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The Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) Starter Guide

Learn the basics of MES systems, discover the platforms that are available for end-users today, and explore some of the business decisions that may drive the implementation of a new system or an upgrade of an existing one.
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Introduction to Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES)

A Manufacturing Execution System, or MES, is a digital system used in manufacturing for tracking, analyzing, and controlling the inputs and outputs of a manufacturing production process. Although every company may have different components of an MES system, they are present in some form across the industry. The business benefits of such systems have been justified over the years and boil down to better inventory management, efficient production management, loss reduction, and batch optimization.

In this guide, we’ll explore the basics of MES systems, go over the platforms that are available for end-users today, and justify some of the business decisions that may drive the implementation of a new system or an upgrade of an existing one.

Core Business Functions of MES


Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition – Systems that tie into production floor controllers, collect critical data, display feedback, and allow the users to make changes to the underlying assets.

Production Planning

Systems that track production orders, production requests and manage their dispatch onto the manufacturing floor.

Product Tracking

Systems that track the raw ingredients going into the process, the intermediate steps, as well as the finished goods as the outputs of the process.

Maintenance Management

Systems that track repairs to be made, parts required, preventive maintenance analysis, and personnel involved in maintenance tasks

Document Control

Systems that store in appropriate order documents that need to be maintained, utilized, and kept by operations. These documents include operational documentation, required quality compliance documents, and more.

Labor Management

Systems that track the human capital of operations, the output based on personnel assigned to each task, and the performance of various teams within the manufacturing plant.

Performance Analysis

Systems that compile the data collected by the plant, provide detailed reports, as well as ways to optimize production through a change of variables within the manufacturing process.

Practical Applications for MES in Manufacturing

The pillars above are meant to illustrate high-level components of MES. However, it’s important to understand how they relate to a specific facility. Although an audit would be necessary to fit the right solution to the use case, we’ve broken down manufacturing readiness into three stages outlined below along with their MES use cases and basic expectations. These are by no means the definite answers to what may be required, but rather a guideline.

Stage 1 – Early / Small Manufacturing Facility

A small facility will produce most of the components by hand. Therefore, there will be little to no data coming into the system without manual input. It is still critical to track production inputs, production outputs, quality/defect metrics, and more.

The MES for this facility would focus primarily on base metrics that enable the following:

  • Basic production planning
  • Document control
  • Basic performance analysis

Stage 2 – Mid-Size Manufacturing Facility

A mid-sized manufacturing facility is typically automated, but not in all areas. The assets on the floor feed critical data into the MES and can be used to drive improvements.

At this stage, the MES is critical to proper operations in manufacturing. It provides a way to assign work to different departments, track their efficiency, ways to optimize production, and continue to drive business cost savings.

In addition to the above, we’d expect to see the following within a mid-size facility:

  • Maintenance tracking
  • Full-featured production planning
  • Quality control and tracking
  • Basic / high-level SCADA features

Stage 3 – Large / State-of-Art Manufacturing Plant

A large manufacturing facility has most, if not all, assets on the plant network, personnel is tracked using ID cards, yields, OEE, and other key metrics are tracked at all times.

A state-of-art facility will incorporate all of the MES pillars into production. There may be flaws within the system, but the plant must utilize all of these systems to drive improvements on the production floor. Here are the key features in addition to what was covered by the mid-size facility:

  • Detailed OEE, Production, Yield metrics
  • Advanced SCADA and analytics
  • Advanced reporting for each department (engineering, maintenance, production, finance, quality control)
  • Full MES integration into Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

Business Impacts of MES

To an experienced manufacturing individual, the benefits tied to the features listed above may seem obvious. However, an MES is constantly evolving and all of the underlying benefits are rarely achieved by most teams.In this section, we’re going to list some of the benefits that are tied to a properly implemented MES. It is important to note that not all of these are realized simultaneously and are subject to the features, and best-practices followed at a specific facility.

  • Eliminated paperwork & need for physical documentation
  • Improved traceability and warehousing accuracy
  • Improved planning and made-to-order process
  • Improved employee engagement and morale
  • Improved product quality
  • Improved defect tracing and elimination
  • Improved Continuous Improvement (CI) initiatives
  • Improved production rates
  • Improved capital project allocation
  • Reduced changeover times
  • Reduced material lead times
  • Reduced data entry time

MES, ERP and SCADA Layers

Manufacturing Execution Systems are not the only in manufacturing. We’ve already referenced the other two layers that every plant will employ in one share or another:

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA)
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

MES will interact with both layers; acting as the middle point between the two. The manufacturing control systems (Ex: PLCs, HMIs, sensors, motors, etc.) will feed data into the SCADA layer. The SCADA layer will send filtered data to the MES that is then used for reporting, data logging, inventory management and more. The data within the MES is also funneled into the larger ERP ecosystem. At this level, the facility will manage a much larger inventory of systems, external parties that are required to keep the facility going and more.

Ultimately, the plant leadership teams will be capable of making key financial and strategic decisions based on the data supplied from the MES into the ERP systems.

MES Software & Solution Providers

Manufacturing Execution Systems are becoming critical to operations, manufacturing leadership teams, and continuous improvement (CI) initiatives. Therefore, a larger pool of developers has risen to the demand and has put forth their custom solution.

In this section, we’ll provide you with a starting point when it comes to MES suppliers. It is important to research their unique value proposition as there is a lot of variation for these tools. What may be best for one plant, may not be for another. We recommend that our customers start with an audit of their system, create an action plan of which tools they need and then evaluate the vendors below to find the right fit.

Keep in mind that switching to a new MES may be costly, time-consuming, and may result in availability/data loss.

Proficy Manufacturing Execution Systems

“Proficy Manufacturing Execution Systems (Proficy MES) is a suite of solutions that can transform your manufacturing business through insights and intelligence powered by data integration, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), machine learning, and predictive analytics. By bringing together the digital world with the physical world of manufacturing, Proficy MES can deliver holistic performance management for today’s connected enterprise.”

SAP Manufacturing Execution

“Digitize manufacturing processes and integrate business systems using a cost-effective, high-quality, and resource-efficient methodology based on Industry 4.0 technology. You can improve operational visibility with near real-time information that increases reliability and product traceability using solutions based on the Internet of Things (IoT).”

FactoryTalk® ProductionCentre

“FactoryTalk® ProductionCentre is a comprehensive MES that can help you meet a range of productivity, quality, compliance and cost-saving goals. ProductionCentre integrates quality management and business analytics with paperless shop floor and repair execution. This improves operational efficiencies and helps you achieve and demonstrate regulatory compliance and high quality. Available solutions include single-plant, multiplant or industry-specific suites.”

The MES providers listed above are some of the top distributors. However, as mentioned previously, there is a wide range of such tools on the market

Conclusion on MES

Manufacturing Execution Systems are critical for every manufacturing facility. They provide a digital platform that is capable of managing operations, improving quality control, managing resources, and much more. By implementing the right solution, a facility can improve production, reduce defects and drive improvements to the bottom line.