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66 SMT Magazine • February 2014 by Michael Ford MENTor grAPhICS CorP. THe eSSeNTIaL PIONeer'S SurVIVaL GuIDe ColUMN Why are erP and MeS so Limited in electronics? Enterprise resource planning (ERP) and manufacturing execution systems (MES) are great tools that have brought manufacturing progressively forward, meeting customer and market needs, empowering global operations, and bringing success. Although the price for these tools can cause sticker shock, especial- ly considering the IT muscle needed for their continuous operation, the critical measure of return on investment is compelling—except in the case of electronics manufacturing. An impenetrable chaos seems to exist within electronics manufacturing that neither ERP nor MES can crack. For sure, the core functionality of these systems applies equally well for elec- tronics, yet somehow, key stubborn issues re- main. Many of these poor practices were origi- nally introduced as countermeasures to ensure a smoother production flow. The core issues then become more elusive to solve as operation- al momentum builds over time. However, most issues can be traced back to the fundamental lack of control of materials on the shop-floor, specifically, the lack of material inventory, in- tegrity and accuracy. The effect of inventory inaccuracy is unex- pected material starvation at key processes and inability to complete planned work-orders. Ma- terials that were expected to be available, as re- ported by ERP, are not. Management, motivated simply by the need to ensure deliveries are met, decides to increase the overall materials stocks to prevent the starvation, increasing the ware- house and shop-floor material stock-holding. But this action serves only to delay the inevi- table result of the continued accumulation of inventory error. Then the only way to consolidate the mis- match between the ERP view of available ma- terials and the actual physical materials is to

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