Applications that track and document the transformation of raw material through a production pipeline to finished products are known as manufacturing execution systems, or MES. These systems notably monitor and track the production lifecycle, while other applications will handle aspects of the product life cycle. The production lifecycle is typically contained to shop floor operations, where manufacturing is ongoing. In today's modern, IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) world, MES integrates through IIoT with devices, like sensors, instruments, robots, machines, and other networked devices.
The main purpose of an MES is to enhance the management and control features for administrators and leverage automation to optimize production. Beyond this, supplying its data and analysis, MES can integrate with several other systems at various levels, like enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, used to supply top level resource planning analysis, or supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), used to help manage industrial processes controls and data in larger operations.
Manufacturing execution systems (MES) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software are not alternatives for each other. Simplistically, an ERP manages stocks, while an MES manages the pipeline from raw materials to manufactured goods. Three main points differentiate ERP systems from MES systems:
More detailed key distinctions between ERPs and MES functionality include:
Some confusion develops around the industrial internet of things (IIoT) and manufacturing execution systems. MES applications have been in use since the 1990s, and in the wave of modern industrial smart technology adoption, IIoT has become synonymous with industrial automation, and Industry 4.0, spurring the notion that MES has been replaced. To clarify, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and manufacturing execution systems (MES) work together to provide a complete picture of a manufacturer’s floor operations.
For many business benefits, data analysis has been recognized as a fundamental requirement in modern manufacturing. For instance, to perform tasks like root cause analysis, large quantities of data are needed. IIoT gathers much of this data, like contextual details from devices, sensors, machines and controllers. The MES combines the data from IIoT with its own context, like customer details, orders, products, recipes, billings, etc., to complete the total picture of operations within the wall of the factory.
While both IIoT and MES collect data, the MES, in conjunction with team members, owns the domain of analysis and determination of situational changes in the ongoing manufacturing process. This means, installing just an IIoT will provide a communications backbone between and among devices, but it will not include the analytical brain to compile the context.
IoT (Internet of Things) platforms layer multiple technologies that provision and manage connected devices on an IoT network. IoT platforms are somewhat associated with consumer products, like those found in smart homes.
Operating in industrial settings, IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) platforms function similarly to IoT platforms, but with more advanced features. The advanced features serve the specific needs of an industry. For shipping and physical storage, this may come in the form of robots that move products around a warehouse. Industrial cases are highly complex, with thousands to millions of connected devices that require powerful and robust platforms to effectively manage them.
MES platforms can be imagined as a layer on top of IoT and IIoT platforms. This layer, while not a management layer, effectively extends the information analytics pipeline that can be connected from the device on the shop floor up through business insights and decision making applications. In advanced cases like IIoT, decisions can be automatically relayed to shop floor devices for corrective actions, changes in scheduling, anticipation of materials, etc.
Manufacturing execution systems (MES) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are brought together under the popular umbrella term Industry 4.0. IIoT is essentially the foundation of all smart manufacturing. Acting as a backbone, IIoT makes it possible for sensors, devices, machines, robots, controllers, databases, and information systems to communicate between each other. Because of this, IIoT was thought to replace MES as a device facing system. MES has not been replaced, instead, it has embraced IIoT and now adds much greater value as a data context system.
MES integrates with IIoT to improve data analysis, and root-cause analysis. IIoT collects data from sensors, devices, robots, controllers, etc., and provides that data to the MES which, possibly linked to other data systems like ERP, can add greater context to the IIoT data. By analyzing device data with details on customers, orders, bills of materials, etc. a complete and useful picture of data can be created.
This data context is important in the manufacturing environment where orders, materials, schedules, and more can rapidly change. Manufacturing teams rely on MES to make sense of and error-proof data through rules enforcement. This means that if a specific quantity of material is to be used, only that amount is allotted. Same goes for equipment, the types of tasks, and in what order. While the IIoT collects data on these processes, the manufacturing execution systems ensures their accuracy.
Manufacturing execution systems are complex applications that help manufacturers improve visibility into their operations as well as enhance their ability to control and manage them. Several other key and incidental benefits stem from these systems.
The core features found in manufacturing execution systems (MES) software help companies improve the quality and productivity of their production lines. MES core areas include resource allocation, shop floor management, production scheduling, production monitoring, data collection and analysis. Within these areas, MES systems must be able to perform the following functions.
Software that is related to MES include: