Manufacturing Execution System
Manage the execution of complex operations


Manufacturing Execution System

Manage the execution of complex operations
Introduction Watch Product Video What is an MES? Benefits of MES MES for Complex Discrete Manufacturing Selecting the Right MES Conclusion
Gartner Magic Quadrant Report 2022

MES software is a central technology of digital transformation. The right MES solution helps to tightly integrate all Industry 4.0 devices and software to become a digital ecosystem of technology and a unified source of data. The payoff of MES implementation is motivating complex manufacturers all over the world to engage in new initiatives that propel their operations forward.

Specific improvements for manufacturers who adopt an MES include:

Improved process collaboration across production, quality, and engineering workflows
Ease of reporting, tracking, and traceability of production processes and materials
Improve operational agility
Standardized production processes and workflows
Paperless operations and avoidance of manual processes
Closed-loop quality management

Use MES to Unify Production and Data Management Across Operations

In a complex business with a value chain spanning multiple locations and geographies, manufacturing operations can become siloed. Real-time visibility to operations performance and data can be obscured. Engineering change management and version control add further complexity. An iBASEt MES solution, powered by Solumina iSeries, can clear the fog by improving your visibility and control over every operations process. With a modern microservices architecture and open APIs, this MES can be deployed on the cloud, on-premises, or as a hybrid implementation. Pre-configured, best-in-class production process libraries and full device support accelerate time-to-value.

What is a Manufacturing Execution System (MES)?


An MES gives enterprises real-time control for monitoring and managing all work-in-process (WIP) on the shop floor. It tracks and documents the transformation of raw materials through finished goods.

In digital enterprises, manufacturing execution systems are evolving to become a “Manager of Managers”, a system that connects shop-floor automation systems to the overall enterprise software network. The best solutions can tightly integrate with every other enterprise system, creating a digital ecosystem that coordinates quality management, planning, scheduling, dispatching, and production execution. By facilitating the integration of manufacturing floor systems with engineering and business systems, MES streamlines processes that span across the organization.

The importance of an adaptable MES

In digital enterprises, manufacturing execution systems are evolving to become a “Manager of Managers” (MoM), a system that connects shop-floor automation systems to the overall enterprise software network. The best solutions can tightly integrate with every other enterprise system, creating a digital ecosystem that coordinates quality management, planning, scheduling, dispatching, and production execution. By facilitating the integration of manufacturing floor systems with engineering and business systems, MES streamlines processes that span across the organization.

The Functions of an MES

MES manages the organization’s data and processes, and updates with real-time information. Most importantly, it needs to connect with the entire extended enterprise, including all suppliers, contractors, and business partners. Complex manufactured products with hundreds or thousands of components and subassemblies need MES software that functions beyond the four walls of the enterprise.

Resource Management

MES manages all resources in real time. It sorts machine and tooling compatibility, evaluates machines for preventive maintenance, and enforces proper tool calibration. It ensures that machines are set up and maintained correctly. Additionally, MES can track materials and parts coming from other suppliers to initiate every process at the right time.

Production Definition Management & Dispatch

MES is the central manager for all BOMs involved with a product, including eBOM and CAD models. It manages the transformation from a manufacturing BOM to an engineering BOM, and helps to keep production running smoothly by updating process plans with product updates in real time.

Product Tracking & Genealogy

In complex manufactured products with many parts and subassemblies, it is critical to ensure that the right parts are in place at the right time. MES software tracks all materials, parts, and components as they move from one work center to the next, and transmits WIP inventory levels back to the ERP system. MES can also maintain a complete product history, from ideation, into the customer’s hands, all the way to its disposal.

Performance Analysis

MES provides many functions to analyze business performance, making data accessible and contextualized. Company data is consolidated and viewable on dashboards with reporting tools so that executives and supervisors are working from the same source of information, updated in real-time from the factory floor. Important performance analysis functions include tracking product cycle time, resource utilization, and conformance to scheduling. MES can also include information from suppliers, so that manufacturers can track the performance of all external partners.

Process Execution Management

MES enforces proper workflows and manages overall production. It is the central manager to make sure that every technician completes every step with proper calibration, tooling, and data collection. MES provides up-to-the-minute updates to work instructions, giving technicians graphics and text to guide through the work process.

Process Definition Management

Complex manufactured products are defined by the many processes involved in production. MES software allows organizations to update new process instructions and engineering changes to work orders on the shop floor in real-time, worldwide.

Data Collection

Data management is at the center of digital transformation. Modern production processes produce vast amounts of data, from design to compliance traceability. MES helps organizations funnel their data into a single source of truth for each manufactured product.

Quality Management

For many manufacturers, there is increasing demand for highly complex products to be delivered in record time. Balancing customer demand with quality/traceability requirements is more difficult than ever before, especially in complex industries like aerospace and defense. MES enables organizations to meet traceability requirements by documenting all as-built information down the entire tree of production, giving users access to a real-time single source of data to enforce quality control and mitigate risk.

Change Management

MES is a key resource for managing process changes. It enables enterprises to rapidly deploy new processes to multiple production lines and plants, ensuring that all workers have the proper instructions and that production schedules are maintained.

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ERP is a system of record, while MES is a system of production, and they must work together to achieve optimal resource utilization. MES-ERP integration orchestrates work orders with resource needs so that every business process is synchronized. The collaboration of business systems also means that data entry only needs to be done one time, which streamlines production by removing repetitive processes.

By tracking planned and current production progress, MES makes sure that ERP information matches the real-time situation on the shop floor. Without MES, ERP data can be unreliable due to manual errors or unaccounted losses on the shop floor. MES brings in the information of the individual manufacturing process and design, turning ERP data into actionable information. This automates a process that is often done manually, improving both time and accuracy.


MES-PLM integration provides design engineers with real time information from the shop floor. This is a critical ability to achieve continuous improvement in the design process.

PLM contains all the design information for the product and process. When PLM can interact with MES, manufacturers are able to act on real time product and process information. This reduces the risk of producing defective components by creating a closed feedback loop between PLM requirements and variables from the shop floor during production.
When shop floor issues occur, PLM-MES integration allows faster isolation of the root cause, including issues in the extended supplier network. MES extends this integration out to suppliers for enhanced data exchange and communication.

aircraft maintenance

Improving NPI time-to-market helps manufacturers succeed in a competitive market.


PLM-MES integration accelerates New Product Introduction (NPI) by evaluating process efficiency and optimizing the product process and design. It makes sense of the data created during the initial design phase, which manufacturers can then use to reduce cycle time, increase capacity, and standardize best practices. Additionally, the monitoring system helps to avoid unnecessary operations and rework to keep production processes sustainable.
Accelerating NPI is an increasing focus for many manufacturers looking to gain a competitive edge. For example, if the Pentagon is seeking contracts for production of a new aircraft, they are going to seek the best quality at the lowest price. That requires manufacturers to focus on product and process optimization. Improving NPI time-to-market helps manufacturers succeed in a competitive market.

Benefits of Manufacturing Execution Systems

MES software remains at the top of the list of prioritized manufacturing investments in surveys by both Gartner and LNS Research. The surveys found that 68% of manufacturers were viewing MES as part of their enterprise systems strategy.


Manufacturers that view MES as part of their enterprise systems strategy

The Benefits of MES Include:
  • Efficiency Gains
    MES updates data to all other systems in real time. It helps to avoid repetitive manual work and prevents errors due to translation. When integrated into other business systems, MES can be used for process optimization, in addition to process execution.
  • On-time Delivery
    Calculating an entire enterprise’s ability to meet delivery goals can be challenging. MES gives access to a digital model of the factory floor that provides visibility into the status of every process in real time. Each production unit can be traced on its way through different workstations, and into the end user’s hands.
  • Actionable KPIs
    Different manufacturers need different methods to calculate their KPIs. MES visualizes the flow of production with customizable, user-friendly dashboards and graphs. Process and engineering improvements are made possible by business-relevant KPIs that empower decision-making and optimization.
  • Managing People as a Resource
    People are just as important to manage as processes. For a globalized, complex discrete manufacturer, there is a wide range of workers who are all authorized for specific processes. MES integrates with systems such as Time & Attendance to coordinate the best possible scheduling and ensure the best utilization of workers.
  • Closed-loop Quality Management
    MES centralizes all the data and processes needed for quality management. It makes the information accessible, and helps to bring new products to market by navigating complex compliance requirements and traceability. Closed-loop quality management is needed to innovate and gain an edge over competitors.
  • Process Improvements
    Process improvements are key to improve a wide range of attributes, including new product introductions, supply chain management, and cycle time. MES makes best practices standardized throughout the global enterprise. As process improvements are made, they can be easily updated and spread through the rest of the organization, no matter the distance.
  • Better Outcomes and Continuous Improvement
    Continuous performance feedback provided by MES supports integrative and sustainable improvement initiatives. It becomes easier to manage the end-to-end supply chain. Increased resource sharing and flexibility is enabled by standardized best processes across multiple production sites.

Manufacturing Execution Systems deliver results quickly. Most organizations see results within the first three months, according to industry research. Implementers of MES can expect to improve results in net profit margins, on-time delivery, and total cost per unit. However, the benefits go far beyond these short-term gains. The largest benefits of MES come from capitalizing on the visibility it provides into manufacturing performance and capabilities across the organization and supplier network. After the initial payoff, companies should expect a lifetime of business improvements, both internally and externally.

The Advantages of Comprehensive MES

Many companies take a narrow approach to WIP optimization, focusing on tools that typically concentrate on WIP flow. This fails to address maintenance issues, supplier performance, customer orders, quality variations, and production anomalies. According to an LNS survey, manufacturers taking this approach have seen only small increases in inventory turns per year— 4.5, compared with 4.4 for those manufacturers who have not implemented a solution for WIP management improvement.

Comprehensive MES software is a more effective method to improve WIP management. It goes beyond being simply a production execution application. It is a production process optimization application. MES software at a Manager of Managers level connects shop-floor automation systems to the overall enterprise software network. A comprehensive approach to MES helps manufacturers manage the full range of shop-floor activities that have direct or indirect impacts on WIP.

MES Helps Achieve Quality Gains

Rapid technological change is transforming the production of goods and services across the global economy. As Industry 4.0 takes shape, complex manufacturers must keep their operations competitive and achieve quality gains. One of the main ways manufacturers are addressing this is by using MES to break down information silos between departments.

MES allows closed-loop quality management by bringing quality information into one central location. Manufacturers can use this information for process optimization and proactive issue prevention. Having a central system that is accessible to everyone is key to closing the loop on quality management.
MES also ensures quality by enforcing proper procedures during production, including:

  • Complex process routing sequences
  • Engineering changes affecting WIP
  • Data collection such as manual data entry, verifications, and signatures
  • Personnel qualification requirements
  • Equipment and tooling calibration requirements
  • Documentation requirements for a complete history of every unit
  • Traceability of components/assemblies installed and materials used

Digital Twin and Digital Thread

A comprehensive MES solution provides the foundation for implementing a Digital Thread and Digital Twin.

Digital Twin

Digital Twin

A Digital Twin is the virtual, real-time digital counterpart of a manufactured product or manufacturing process. It is used to achieve continuous improvement in model-based design and engineering processes.

Digital Thread

Digital Thread

The Digital Thread is the foundation for Digital Twin. It is a digital representation of a manufactured product’s design and specifications. It is used to view the status of connected devices, which updates data to the digital twin in real time. With this method, the Digital Twin is an accurate virtual copy of the device’s current status. Complex manufacturers can achieve better preventive maintenance and enhanced quality control capabilities with Digital Thread and Digital Twin.

MES for Complex Discrete Manufacturing

The global economy’s most critical sectors— aerospace and defense, nuclear, medical devices, robotics, and specialized industrial equipment— are built through complex discrete manufacturing. These sectors typically deal with strict regulatory and compliance requirements, making MES an essential technology for manufacturers seeking greater control, compliance, time-to-market, and visibility.

MES manages product lifecycle execution with accurate instructions, real-time data, and manufacturing intelligence. It enables flexible routing optimized for order quantities of one, and integrates non-conformance and deviation processes. It also provides serial tracking at suppliers and factories. The highest performing MES solutions reduce paperwork by delivering greater accuracy, precision, and quality of online work instructions, while scaling processes across all production centers at any time, in any location.

MES helps complex, discrete manufacturers solve these problems:

Difficulty Innovating to Meet Market Demands
Coping with the Pace of Change
Latency of Information: receiving data too late for useful analysis
Issues with Material Traceability
Poor Visibility into WIP
Missed Production Schedules
Lack of Production Throughput
Excessive Errors due to Paper-based or Manual Processes
Too Many Systems on the Shop Floor: lack of a unified vision

Selecting the Right MES

Not all manufacturing software is equal. Each product and vendor will create a different experience with varying levels of functionality and scalability. A given system may be more or less than is needed for the individual manufacturer. Modular architecture addresses this issue by allowing enterprises to pick and choose their MES functionality as needed, almost as simply as adding apps to an iPhone. This ensures that companies get the most out of their MES by giving the right functionality and integration for each circumstance.

Should You Choose Custom or COTS?

An MES solution can be custom-built or COTS (Commercial Off-the-Shelf). Many COTS users cite refined compliance in ready-made systems and lower maintenance costs as their reason to use COTS. It is much less expensive and time-consuming compared to a custom solution.

In making the decision, there are five important risk factors to consider:

Budget Risk: unexpected work required in implementation services
Operational Risk: insufficient hardware, lack of training, or flawed implementation
Change Management: the rate of user adoption and productivity within the organization
Technical Risk: configuration problems and technical debt sending a ripple effect through the implementation process
Problem Risk: external factors, such as company consolidations and new strategy

While each option carries its own risk, the COTS approach is more predictable and involves fewer surprises. Custom solutions can seem like the best choice today for meeting exact needs, but can become cumbersome and difficult to manage as the enterprise changes and evolves.

Don’t Be Fooled by the Wrong MES

Not all MES solutions are created equal. Make sure you choose the right system for your enterprise. Download the white paper to learn more.


MES is a key software to drive success in digital transformation. But there are many factors to consider when choosing an MES implementation strategy. The strategy chosen will dictate the success of the transformation for years afterward.
For manufacturers seeking to unify the vision of their enterprise and forge a path into the future of Industry 4.0, choosing the right MES system and implementation partner is one of the most critical decisions to be made.

In the end, you are talking about operational change management. You need end-user involvement – those who are doing the work to be involved in the process – in order to have any lasting success.

— Scott Baril, Chief Customer Officer

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