What are manufacturing execution systems?

What are manufacturing execution systems?

Both individual businesses and the US manufacturing industry are increasingly making productivity and competitiveness their key focus. Although the manufacturing sector accounts for 8% of the US workforce and 11% of the country’s GDP, studies have found that there are still many areas of improvement that businesses need to focus on.

Manufacturing execution systems (MES) can help businesses to identify and take action in these areas, whether it’s improving operational efficiency, developing new innovations or driving research and development. This article will explain exactly what MES software is and how MES can benefit manufacturing businesses.

Manufacturing execution systems explained

Manufacturing execution systems (MES) are specialized software or applications that enable manufacturers to monitor and continuously improve their production performance. Specifically designed to track and analyze physical processes in real time, MES software and applications collect performance data at every step of production, from raw materials entering the factory to the final products being distributed to customers.

As more manufacturing businesses look to implement Industry 4.0 or Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies, MES software allows them to connect their smart machines or digital-enabled tools together and collect information about their productivity. In the future, as their capabilities improve, MES applications will enable manufacturers to run lights-off operations with fully integrated and efficient processes.

What does MES software do?

MES software can help manufacturers to effectively integrate smart technologies and improve their productivity by linking machines together and collecting a huge range of data. By linking up systems from across the production process, MES software and applications can help businesses improve their efficiency in a range of areas.

Operational planning and production

From a single dashboard, operational teams can have a comprehensive view over all their customer orders and production statuses. Even the largest international manufacturers can use MES applications to accurately plan and route production in real time, from the arrival of raw materials to final component assembly.

This doesn’t just help teams to have a complete understanding of production statuses, minimizing miscommunication or inefficiencies, but helps to plan in any machine maintenance. This makes predictive maintenance processes easier, can reduce costs and production downtime.

Two people in high visibility and hats looking at screens

Resource allocation

Optimizing the use of both people and materials is a key factor in improving productivity. MES software helps manufacturers to track and manage these resources in real time, enabling them to pinpoint any inefficiencies or misallocations in how they’re used.

Whether it’s reducing material wastage or investing in new skills, the data MES software collects hold huge value for businesses looking to optimize the use of their resources.

Production traceability

From the moment the raw materials enter the factory, the MES software will track exactly how it’s being used, for example which products these raw materials are being used to make and how much is being used at any given time. This helps manufacturers to minimize waste and maximize their operational costs.

By consolidating data from across the whole production process, employees can easily access all the information they need from one place, including any manuals, invoices or product drawings. This is particularly useful for sectors that are required to meet higher traceability standards under compliance legislation, including medical or automotive manufacturers.

Performance and quality management

Thorough, accurate and real-time data collection enables manufacturers to take their process efficiency and product quality to the next level. By consolidating data from multiple operations and processes, MES software makes it easy to calculate and monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) such as overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). This helps businesses to quickly identify any inefficiencies and take action as part of a continuous improvement approach.

Augmented reality cars on production line

Depending on the size and priorities of the business, manufacturers can integrate MES software with other systems, including their enterprise resource planning systems (ERPs) and product lifecycle management (PLMs).

By integrating these systems together, manufacturers can get complete visibility over their business processes and make decisions based on real-time, accurate data. In a world of increased competition and uncertainty, this helps manufacturers to maintain long-term resilience and efficiency.

What benefits do MES bring to manufacturers?

Thanks to the huge amounts of data and information MES software collects and analyzes, these systems hold real potential when it comes to improving and optimizing operations. These include benefits such as:

  • Reduced costs: tracking all processes means manufacturers can keep a close eye on the allocation of their materials and human resources. Knowing exactly how people and products are being used helps manufacturers to minimize waste, optimize their machinery and identify any gaps in skills or knowledge. All of these are potential areas where cost savings can be made over time.
  • Increased efficiency: alongside smart technologies, IoT sensors and other production systems such as enterprise resource planning systems (ERPs) and product lifecycle management (PLMs), MES software help to identify any inefficiencies within production processes. Even for businesses with factories across the world, MES applications don’t just help to identify where improvements need to be made but how these can be done too.
  • Improved compliance: particularly in certain industries, meeting tight traceability or legislative standards is a huge challenge and can lead them to lose both time and money if they get it wrong. By keeping all production data and information, including supply chain details, customer orders and performance analytics, in one place makes meeting compliance standards much easier and cost-effective.
  • Ensured visibility: by giving employees free access to in-depth production data, you can empower them to make decisions, drive innovations and continuously improve operations at all levels of the business. It also enables your business to operate with agility, make data-based investments and predict future trends or challenges.
Two people in high visibility jackets

In short, by integrating MES software into production processes, manufacturers can help to make informed improvements to their operational performance. This will help them to future-proof their business and continue to deliver for their customers.

What benefits do MES bring to customers?

The main benefit that MES brings to customers is increased satisfaction. By enabling manufacturers to optimize the efficiency and minimize the costs within their production processes, customers can rely on these businesses to provide quality products on time and at a competitive price. Depending on their priorities and demands, customers can also trust manufacturers with MES software to be fully compliant under traceability or environmental legislation.

Plus, when it comes to their customer service, manufacturers with MES software can reduce their order processing times, quickly provide product information and statuses and be transparent about their supply chain. In short, manufacturers with MES software can deliver a more efficient and effective service to their customers.

Man using keyboard and PC

How to build an MES into your business

To start building an MES into their operations, manufacturers need to first select the most appropriate software. This decision will be influenced by a variety of factors, including:

  • Business size: does the software have the capability to track all your production processes effectively? Checking how much and what type of data the software can handle and store will help you to decide whether it can scale with your business.
  • Budget: for some smaller manufacturers, buying an MES software might not be a cost-effective solution, particularly if they already have an ERP in place. However, larger businesses with big budgets, a range of technologies and variety of production locations will benefit greatly from investing in MES software.
  • Level of innovation: MES software works alongside IoT and Industry 4.0 technologies to collect data and improve productivity. Therefore, if a business is at the very beginning of their digital transformation journey, MES software might not be as valuable as those looking to make a step change in their optimization and innovation.

By choosing the right MES software, manufacturers can start to link up their technologies, track their production processes and make continuous improvements to their productivity. This won’t just benefit their customers in the short term but help them to deliver high-quality products and service in the future.