What Is a Manufacturing Execution System?

Man pulling a metal part out of a machine in factoryTo track the expenditure of raw materials, many manufacturing companies use a centralized computer system known as a manufacturing execution system (MES). Featuring both hardware and software, an MES allows manufacturing companies to analyze their production processes in real time or near-real time. Rather than manually collecting data on their production processes, for example, companies can easily access this information using an MES.

Manufacturing companies have used computer systems to streamline their operations for decades. However, MESs were refined in the 1990s when the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association International (MESA) published a document outlining the scope of MESs. This document provided a framework for the standardization of MESs, revealing what an MES should be capable of doing.

Functions of an MES

The functions of an MES varies depending on how it’s designed as well as how it’s used. With that said, some of the most common functions of an MES include the following:

  • Track the usage of raw materials during different stages of the production cycle.
  • Collect and exchange data between machines.
  • Track equipment used during production processes.
  • Track labor used during production processes.
  • Analyze key performance metrics (KPI) of production processes.
  • Maintenance scheduling to minimize downtime.

Benefits of Using an MES

An MES is an innovative tool that can help manufacturing companies succeed in several ways. First, it helps companies identify processes in which a significant amount of raw materials are being wasted so that they can further optimize the process for greater efficiency. Second, using an MES can increase the production output for companies by revealing bottlenecks that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Third, an MES can even reduce the risk of work-related injuries by tracking how many hours employees work. Some employees will gladly work double shifts for multiple consecutive days, but this isn’t always a smart idea. Employees who clock too many hours are more likely to experience fatigue than their counterparts, which can slow down their reaction times and increase the risk of an injury-causing accident. Using an MES, however, manufacturing companies can track which employees are on the clock and how long they’ve been working.

MESs have also been shown to reduce the amount of paperwork used in manufacturing activities. All data is stored on a computer (or computers), so manufacturing companies don’t have to use printed documents to analyze metrics.

Finally, an MES can create shorter order lead times for manufacturing companies. Rather than keeping a backlog of orders, manufacturing companies can use an MES to streamline their production processes and achieve a shorter order lead time.