MES – Manufacturing Execution System
MES – Manufacturing Execution System, is a software system that acquires and monitors in an automatic and integrated way, data and information that allow to manage, control and optimize the production activities within a company, from the established order to the loading of finished products into the warehouse to schedule their distribution to sales channels.
MES systems, also identified as “factory software”, are not to be confused with ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems normally called “business software” with which, however, they need to interface for real-time data acquisition and exchange.
Through this data exchange, an MES system is able to inform the people involved in the company’s production processes, about the activities of the production departments allowing the control and monitoring of these at all levels, ultimately enabling the optimization of the production processes themselves, the control of logistics and the availability of resources (human and machines). An MES solution, integrated with an ERP application enables complete control of the production chain.
While an MES solution needs to be integrated with an ERP, on the other hand – towards the production lines – it needs to be able to interact with data acquisition/exchange systems from/to the field (identified as PLCs – Programmable Logic Controllers and SCADA systems – Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition); in this way, the production process is fully manageable and responds to the characteristics related to Industry 4.0 digitalization.
There are several MES solutions that differ precisely in their ability to integrate with other systems and to be tailored to specific production needs.
An MES system helps achieve the business objectives that have been defined by strategic planning: based on the type of production system, it identifies and allows for reducing possible bottlenecks, controlling critical processing, and setting and governing constraints in the machine-operator relationship. It optimizes the size of volumes required and produced, thus stabilizes the production mix and enables optimization and reduction of lead time.
The goal is to align enterprise planning and management, reducing waste and increasing product and process quality.
Basically, an MES system makes it possible to capture all information related to the production cycle and monitor the production itself in real time. An efficient production control involves accurate cost measurement, with workload controls and simple indicators of production department efficiency and progress monitoring: these are the KPIs – Key Performance Indicators that the MES integrates internally.
Data provided by operators are cross-referenced to automatic readings from machines in synoptic and real-time panels for a complete view of processes and their optimization.
MES applications have dashboards that let you know immediately the status of a job order, its work orders, the resources needed to complete it, and the estimated time to deliver it.
An MES project is much more than a software implementation in a company: it is an opportunity to review production processes and beyond, highlighting areas for improvement to achieve, as a final result, an overall improvement in operational efficiency.
Manufacturing Execution Systems represent, today, the indispensable meeting point between many sources of information, which often arrive with a high frequency and from different systems. The objective of this “centralizer” is to make this data correlated with the context and the rest of the production processes already existing in the company, either automatically, by means of intelligent algorithms, or with the Production Process Intelligence addressed.
What is the purpose of Manufacturing Execution Systems?
- Develop new products by giving direct evidence of any estimated production costs. This is because it is possible to carry out simulations starting from the bill of materials and taking into account the individual processing cycles and the various resources (men and machines) to be employed
- Planning in the long run and scheduling, in the short run, production in a timely manner. This provides concrete indications of delivery dates for finished products
- Manage both internal and external work orders
- Directly and automatically collect data (via SCADA and PLC systems) from production machines with automatic advancement of individual production stages
- Monitor production machines to be able to manage their preventive and extraordinary maintenance, detecting machine data (machine states, times, parts, temperatures, …)
- Monitor key production KPIs to be able to assess efficiency, profitability, disruptions….
- Support the executive phases of the production process, ensuring complete and real-time control of every event in production
- Plan and execute quality controls, not only with a view to ensuring product traceability
- Manage material movements, from raw material withdrawals to stocking the finished/semi-finished product.
The benefits of adopting MES software
As a result of the above, the benefits are many; among the most important we would like to highlight the following:
- Make production planning and scheduling possible, possibly with the support of specific modules integrated with the MES system
- Monitor and manage the automatic progress of individual production stages, which results in a direct increase on the efficiency of production processes
- Assess, a priori, the actual availability of human and machine resources
- Make possible the management and scheduling of preventive and extraordinary maintenance
- Enable budgeted and actual production costing, making it possible to intervene if critical events and/or steps are identified within the production process and concentrate, where necessary, the costs themselves
- Optimize the profitability of resources.
In conclusion, the ability to track all processes through data storage makes operations more transparent and easier to improve: the identification and resolution of historical bottlenecks is further cause for waste reduction.
Real-time calculation of raw material quantities and consumption enables the optimization of storage and the related processes, primarily by reducing unused stocks.
Constant monitoring promotes timely quality control that decreases manufacturing errors and rework costs. It also allows the unexpected to be handled in real time, while production is in progress, saving downtime and suggesting alternative solutions.