MES - Manufacturing Execution System
Manufacturing execution systems (MES) are computerized systems used in manufacturing, to track and document the transformation of raw materials to finished goods. MES software provides information that helps manufacturing decision makers understand how current conditions on the plant floor can be optimized to improve production output. Manufacturing execution solutions work in real time to enable the control of multiple elements of the production process (e.g. inputs, personnel, machines and support services).
The idea of Execution System might be seen as an intermediate step between, on the one hand, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, and a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) or process control system on the other; although historically, exact boundaries have fluctuated. Industry groups such as MESA International— Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association were created in the early 1990s in order to address the complexity, and advise on execution, of MES Systems.
Manufacturing execution software comes with a whole bunch of concepts and terms that help provide a better understanding of what they actually are. Here are some of the more common terms and concepts associated with MES:
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP) system— strategic business process management tools that integrate all facets of an enterprise into one comprehensive information system that can be accessed by individuals across an entire organization.
- MESA-11— published in 1997, this model — created by the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association (MESA)— indicated the 11 core functions of a standard MES.
- ANSI/ISA-95 standard — created for global manufacturers by the International Society of Automation, this is a standard set of guidelines for developers to follow when creating software that automatically links enterprise systems—like ERP—and control systems.
- Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) — a general unit of measure that evaluates how well a machine works compared to its full potential.
- Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) — a system of software and hardware elements that allows manufacturers to maintain efficiency, process data for smarter decisions, and communicate system issues to help reduce downtime.
Core MES Functionality
- Operations management. Offer employees a global view of planned production orders and their production routing.
- Dispatching production units. Manage the bidirectional flow of production data in real time between the ERP and the workshop. This ensures production data is always accurate, consistent, and up to date.
- Product tracking and genealogy. Group final parts or batches with all their corresponding manufacturing data—from the raw material to the component assembly. This data is especially useful for manufa
- Labor management. Manages people, products, and/or operations and track any skills or authorizations they require.
- Quality management. Manages the quality of manufacturing process and units. This function can be integrated directly into the Manufacturing execution system software or can use external software.
- Maintenance management. More easily and accurately plans preventative machine maintenance to reduce downtime and production interruptions.
- Data collection and acquisition. Tracks and gathers essential data and easily recall that data when needed.
- Process management. Provides process routing and operational sequencing—including full production traceability.
- Performance analysis. Consolidates data to calculate key performance indicators (KPIs) like rework, scrap, process capability, OEE, and more.
- Document control. Provides a simple way for operators to access important documents—including instructions, drawings, notes, and more—when they need them.
- Resource allocation and status. Defines and tracks the status of resources and how they are used in the production process.
F.A.Q about MES - Manufacturing Execution System
Is an MES right for my business?
There are plenty of benefits—including increased productivity, improved data capture, real-time visibility into your operations, an optimized workforce, and more. MES manufacturing software provides materials traceability, which is invaluable for manufacturers that must adhere to strict regulations. Manufacturers in the food and beverage, medical device, aeronautics and aerospace, and defense industries require this traceability to ensure they are compliant with regulations.
However, manufacturing enterprise system isn’t for everyone. Smaller manufacturers may find that their production operations aren’t large enough to justify an additional software system like an MES. Additionally, they may feel that their profit margins don’t allow for this type of investment. Like any piece of technology, you have to weigh your options and decide if an MES is worth it for your manufacturing enterprise.
How do MES and ERP systems work together?
ERP and MES systems play separate but complementary roles in manufacturing operations. ERP systems integrate all facets of an enterprise into one comprehensive information system. For example, employees in planning and scheduling have access to the same data as the staff in financial management. All the data is also available in real time, which enables production managers to make faster, more informed business decisions.Meanwhile, MES is the layer between your manufacturing shop floor systems—like machines and supervisory systems—and your business, planning, and logistics systems—basically, your ERP solution.
MES and ERP integrate with each other to provide a single source of truth throughout your organization. ERP systems can show you that you might need to improve your production output—MES management shows you how.
What should I be careful about as I pursue my MES strategy?
Know what you need. Know your own best-practices requirements. Know your production hardware and equipment inside out so you can be sure that it can be monitored and controlled by a prospective MES vendor's products. Don't believe every claim you hear from an MES software vendor. Ask them to prove their claims by checking with clients who've installed their applications and are seeing them work every day.
Know the vendor's responsibilities to uptime, production needs, tech support, training, and every other conceivable detail before you sign a contract. Know the answer to your question before you even ask the vendor, because you already did the research and know it from every angle. Be sure your prospective vendors value your critical business processes as much as their own before you put your factories and production into their hands.