Manufacturing Execution System • March 11, 2016

Best Practices in MES Selection for Complex Discrete Manufacturing

iBase-t Experts

Navigating MES SelectionSelecting a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) is an intimidating task, especially if it means your reputation is on the line. With impending project proposals and a need to compete in today’s competitive manufacturing industry, your company  can’t afford to make the wrong decision. Fortunately, you are not the first to experience the burden of making this critical selection. So rather than reinventing the wheel from scratch, we’ve assembled some insights and essential items you must look at in order to make a well informed decision. Utilize our best practices below to get your MES selection right, the first time.

Define Business and Project Goals

Before you begin your research it’s important to know the goals you wish to achieve from implementing an MES solution. Too often people go straight into product demos, rather than taking the time to evaluate how an MES solution would enhance their specific strategic initiatives. This approach might work when selecting some small applications, but an MES project is an opportunity to reevaluate the practices for managing the manufacturing process taking initiatives like lean, digital thread, quality management and regulatory compliance also in consideration. Identifying, defining and linking your project goals with your business goals is the first (and most important) step to begin your search for an MES solution.

Once goals have been identified, you will better understand how the MES solution will ensure strategic initiatives are met in order to receive needed results. Examples of goals you should consider when searching for an MES solution include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Productivity, Lean Manufacturing
  • Quality and Six Sigma
  • Enabling the Digital Thread
  • Consolidation of legacy applications and systems
  • Regulatory Compliance

Assemble the Team

The team you put on the project from selection to implementation will make the difference between success and failure—from management sponsors to project manager to subject matter experts (SMEs). Implementing an MES solution is a comprehensive undertaking, one that requires coordination from many of your organization’s functional departments. Therefore once goals have been defined, it’s time to assemble a team of sponsors within the organization to be the champions of this endeavor.

The key to assembling your team should start from the top down. Obtaining senior level executives as sponsors and champions provides a longer-time perspective so that short-term “savings” can be weighed against offsetting longer term, strategic benefits. Project management practices are also very important including risk management. It’s not enough to just have a few IT people and expect them to manage the whole reengineering process. It is important to include SMEs with viewpoints and objectives across departments that support manufacturing including Operations, Manufacturing Engineering, Quality, Production Control, Inventory and Tooling Management.

Internal resources might not be sufficient to support the project, so also consider hiring external consultants or systems integrators if needed.

Know your Industry Requirements

At first glance it seems that most manufacturing systems have a similar functional footprint, however upon further investigation you will realize a few contain very specialized functionality that cater to specific industries. There are multiple levels of manufacturing processes with different levels of requirements, making it critical to keep the requirements of your specific industry in mind. Many MES solutions have been designed for continuous or batch manufacturing environments so when you’re researching for an MES provider, you want to find solutions that are focused on complex, discrete manufacturing.

Complex Discrete Mfg

Once you know which MES providers cater to your manufacturing requirements the next step is to select a framework to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. The frameworks we suggest you utilize include ISA95, QMS (ISO9001/AS9100/ISO13485). A framework like ISO9001 describes a Quality Management System for Product Realization and will help your requirements organized. For the product realization processes standards like ISA95 describe MES/MOM functions, and is a useful framework to use as a starting point.

Perhaps even better to look at both at these frameworks together because manufacturing and quality management processes have some common overlaps. We recommend the following recorded presentation for more information on merging these requirements: The Intersection of Quality Management and Manufacturing Execution Systems.


If you have done your due diligence to define your business goals, assemble a team of champions for this endeavor and have identified the requirements needed for your specific manufacturing project you are well on your way to distilling through the initial list of prospect solutions. To help narrow down your initial prospect solutions we’ve created a checklist of items each solutions provider must have in order to move on to the next phase of the MES selection process.