What is a Manufacturing Execution System?

In the contemporary industrial world, manufacturing enterprises strive to achieve more with less. Hence, the need for technological solutions to boost the efficiency of the efforts of manufacturers cannot be emphasised enough. The technological solution that allows them to supercharge the heart of their manufacturing processes is the Manufacturing Execution System (MES).

An MES is an information system that interconnects, controls and enables plant-wide visibility to complex manufacturing anatomies and data streams of a manufacturing factory floor. An MES is a comprehensive solution for it has the aptness to capture real-time and precise data about the end-to-end production life cycles of a manufacturing floor. Thus, MES plays a pivotal role in optimising the factory’s manufacturing operations and renders insightful information to improve productivity at large. This solution’s managerial and operational benefits had led to its adoption by a myriad of manufacturing sectors; such as electronics, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, metals and plastics, medical devices, and many more.

A Glimpse at MES’s History

The term ‘MES’ was first used by AMR research in 1992. However, MESA, a prominent non-profit education group specialised in researching and studying about MES, defined MES as:

“…a dynamic information system that drives effective execution of manufacturing operations: Using current and accurate data, MES guides, triggers and reports on plant activities as events occur.”

Since then, MESA has played a massive role in giving meaning and guidance to manufacturers and software vendors about the basis of executing a comprehensive MES. They are also pioneers in providing reliable standards for developing MES, namely, the ‘ANSI/ISA95 standards’.

Given below is the timeline on how MES has evolved since its recognition by MESA.

  1. The early 1990s- MES was developed to represent current information flows of factory floors as it is (they are what we call as ‘rigid legacy systems’ in the current era)

  2. The early and mid-2000s- MES became more flexible, modular systems that are not confined to being on-prem solutions. They became web-based and customisable according to the manufacturer’s demands. This MES is still evolving and widely used by manufacturers even today.

  3. Currently, MES is enabled in SaaS mode, where its services can be accessed through mobile devices giving the user the ultimate visibility and user-friendly experiences 24 X 7. They have the propensity to capture precise, granular data at any point of the production processes in real-time.

Understanding better MES performance based on MESA models

MESA has made multiple efforts to define the functional aspect of MES in the past three decades. The earliest model that represents the core functions of MES was published in 1997 as the ‘MESA-11 model’. The core functions as per the MESA-11 model are:

  • Dispatching production units
  • Process Management
  • Operations/Detailed Sequencing
  • Product tracking and genealogy
  • Labour Management
  • Document control
  • Quality Management
  • Maintenance Management
  • Resource allocation and status
  • Performance Analysis
  • Data Collection and Acquisition

Later in 2004, the MESA-11 model evolved to be the ‘c-MES model’ which illustrated how core operating measures of the factory have to collaborate with business operations. This was a benchmark for manufacturers to understand how MES operations affect the corporate-wide productivity. Apart from the 11 core operations of the MESA-11 model, it represented critical aspects of business operations such as:

  • Influences spurred by competition.
  • The need for supply chain optimisation
  • Asset optimisation
  • Acknowledging Business Process Outsourcing
  • The role of CRM protocols
  • Compliance focused measures
  • The importance of Logistics Management
  • The need for better finance and business performance
  • Better control in business activities

Currently, MES is required to take an extra step forward since the second revamp of the MESA models introduced in 2008, namely MESA model(Version 2.1), redefined to comprehensively map the convergence of 4 main areas of manufacturing business. These areas are:

  1. Manufacturing
  2. Manufacturing Operations
  3. Business Operations
  4. Strategic Initiative

This version of the MESA model explains the correlation of all business procedures and entities. It illustrates how managing manufacturing operations alone is not enough to execute a competent MES. The strategic business initiative must be fostered to elevate both manufacturing and business processes to attain the new age’s best corporate performances. The initiatives that were displayed in this MESA model were:

  • Lean Manufacturing
  • Quality and Regulatory Compliance
  • Product Lifecycle Management
  • Real-Time Enterprise
  • Asset Performance Management And
  • Other Additional Initiatives

With these revelations, MES was acknowledged by manufacturing companies to be a not-to-be-missed solution and that the integration of the system to the IT infrastructure of the corporate was crucial to gain optimal production excellence.

Benefits of adopting a competent MES

As mentioned by MESA, the co-existence of business operations and manufacturing operations pivotal to transform the manufacturing business to its best self. Manufacturing companies, therefore, exploit the benefit of accommodated modular technological solutions into their systems. MES, being one of the core solutions to such enterprises, is the root cause for a myriad of operational benefits, as explained below.

Live Manufacturing Data

Factory managers can use an MES to capture live data updates at any point of the factory floor at any time. It promotes transparency of data where shift managers too can effortlessly get updates and real-time statuses of production processes off-premises. MES usually is developed with user-friendly dashboards for efficient data capturing and KPI monitoring. Stock statuses, supplier information, live performance statistics of batches, assembly lines, or factories at large, current equipment assignments and all other operational-level updates can be retrieved adequately.

Plant-wide Visibility

Another noteworthy feature is that MES allows managers to control automated factories under one glass pane via end-to-end visibility. Since factory production cycles can be easily viewed, managers have the propensity to review and detect factory anomalies without any dispute. The plant-wide productivity can be assessed and manipulated to be at its best functional state through this MES opportunity. Managers can track down any equipment, unit, batch or assembly line effortlessly because of this feature.

Amazing Process Scheduling Capabilities

Process Scheduling is one of the core functionalities of an MES. Due to the ultimate integration of corporate IT systems, the MES has the capability to allow managers to schedule job orders by simultaneously checking the availability of resources. This instrument is the ultimate scheduling tool to utilise assets to streamline the production cycles according to the rate of change of demands in the marketplace. If developed by proper software vendors, it has the intelligence to automatically reschedule manufacturing orders to retain the factory performance rate at its best.

Asset Management Protocols

Another feature of an MES is its ability to foster modules that can keep track of asset life cycles. Such modules can keep track of asset performance and asset maintenance modules empowered by predictive technologies. It can maximise the usage of assets:

  • By improving cycle time by tracking overall equipment effectiveness (OEE)
  • By allowing faster job change-overs (a trigger system can be housed to alert when a job is about to be completed)
  • By enabling effective asset maintenance protocols to service or replace factory-floor equipment
Deep Integration with Other Information Systems

Monolithic fragmented systems can be replaced by the integration of MES with other corporate software. SCMs, WMSs, ERPs and any other software solution can access the centralised logbooks of the MES to be updated on the factory-floor operations and optimise the operations of other business sectors conveniently. As MES revolves around the functionality of the factory, it can collaborate and share factory data with other IT systems to fill in the missing gaps in information flows.

Reporting and Analytical Benefits

MES can foster tools to report plant-wide performances and gives you insightful revelations to analyse your factory productivities through a new lens. Interactive analytical reports can be retrieved by decision making parties of the manufacturing form to apprehend plant-wide productivity, OEE statistics, defect rates, KPIs and compare them with the desired factory performances to check for success rates effortlessly.

What Can MES not do?

MES focuses on the operational excellence of the factories in terms of the functionalities of equipment and PLC software. Thus, it neglects some anomalies in factories that are not centric to equipment even though in reality, factory-performances does not entirely mean how well the machines work. Some of the elements that cannot be tracked by MES are:

  1. It cannot track the skills of the factory staff
  2. It cannot provide a comprehensive report on the quality assurances of the products
  3. It also does not keep track of the information required for Audits.
  4. It cannot comprehensively track material issues; though they can be integrated with the ERP systems.
  5. It cannot track any deviation in the qualities of the resources- raw materials, or finished goods.


MES is a software solution that simply boosts the efficiency and effectiveness of factory level operations conveniently. Along with the primary benefits it enables: better data captures, optimising factory productivity and workforces, it also has direct influences to healthy CRM efforts, sustain in the marketplaces with better agility, and improve regulatory compliance as required. Thus, making this software solution the core for a plethora of strategic and tactical benefits. We hope you understand how MES can improve your production yields and productivities and save your time and money.