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MES system – What it is and what it does

Estimated reading time: 13 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 for customized products, processes needed to be streamlined to work at higher efficiency, and production planning required optimization. For this, MES has proven to be a fantastic tool.


The Manufacturing Execution System (MES) is an integral tool that has evolved since its inception in the realm of automation, aiding in streamlining and documenting manufacturing processes. It operates as an in-depth ERP tailored for plant environments, leveraging software and sensors to provide real-time data, thus enhancing plant floor operations and addressing issues from production bottlenecks to maintenance scheduling. The International Society of Automation solidified MES’s definition in 1995 through the ISA95 standard, outlining 11 core functions. Modern MES systems now offer features such as real-time monitoring, inventory optimization, and data flow management, among others. While many MES solutions exist, from cloud-based to industry-specific, integration with tools like SkyPlanner APS offers even more precision and efficiency. As this tool continues to innovate, AI integration could revolutionize future manufacturing management. Integrating a Manufacturing Execution System and APS tools offers unparalleled operational benefits for companies seeking to maximize efficiency.

What is MES?

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

This digital tool is essentially a zoomed-in ERP for the manufacturing plant environment. Whereas ERPs attempt to optimize the 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, helps schedule maintenance on equipment beforehand, and can also be used to provide customized instructions for workers and equipment based on the 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 operating the interfaces between MES and other systems.

In 1995, The International Society of Automation started to work on establishing a standard for Manufacturing Execution System, 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 an MES system not to 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.

MES Features

Diving deeper into the realm of this system, we encounter a newer, exciting facet: MES Features. As long as we understand the nuances of this tool, distinguishing between an MES function and an MES feature remains crucial.

Simply put, an MES function refers to core operations or tasks the system can perform. These functions form the backbone of the MES system. Meanwhile, its features highlight the system’s specific tools or capabilities, enhancing its functional potential. During our exploration of MES systems, we’ve pinpointed six innovative features that stand out:

  1. Manufacturing Monitoring: This feature provides real-time oversight of the manufacturing process, ensuring everything operates smoothly and efficiently. Through this monitoring, production planners can gain invaluable insights, making adjustments as necessary.
  2. Quality Control in Manufacturing: Besides mere monitoring, a robust MES system dives into the quality of products being manufactured. It guarantees that each product meets the set standards, ensuring consumer satisfaction.
  3. Inventory Optimization: As vital as manufacturing is, inventory management follows closely. MES systems offer tools that help streamline inventory, ensuring there’s neither excess nor shortage.
  4. Data Flow Management: In our digitized age, data reigns supreme. Hence, managing the flow of data becomes paramount. An MES system equipped with this feature ensures seamless data movement, storage, and access, making the decision-making process smoother.
  5. Manufacturing Analytics: Delving into the data, MES systems can extract crucial analytics. Through these analytics, production planners can discern patterns, forecast trends, and make informed decisions.
  6. Production Tracking: Last but by no means least, production tracking remains a gem. It facilitates a clear view of where each product stands in the manufacturing line, paving the way for better resource allocation and efficiency.

Let’s look at one of these features for a clearer understanding. Manufacturing Monitoring – This feature offers a comprehensive overview of the manufacturing process. Think of it as a vigilant guard. This feature actively detects irregularities, potential inefficiencies, and signs of system breakdowns.

By providing up-to-the-minute data, Manufacturing Monitoring ensures production planners are always informed, enabling them to act promptly and enhance processes as needed.

The world of MES systems continues to evolve, offering more sophisticated tools and features. By staying updated and informed, production planners can harness the full potential of these systems, propelling their operations into a brighter tomorrow.

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Advanced production planning with AI – SkyPlanner APS

Read more about our approach to production planning and optimization leveraging the power of AI.

MES Solutions

Various MES Solutions stand ready to address distinct operational challenges within the expansive domain of MES systems. Each presents its unique value proposition, from the streamlined capabilities of cloud-based systems to the specialized offerings of industry-specific MES. Let’s journey together through these options, identifying how each can optimally support and enhance your company’s specific manufacturing needs.

  1. Cloud-based MES: Operates from the cloud, meaning you can have access to it from anywhere with an internet connection. It offers flexibility and often has lower upfront costs. However, it depends on a stable internet connection.
  2. On-premises MES: This system is installed on your company’s hardware and servers. While it might require a higher initial investment, it can offer more control over data and can be customized to your company’s needs.
  3. MES for Small Business: Tailored specifically for smaller operations, these systems are usually more straightforward and cost-effective. They focus on the essential features that a small business would need without overwhelming them with complex functionalities.
  4. AI Driven MES: Incorporating Artificial Intelligence, these systems can predict trends, automate tasks, and optimize processes. It’s an excellent choice for businesses looking to stay at the forefront of innovation.
  5. Enterprise MES: Designed for large businesses with complex needs, this solution offers extensive features, can handle large data volumes, and integrate with other enterprise systems seamlessly.
  6. Industry-Specific MES: These are tailored to specific industries, like pharmaceuticals or automotive. They come pre-equipped with tools and features unique to those sectors.

Choosing the right MES Solution for your business can be pivotal to your manufacturing process’s efficiency and success.

Advice on Choosing the Right Solution

Making the best choice from this diverse range of MES systems might initially seem daunting. It’s essential to align your selected system with your company’s distinct operational needs and future goals. To guide you through this critical decision, here are some invaluable tips to consider:

  • Understand Your Needs: Before deciding, map out your company’s specific requirements. Do you need complex functionalities or just the basics?
  • Budget Considerations: While getting a system that meets your needs is essential, it’s equally important to consider how much you’re willing to invest.
  • Scalability: Think long-term. Choose an MES system that can grow with your company.
  • Integration: Ensure the MES system can integrate well with other software you use.
  • User-friendliness: A system that’s difficult to navigate can hamper productivity. Opt for one that’s intuitive and user-friendly.
  • Support and Training: Check if the provider offers ample support and training sessions to help your team get acquainted with the system.

While several MES system options are available, the right choice will always be the one that aligns best with your company’s unique needs and growth plans.


When diving into the intricacies of industrial software, the debate of “MES vs ERP” frequently arises, and it’s easy to understand why.

MES and ERP often need clarification 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 business. 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 this tool is to assess what resources (raw material, personnel, equipment) it has and how to utilize them to produce the ordered products optimally. 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 for certain products and relay this information to MES. MES can then adjust the production to suit the ERP’s needs. Manufacturing Execution System can allocate more resources to manufacture 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 most minor details of a manufacturing process, this task is often best left to MES. ERP software ideally handles what goes into the plant and what comes out, while MES handles everything happening inside the plant building.

Integrating MES and ERP systems isn’t just a matter of convenience—it’s a strategic move that can revolutionize a company’s operations. When these two powerhouse systems synchronize, they offer a harmonized view of manufacturing operations and business processes, ensuring decisions are based on comprehensive, real-time data. Such integration eliminates redundant tasks, bridges information gaps, and boosts overall efficiency.

MES ERP Integration brings a unified, coherent perspective, positioning businesses to be more agile, responsive, and competitive. 

Benefits of using MES

Manufacturing Execution System 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 processing functions and parts, making quality and inventory control easier.

SkyPlanner Advanced Planning and Scheduling production planning

Optimizing lead time is vital for success, and an MES system helps to aim this goal and allows for much flexibility. The most significant benefit of using MES software is achieved when every manufacturing step is automated. Manufacturing Execution System can then effortlessly manage every process detail 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.

Now that this tool 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, the manufacturing industry will likely be managed by 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!

Integrating an MES system with an APS like SkyPlanner can significantly enhance efficiency and reliability. While MES systems streamline and control production processes, tools like SkyPlanner APS ensure optimal planning and scheduling.

Benefit from the robust control MES offers, preventing unpredictable scenarios. Solutions are at hand if faced with last-minute changes in orders or any hiccups in the manufacturing process. Skyplanner’s APS manages these situations in real-time, offering resolutions within seconds and providing a step-by-step guide to optimize the production chain.

Are you interested in leveraging the combined power of MES and APS for your operations? Contact us to find out more!

SkyPlanner Advanced Planning and Scheduling Solutions to production problems

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) to help you delve deeper into this vital aspect of modern manufacturing processes. These FAQs offer a comprehensive look into Manufacturing Execution System, from its basic definition to how it stands apart from other systems like ERP. Whether you’re pondering over its functions, keen on understanding the features of contemporary MES systems, or want to unearth the intricacies of its evolution, this FAQ section has all the answers.

What is a Manufacturing Execution System (MES)?

MES is an integrated system of software and sensors that provides real-time data on plant floor activities. It tracks, documents, controls every step of production, and optimizes output, making manufacturing processes more efficient.

How does MES differ from ERP?

While Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is designed to run an entire business by integrating and managing all aspects, MES focuses explicitly on the activities within the manufacturing plant environment, optimizing resources and processes.

What are the primary functions of MES?

Some core functions of this tool include data acquisition, quality control, scheduling, performance analysis, flow of products, and resource management, among others.

What features do modern MES systems offer?

Modern MES systems boast features like real-time manufacturing monitoring, quality control in manufacturing, inventory optimization, data flow management, manufacturing analytics, and production tracking.

How has the definition of MES evolved over time?

Initially, the term MES was loosely defined. It wasn’t until 1995 when The International Society of Automation established the ISA95 standard, which clearly defines the functions and scope of MES.

What types of MES solutions are available?

MES solutions can be cloud-based, on-premises, tailored for small businesses, AI-driven, designed for enterprises, or specific to certain industries like pharmaceuticals.

How can integrating MES with other systems benefit a business?

Combining an MES system with an Advanced Planning System (APS) like SkyPlanner can boost efficiency and reliability. While MES manages production, tools like SkyPlanner ensure optimal planning and scheduling.

How will MES adapt in the future?

The future of the Manufacturing Execution System is likely to see increased integration with artificial intelligence, allowing for predictive demand analysis, faster decision-making, and more efficient management of the entire manufacturing process.

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