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What is MES?

by / Thursday, 07 January 2016 / Published in FAQ, Latest posts, Lean Management, OEE and Machine Downtime, ShopFloorConnect, VisualFactory
Standard work for Management, YMB Consulting, Visual work Instructions

What is a Manufacturing Execution System “MES”?

MES Definition

At a high level, a manufacturing execution system is a software that is able to report live data from the production floor by reporting on all key production activities as they occur. MES systems manage all manufacturing operations from the point of order release to finished goods. Reporting live data from a MES system allows manufacturing companies the ability to respond faster to disturbances and gives them a greater control of the manufacturing process. These types of systems also help improve the overall information flow automating or simplifying the collection of data, which can be used to focus improvement efforts, reduce cost, improve quality and shorten lead times. This data collection can occur by having the system directly linked to equipment or to interactive visual work instructions executed by production worker. MES systems are often linked to ERP systems to allow for live status of all work orders and inventory levels as well as reporting on the actual versus the planned production cost. Many manufacturing companies use these systems to show live performance to target (Example: VisualFactory) as well as live OEE “Overall Equipment Effectiveness” of equipment or live equipment downtime reasons (Example: ShopFloorConnect). MES systems utilize live customizable dashboards to help focus the organization on right issues, unlike ERP systems where a problem is reported a month, a week or a day later.

MES History

In the early 80’s manufacturing companies utilized MRP/MRP II “Material and Resource Planning” software solutions in order to track inventory levels, material and resource requirements. These tools helped give a better understanding of supply and demand, which in turn helped determine material and resource requirements. However, MRP systems were lacking in production execution. With time, MRP II became known as ERP “Enterprise Requirement Planning” with the addition of logistics planning, maintenance, customer portals, warranty and field service modules. With these changes, these systems were now able to plan the entire organization. However, none of the changes introduced by the ERP systems were able to make substantial improvement to production execution. Production execution was improved in the early 90’s with the introduction of lean manufacturing and pull systems, at the same time; MES systems started to develop to eliminate the information flow gap that still existed. Although lean manufacturing helped improve production execution, there was still a gap in properly standardizing the manufacturing process, properly identifying opportunities and optimizing the information flow. Many MES systems have closed that gap, finally allowing the proper control of the manufacturing process and information flow, ensuring that companies are focused on the right issues at the right time. Some MES systems have incorporated many of the lean manufacturing tools, by incorporating digital Kanban and Andon signals, as well as several visual management tools with customizable dashboards.

What is ISA-95?

As per ISA-95 : “ISA-95 is the international standard for the integration of enterprise and control systems. ISA-95 consists of models and terminology that can be used to determine which information has to be exchanged between systems for sales, finance and logistics and systems for production, maintenance and quality. This information is structured in UML models, which are the basis for the development of standard interfaces between ERP and MES systems. The ISA-95 standard can be used for several purposes, for example as a guide for the definition of user requirements, for the selection of MES suppliers and as a basis for the development of MES systems and databases.

ISA-95 groups this enterprise integration into the following levels:

  • Level 5 Enterprise Planning: This would be higher level / strategic and product life cycle planning…
    • Time Frame: Months to years
  • Level 4 Business Planning: ERP software, material requirement planning, resource planning, rough cut capacity planning…
    • Time Frame: Months, weeks or days.
  • Level 3 Operations: MES software, live status of production, live performance to target, status of problems…
    • Time Frame: Hours, minutes, seconds
  • Level 2 Control and monitoring or processes: Automated control of production processes
    • Time Frame: Seconds
  • Level 1 Testing and Instrumentation: Sensors, PLC, automation
    • Time Frame: Milliseconds
  • Level 0 Actual production process: The production process itself

MES System Benefits

There are MES systems that are more specialized for discrete manufacturing while others are more specialized for process manufacturing. While many of these solutions are very expensive and can only be purchased by very large corporations, some systems like VisualFactory have been designed to be highly scalable and to add value to small and medium manufacturing companies, as well as larger corporations. The advantages of live data and standardizing production processes cannot be understated. These will typically give companies the following benefits:

  • Improved productivity
  • Improved process adherence
  • Elimination of paperwork
  • Reduction of defects
  • Automation of data collection
  • Faster problem resolution
  • Faster product change over
  • Employee learning curve reduction
  • Faster response time of support staff
  • Prioritization of improvement effort
  • Improved visual management

Uncovering hidden opportunities

One of the biggest benefits of MES systems, is that they will help your company uncover hidden opportunities.  Without the proper data gathering, it is easy to miss very large opportunities by focusing on the wrong issue. In some cases, many of these opportunities can hide in plain sight, as shown in the selective attention test below.

If you would like more information about MES Systems, VisualFactory or ShopFloorConnect click Here. if you would like to schedule a demo of ShopFloorConnect click Here. If you would like to read more of our blogs, check our our Lean Manufacturing Blog or you can also like our Facebook page or follow us on Google + page for the latest on all our process improvement information.