Manufacturing Execution System • August 9, 2016

What is MES and Do You Need It?

Tom Hennessey Tom Hennessey

Typically, we post on this blog about some rather nuanced topics relating to manufacturing, and specifically the use of Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES). Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and look at the basics, put things in a broad context, and answer the simple but fundamental questions relating to a topic at hand. That’s the goal of today’s post: briefly defining what MES is and what may be happening in your plant that indicates you may need it.

What Is MES?

At its most basic, Manufacturing Execution Systems are computerized systems used in manufacturing to track, control and document the transformation of raw materials to finished goods. MES provides information that helps manufacturing decision makers understand how current conditions on the plant floor can be optimized to improve production output. They work in real time to enable the orchestration of multiple resources in the production process (e.g. material, personnel, machines, and support services).

MES may operate across multiple functional areas, such as management of process definitions, resource scheduling, job execution and dispatch, data collection and analysis, equipment downtime management, product quality control, materials track and trace, and reporting of metrics on schedule, cost, quality and utilization like Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). MES maintains the device history record (DHR, aka “as-built” record), capturing the data, processes, and outcomes of the manufacturing process for each product unit or lot. This can be especially important in regulated industries, where documentation and proof of processes, events, and actions may be required.

Beyond replacing the spreadsheets and paper notes that have long been used in manufacturing to track production, MES has also become a connecting element between the shop floor and enterprise systems (e.g., ERP, PLM). By replacing traditional paper-based systems with MES, companies are able to deal with exceptions in real time so that batch records and device history records can be reviewed while manufacturing is ongoing, rather than post-production.

In highly automated industries, MES provides an intermediate aggregation and management bridge between an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, and a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) or process control system controlling the automation of machines. For other complex assembly and made to order industries, MES provides a bridge that integrates production management to engineering configurations and specifications in CAD/PLM, and procurement, inventory management in ERP.

Industry groups such as Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association (MESA) International were created in the early 1990s to address the complexity and explain the many MES production management functions and how they integrate to other enterprise systems to realize a real-time connected enterprise. Over the years, standards and models have refined the scope of MES in terms of their functionality. These typically include:

  • Management of product definitions
  • Management of resources
  • Scheduling (e.g., production processes)
  • Dispatching production orders
  • Execution of production orders
  • Collection of production data
  • Production performance analysis
  • Production track and trace

Do You Need MES?

In today’s competitive global markets, manufacturing is increasingly challenging and complex. If you need greater control, compliance, time-to-market, and visibility for managing product lifecycle execution with accurate instructions, real-time data, and manufacturing intelligence, you are likely to need an MES. 

Put another way, you probably should have an MES if you’ve experienced problems in any of these areas:

  • Difficulty in innovating to meet market demands
  • Coping with the pace of change: change management
  • Latency of information: getting data too late for useful analysis
  • Issues with materials traceability
  • Poor visibility into work-in-progress
  • Not meeting production schedules or achieving production throughput
  • Too much risk and too many errors due to paper-based or manual processes
  • Too many systems on the plant floor: lack of a unified version of the truth

To learn more about What is MES, download our free eBook.

Tom Hennessey
About the Author

Tom Hennessey

As Chief Marketing Officer at iBase-t, Tom brings over 25 years of enterprise software marketing and business development experience to the executive leadership team. He is responsible for the strategic growth of the company. Tom earned his MBA at the University of Southern California and holds a BS degree in Management from Northeastern University.

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