costs are significantly lower than that of SFS/MES, even though the technology behind it is light-years ahead. It’s time to consider using a computer-vision based system— one that will truly manage all aspects of your operations (manufacturing, warehousing, shipping & receiving).

Anthony Tarantino, PhD
Adjunct Professor, Santa Clara University – Operations and Finance
Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Certified Scrum Master, CPIM (APICS), CPM (ISM)
Senior Advisor to Atollogy