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MES system – What it is and what it does

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

When automation first began to be incorporated into manufacturing, the term Manufacturing Execution System (MES) was coined. MES was a tool for managing automated systems in a way that would allow manufacturing plants to run smoothly. It would achieve this by streamlining the processes, tracking them in production and documenting the events automatically.

As time went on, companies found new ways of utilizing this new tool. With the growing demand of customized products processes needed to be streamlined to work at higher efficiency and production planning needed optimization. For this, MES has proven to be a wonderful tool.

What is MES?

Manufacturing Execution System (MES) is an integrated system of software and sensors, providing real time data of plant floor activities. MES tracks, documents, and controls every step of production and optimizes its output. That allows the manufacturing process to be easier and help achieve goals in less time.

MES is essentially a zoomed-in ERP for manufacturing plant environment. Whereas ERPs attempt to optimize running of the entire business, it often proves too cumbersome to manage individual manufacturing processes optimally. MES can help remedy this problem by narrowing the scope.

MES is an integrated system of sensors and software which tracks the equipment, materials and workers. It points out bottlenecks in the processes and helps schedule maintenance on equipment beforehand and can also be used to provide customized instructions for workers and equipment based on order. This helps keep processes streamlined and provides more reliable scheduling.

When MES was still in its infancy, it was quite loosely defined. Almost any method of tracking, documenting or managing a process could be called a MES. This caused problems when managing the interfaces between MES and other systems.

In 1995, The International Society of Automation started to work on establishing a standard for MES, defining what it does and how it does it. This is how the current ISA95 standard was born. It defines the MES functions in 11 points as follows:

MES functions

  1. Data acquisition
  2. Quality control
  3. Scheduling
  4. Performance analysis
  5. Flow of products
  6. Genealogy and traceability
  7. Process management
  8. Resource management
  9. Personnel management
  10. Maintenance management
  11. Document management

While the standard allows for a MES system to not fulfill every function, it still forms a skeleton for the system. Functions not addressed by MES can be handled by other software, if necessary, for example an ERP system can handle scheduling.

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MES and ERP often cause confusion since it is hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Both systems have some overlapping functions and in some rudimentary cases MES is not even required. Nevertheless, optimizing the running of a plant can prove difficult with ERP alone.

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) is a software system designed to run an entire business. It attempts to integrate and manage all aspects of a company’s businesses. ERP functions as a constantly updating database of events on all levels. This information can either manually or automatically be used to manage the resources needed to function optimally.

MES on the other hand does not extend outside the plant environment. The main task of MES is to assess what resources (raw material, personnel, equipment) it has and how to optimally utilize them to produce the ordered products. This includes scheduling, equipment maintenance, inventory control, quality control and documenting, among other things.

In an optimal situation ERPs can make predictions based on the market projection for the future demand of certain products and relay this information to MES. MES can then adjust the production to suit the ERP’s needs. MES can allocate more resources for the manufacturing of products in high demand optimally and automatically. In this way ERP and MES can work seamlessly together.

Although an ERP can be used to manage even the smallest details of a manufacturing process, this task is often best left for MES. ERP software should ideally handle what goes into the plant and what comes out, while MES handles everything happening inside the plant building.

Benefits of using MES

MES can simultaneously monitor every step of every process in a plant and relay data in real-time to the management. Managers, or in some cases artificial intelligence, can then assess the data and make the necessary changes in processes. MES also documents all the processes and parts being processed which makes quality and inventory control easier.

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The biggest benefit of using a MES is achieved when every step of manufacturing is automated. MES can then effortlessly manage every detail of the process down to the millisecond. You could have an order placed on a product and still make changes on the fly, provided that it is still physically possible. Every product could be customized with minimal effects on the running of the plant. This would allow for a lot of flexibility.

Now that MES has processed how things are done, it can relay what has been done to the ERP system. ERP can then focus on the operational aspect of running a business, while MES handles the everyday shop-floor environment in detail. As a whole, MES is an extension of ERP.

Future applications of MES

In the future, manufacturing will most likely be managed by an artificial intelligence. An AI can predict demand based on patterns from history, current events and future derivatives much faster and more accurately than any human can. This allows for lucrative business opportunities for early adaptors of artificial intelligence in the business world.

The AI can then also be used on ERP-level to run most of the entire business, while a human only supervises the process. This would allow running a business in an entirely new way. An AI could simulate a thousand different scenarios in a second and estimate the most likely scenario. It is up to the entrepreneur whether they want to make the decisions based on these scenarios themselves, or let the AI make it for them.

Take your company´s process management to the next level!

An ERP system works best in conjunction with a MES software. Customers are looking for fast, efficient and reliable solutions to their demands. Having a MES software like SkyPlanner APS will make this easier for the company and its employees.

Thanks to the control and its ability to prevent sporadic unwanted scenarios, there will no longer be excuses if there is a last-minute change in an order or a problem during the manufacturing process since Arcturus AI will help manage the situation in real time, providing a solution in seconds and giving step by step ways to solve the situation, thus optimizing the production chain.

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