Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) Defined

Author photo: Janice Abel
ByJanice Abel
Industry Trends

Manufacturing Execution System (MES) software covers a broad range of functionality that differs across various industries. MES products developed for the process industries do not easily cross over into the discrete markets, if at all. In fact, they may not even cross some process industry segments well. Certainly, most MES software is very knowledge-based, requiring industry expertise. This makes it difficult for suppliers to enter new segments without acquisitions.

Production management normally refers to the planning, execution, tracking, reporting, and optimizing of manufacturing processes. MES solutions represent a suite of applications that provide:

  • Visibility into real-time production status
  • Traceability and genealogy of manufactured product
  • Performance analysis of production operations to identify trends and weaknesses
  • Paperless management of production processes to reduce overheads; and
  • Operator instructions in the form of schedules, recipes, operating instructions, and batch records

MES markets have two product feature sets that are specific to the process industries: plantwide historians and batch management systems. The batch software market has been shaped by ISA standards, which define consistent models and terminology. The advances in batch software clearly demonstrate the benefit of standardization, even if only at the functional level. Plantwide historians have been around for many years and have a well-known feature set. Historians provide part of the infrastructure foundation for enterprises that want to make the move to advanced planning and collaborative operations.

Manufacturing Execution System (MES) Definition

ARC defines the MES market to include manufacturing production, manufacturing intelligence, historian (specific to MES), batch management, quality (when integrated into MES software) and related software for the process industries. The functions performed by MES systems are consistent with and include as a subset the functions described by the ISA-95 standard. These include:

  • Detailed production scheduling
  • Production resource management
  • Production dispatching
  • Product definition management
  • Production execution
  • Production data collection
  • Production tracking
  • Production performance analysis
  • Maintenance operations
  • Quality assurance operations
  • Product inventory operations
  • Transfer tracking
  • Management of security
  • Management of configuration
  • Management of documents
  • Management of regulatory compliance

Beyond the ISA-95 functions, ARC recognizes that additional functionality such as workflow planning and management, manufacturing process modeling, production optimization, and tight integration with other systems is required to enable true collaboration among the disparate systems, applications, departments, and organizations. These additional functions include:

  • Plant data model/plant database
  • Product cost accounting/data collection
  • Production business process management
  • Event detection/response
  • Customer order management
  • Material and energy management
  • Role-based workspace
  • Plant application framework
  • Services registry/object repository
  • Integration
  • Multi-plant services
  • Capacity planning/work allocations
  • Historian
  • Batch recipe management
  • Analytics
  • Visualization and dashboards

Manufacturing Execution System (MES) Core Functions

Plan and Schedule

The plan and schedule segment consists of functions such as short-term production planning, plant simulation and modeling, electronic routing, and finite capacity scheduling, etc. The purpose of this segment is to determine what products to make, when to make them, and what equipment to use.

  • Among others, this segment consists of functions described under ISA-95:
  • Resource allocation and control
  • Operations and detailed scheduling
  • Short-term production planning, plant simulation and modeling for detailed planning, workflow planning, and finite capacity and scheduling
  • Batch management - when purely for planning and scheduling

Manufacturing Execution System (MES) Core Functions

Direct and Operate

The direct and operate segment emanates from the ongoing need to find new and better ways to control process equipment and operate the plant. This segment includes dispatching, electronic work instructions, resource management, workflow management, etc.

This segment incorporates the following ANSI/ISA 95.00.01 functions:

  • Dispatching production (operations and workflow production management, including managing the flow and sequence of work through detailed instruction to operators and equipment)
  • Process management (including functionality to monitor production and corrects or improves operations automatically or through online real-time decision support systems
  • Additional applications including: data extraction, aggregation, contextualization, validation and reconciliation, and online real-time optimization software; quality management, SPC/SQC for process improvement; simulation for data analysis and optimization; and critical situation management

Track, Analyze and Inform

The track, analyze, and inform segment stems from the need to gather, store, organize, and communicate data, information, and alert messages. It includes data collection, data storage and historian, performance analysis, enterprise-level reporting, order tracking, messaging, and product genealogy. This segment incorporates the following ISA-95 functions:

  • Data collection and acquisition
    • Plant historian
    • Real-time operational production data collection and plant historical data management including data aggregation and contextualization
  • Quality management
    • Real-time quality measurement and analysis to ensure proper product quality and ID production problems
    • Includes LIMS integration
  • Production planning and tracking, provides status of production including:
    • Inventory status and material usage, equipment and other re-source status, and order tracking
    • Product genealogy
    • Current production conditions with alarms, messaging, and exception reporting
  • Performance analysis
    • Provides up-to-the-minute reporting of actual manufacturing results with comparisons to targets/historical
    • Includes resource utilization, conformance to schedules, performance to standards, and material balances
    • Includes analytics, reporting, dashboards and visualization*
  • Document control
    • Controlling and managing work instructions, recipes, drawings, regulatory documentation, and SOPs

This segment of MES integrates with other plant systems to provide real-time information, knowledge, and decision support using data aggregation, contextualization, analysis, visibility, and reporting tools. It is the fastest growing subcategory within this space. ARC highlighted part of this segment in our recent Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence (EMI) Worldwide Outlook study.

MES Vs Operations Management

While performing production-centric functions, MES systems include collaborative production management, production management, manufacturing enterprise systems (MES) that integrate with business systems, engineering systems, and maintenance systems both within and

across multiple plants and enterprises. Sharing information throughout the enterprise is just a small piece of what is necessary to compete in the collaborative value network environment. Collaborative manufacturing is part of a competitive strategy that fosters collaboration with value network partners, creates electronically driven workflows, and promotes a focus on core manufacturing competencies.

These systems are production-centric in the fullest sense, meaning they are distinguishable from supply chain management (SCM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions by encompassing all the functionality needed to plan, schedule, track, analyze, inform, direct, and operate manufacturing operations.

ARC uses the term “collaborative” because production management might represent a single plant, a series of plants within the enterprise, or a series of plants both within and outside the enterprise. Collaboration transcends the conventional meaning of enterprise and reflects the trend toward virtual manufacturing where production represents steps in the process and coordination of the processes, unbounded by geographical or corporate boundaries. Key functions performed by MES applications vary from industry to industry as well as by plant size and complexity of the operations.

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