Ultimate Guide To Manufacturing Execution Systems

Manufacturing Execution System (MES)

Table of Contents


Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) are comprehensive software systems that play a vital role in modern industrial operations. They act as a bridge between the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and the production floor, ensuring seamless coordination and real-time visibility of manufacturing processes. 

What are Manufacturing Execution Systems?

A manufacturing execution system (MES) is software designed to optimize the manufacturing process by monitoring, tracking, documenting, and controlling the entire production lifecycle. An MES improves quality control and increases uptime while also reducing inventory and costs.

The MES software follows the ” Know, Analyse and Improve ” scheme, common to all continuous improvement initiatives. 

What Is Continuous Improvement?

Continuous improvement is an ongoing process of identifying, analyzing, and making incremental improvements to systems, processes, products, or services. Its purpose is to drive efficiency, improve quality, and value delivery while minimizing waste, variation, and defects. The continual improvement process is driven by ongoing feedback, collaboration, and data.

Continuous improvement is an essential component in a range of management systems, including Lean, Six Sigma, and Total Quality Management.


The fundamentals of MES encompass a range of functionalities, including production scheduling, materials management, quality control, equipment monitoring, and workforce management. 

Manufacturing Execution System (MES)
Manufacturing Execution System (MES)

Why is MES important for Industry 4.0?

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Manufacturing Execution System (MES), Supervisory Control & Data Acquisition (SCADA), and Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) – are crucial for Industry 4.0. ERP streamlines business processes, enabling better resource management and decision-making. MES enhances shop-floor operations, ensuring real-time production monitoring and optimization. 

SCADA provides remote control and monitoring of industrial processes, enhancing operational efficiency. PLCs offer automation capabilities, enabling faster response to market demands and improved product quality. Together, they empower companies to excel in the Industry 4.0 landscape by boosting quality, efficiency, and agility in a highly competitive market.

Fundamentals of Manufacturing Execution Systems

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) are crucial components of modern manufacturing operations, offering a comprehensive solution for optimizing production processes. MES serves as a bridge between the shop floor and enterprise systems, enabling seamless coordination and data exchange. 

11 functions of MES
11 functions of MES

The 11 functions of MES

  1. Real-time Data Collection
  2. Production Scheduling and Tracking
  3. Quality Control and Compliance
  4. Inventory Management
  5. Equipment Maintenance
  6. Performance Monitoring and Analysis
  7. Integration and Collaboration
  8. Product Traceability and Genealogy
  9. Process Management
  10. Document Management
  11. Maintenance Management
  1. Real-time Data Collection: MES captures and analyzes real-time data from various sources, including equipment sensors, operators, and production lines. This data encompasses critical information such as production rates, quality metrics, and machine performance, allowing for informed decision-making.
  2. Production Scheduling and Tracking: MES facilitates efficient production scheduling, ensuring that resources, materials, and labor are allocated appropriately. These systems provide real-time visibility into the progress of manufacturing operations, enabling accurate tracking of work orders, job statuses, and production timelines.
  3. Quality Control and Compliance: MES plays a crucial role in maintaining product quality and adherence to regulatory standards. By integrating quality control processes into the production workflow, MES enables real-time monitoring of quality metrics, defect tracking, and enforcement of corrective actions.
  4. Inventory Management: MES provides comprehensive inventory management capabilities, tracking the movement and usage of raw materials, components, and finished goods. This ensures accurate inventory levels, minimizes stockouts, and optimizes supply chain efficiency.
  5. Equipment Maintenance: MES facilitates proactive equipment maintenance by monitoring machine performance, tracking maintenance schedules, and generating maintenance alerts. By enabling predictive and preventive maintenance strategies, MES reduces downtime and enhances overall equipment effectiveness.
  6. Performance Monitoring and Analysis: MES offers powerful analytics and reporting functionalities, providing insights into key performance indicators (KPIs) such as production yield, efficiency, and cycle times. This data-driven approach allows for continuous improvement initiatives and the identification of bottlenecks or areas for optimization.
  7. Integration and Collaboration: MES integrates with various systems, including enterprise resource planning (ERP), product lifecycle management (PLM), and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA). This integration enables seamless data exchange, promotes collaboration between different departments, and supports cross-functional decision-making.
  8. Product traceability and genealogy: Associate a final part or batch with all its manufacturing data from the raw material to the component assembly.Quality management. Manage the quality of manufacturing processes and units including quality deviations and exceptions. This function can be integrated directly into the MES software or can use external software such as SPC software and NCMS (non-conformance management system).
  9. Process management: Provide process routing and operational sequencing including full traceability.
  10. Document management: Make available to the operator at the correct time the documents (instructions, drawings, notes) necessary to carry out their work.
  11. Maintenance management: Optimize the planning of preventive maintenance operations to reduce the impact on manufacturing.

Implementation of Manufacturing Execution Systems

A Manufacturing Execution System (MES) is a software solution that helps to optimize the production process and ensure quality standards.  Before implementing an MES, some steps are necessary to prepare for a successful outcome. 

Implementation of Manufacturing Execution Systems
Implementation of Manufacturing Execution Systems

These steps include:

  • Pre-implementation Planning and Assessment: This involves defining the scope, objectives, and requirements of the MES project, as well as identifying the current state and gaps of the existing system.
  • Selection and Evaluation of Manufacturing Execution System Software: This involves researching and comparing different MES vendors and solutions, based on criteria such as functionality, compatibility, scalability, cost, and support.
  • Integration and Customization of Manufacturing Execution System: This involves configuring and testing the MES software to fit the specific needs and workflows of the organization, as well as integrating it with other systems such as ERP, PLC, SCADA, etc.
  • Training and Change Management for Successful Implementation: This involves educating and training the end-users and stakeholders on how to use and benefit from the MES, as well as managing the organizational and cultural changes that may arise from the implementation.

Core Features Of Manufacturing Execution Systems

Manufacturing Execution Systems
Manufacturing Execution Systems

The Manufacturing Execution System (MES) consists of several modules and functionalities that enable efficient and effective production processes.

Some of the key modules are:

  • Shop Floor Control and Production Monitoring: This module tracks and controls the status and progress of production orders, machines, and operators on the shop floor. It also collects and analyzes data on production performance, downtime, and quality.
  • Work Order Management and Scheduling: This module manages the creation, release, and execution of work orders based on customer demand, material availability, and production capacity. It also optimizes the production schedule to minimize costs and maximize throughput.
  • Quality Assurance and Statistical Process Control: This module ensures that the products meet the quality standards and specifications by performing inspections, tests, and audits. It also applies statistical methods to monitor and control the process variation and quality parameters.
  • Inventory Management and Material Tracking: This module tracks and manages the inventory levels, locations, and movements of raw materials, intermediate products, and finished goods. It also supports traceability and genealogy of materials throughout the production process.
  • Reporting and Performance Analysis: This module generates and provides various reports and dashboards on production performance, quality, inventory, and costs. It also supports data analysis and decision-making for continuous improvement.

KPIs of Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES)

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are crucial for evaluating the effectiveness and performance of Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES).

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES)
Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES)

Here are some common KPIs used to measure the success of MES implementations:

  • Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE): OEE measures the efficiency of equipment utilization by considering factors such as availability, performance, and quality. It helps identify opportunities for improving equipment performance and minimizing downtime.
  • Production Cycle Time: This KPI measures the time it takes for a product to move through the entire production process. Reducing cycle time can improve operational efficiency and increase productivity.
  • Yield Rate: The yield rate measures the percentage of products that meet quality standards and pass inspection. A high yield rate indicates effective quality control and efficient production processes.
  • Scrap and Rework Rate: This KPI measures the percentage of products that require rework or are scrapped due to quality issues. Reducing scrap and rework rates helps minimize waste and improve overall product quality.
  • On-Time Delivery: This KPI measures the percentage of orders or products delivered on time. Achieving high on-time delivery rates indicates efficient production planning, scheduling, and execution.
  • Inventory Turnover: Inventory turnover measures how quickly raw materials or finished goods are used or sold within a given period. Higher inventory turnover indicates effective inventory management and optimized production processes.
  • Downtime: Downtime measures the amount of time equipment or production processes are not operational. Minimizing downtime helps maximize productivity and reduce production delays.
  • Production Cost: This KPI measures the overall cost of production, including labor, materials, and overhead expenses. Monitoring production costs helps identify opportunities for cost reduction and process optimization.
  • First Pass Yield (FPY): FPY measures the percentage of products that pass through the production process without the need for rework or repair. A high FPY indicates efficient and error-free production processes.
  • Compliance and Safety: This KPI measures adherence to regulatory compliance and safety standards. Ensuring compliance and maintaining a safe working environment is crucial for sustainable manufacturing operations.

How MES is connected with ERP ?

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) are computerized systems designed to manage and monitor manufacturing operations on the shop floor. These systems bridge the gap between Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and the automation systems found on the factory floor.

MES collects and analyzes data from various sources, providing valuable insights and actionable information to improve production efficiency, product quality, and compliance with industry regulations.

The MES and ERP are connected in a variety of ways, depending on the specific needs of the business. Some common ways of connecting MES and ERP include:

  • Direct integration: This is the most common way of connecting MES and ERP. It involves connecting the two systems directly so that data can flow seamlessly between them.
  • API integration: This involves using application programming interfaces (APIs) to connect MES and ERP. APIs are a set of rules that allow two software systems to communicate with each other.
  • File-based integration: This involves transferring data between MES and ERP in files. This is the least common way of connecting MES and ERP, as it can be slow and inefficient.

Top Manufacturing Execution Systems


SAP Manufacturing Execution
SAP Manufacturing Execution

SAP ME, which stands for SAP Manufacturing Execution, is a module or system within the broader SAP suite of products. It is a suitable solution for managing the shop floor along with warehouse management, inventory management, CRM, accounting management, and more. This solution is particularly beneficial for larger-scale and complex manufacturing environments as it offers strong reporting capabilities that provide visibility into operations.

  • However, it’s important to note that SAP is a powerful tool that inherently carries complexity in its user interface.
  • Managing data archiving and data management can be more challenging with this software.
  • Additionally, due to the added layer of implementation, user adoption may pose a bigger challenge compared to other solutions.
  • It’s worth mentioning that SAP ME is not recommended for small to mid-size organizations. Instead, it is designed to cater to the needs of larger manufacturing organizations with complex operations.

Fishbowl Manufacturing

Fishbowl Manufacturing
Fishbowl Manufacturing

Fishbowl Manufacturing is designed to cater to smaller to mid-size manufacturing shops. Its user interface is relatively intuitive, making user adoption a smoother process. However, like any digital transformation, a strong organizational change management strategy is still necessary. It’s important to note that if your operation is more complex, Fishbowl may not be the best fit for your organization. Additionally, the reporting capabilities of Fishbowl are comparatively weaker than other solutions available. Despite this, Fishbowl Manufacturing is a best-of-breed software solution specifically designed to serve the manufacturing floor, and it excels in doing so for the right fit company.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement

Microsoft D365
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement

Due to its association with Microsoft, user adoption of Microsoft D365 is often seamless since its user interface (UI) resembles other Microsoft products. The platform is highly dynamic and open, allowing for customizations to meet the unique needs of organizations. However, as a broad system, implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365 for digital transformation can take time, especially compared to a best-of-breed implementation. Additionally, it is important to consider that the cost of Microsoft D365 may be higher compared to other products on the list.

Oracle NetSuite

Oracle NetSuite
Oracle NetSuite

Although not primarily known as a manufacturing system, Oracle NetSuite is still a viable option for automating operations in smaller to mid-size companies that aim to streamline their shop floor. It offers automation capabilities beyond manufacturing and warehouse management, extending to accounting, customer relationship management, and other enterprise functions. However, it is worth noting that costs may increase over time, particularly as transaction volumes grow.



Aptean is a software vendor with a primary focus on manufacturing. While it is particularly useful in food and beverage manufacturing environments, it can deliver positive results across various industries. Apart from manufacturing, Aptean also provides functionality for financials, supply chain, accounting, and more. However, feedback from clients suggests that integration can pose a greater challenge than anticipated, and the software’s research and development may be comparatively slower.



Infor, one of the world’s largest software vendors, specializes in manufacturing solutions. It offers a user-friendly interface that is relatively easy to learn, and the software is highly customizable. Regular updates and improvements ensure that your company stays relevant. Infor provides a comprehensive enterprise software solution that goes beyond warehouse automation, making it a great option for those seeking broader functionalities.

Epicor Advanced MES


Epicor is another software vendor with a strong focus on the manufacturing industry. Compared to other products on this list, Epicor Advanced MES is relatively user-friendly. It offers several add-on functionalities that provide more options for tailoring the solution to fit the organization’s needs. Additionally, Epicor provides versatile deployment options, including cloud, on-premise, and hybrid models that can be customized to suit the company’s requirements.

On the flip side, the more advanced capabilities of Epicor Advanced MES may require additional effort to understand and utilize effectively. Setting up reporting functionalities can be time-consuming, and the system itself may be slower compared to other products on this list.



IQMS is a software vendor with a large customer base in the manufacturing industry. It offers a highly scalable solution, making it suitable for small to mid-size businesses projecting high growth rates in the future. IQMS has been specifically built for manufacturing, focusing on delivering tailored functionality.

It’s worth noting that IQMS can be relatively expensive compared to other systems. There have been some concerns about the reporting capabilities not being as robust as desired. Additionally, occasional difficulties have been reported when it comes to system updates pushed by the vendor, which may result in short operational disruptions.



Plex is a manufacturing product that stands out as one of the few native cloud solutions available. Being a cloud-based system since its inception gives Plex an advantage in terms of optimized cloud functionality, especially as other vendors transition from on-premise to the cloud.

While Plex holds the top position on this list, it’s important to acknowledge some areas for improvement. Certain elements of workflows may not be as intuitive as desired. Additionally, as a smaller company with fewer resources, Plex may offer good customer service but could potentially have a higher chance of encountering bugs in their code.

Case Studies

Case studies on Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) that include successful implementation stories in various industries, lessons learned, and key considerations for implementation, as well as industry standards and compliance requirements:

Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company

Company: Ford Motor Company

Industry: Automotive

Success story: Ford Motor Company implemented an MES system to improve production efficiency and quality. The system helped to reduce manufacturing costs by 10% and increase product quality by 5%.

Lessons learned

  • Ford learned that it is important to involve all stakeholders in the MES implementation process, from production managers to shop floor workers.
  • The company also learned that it is important to choose an MES system that is flexible and scalable enough to meet the needs of a large, global organization.

Industry standards: Ford’s MES system is compliant with the following industry standards:

* ISA-95


* EPCglobal

Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson

Company: Johnson & Johnson

Industry: Healthcare

Success story: Johnson & Johnson implemented an MES system to improve traceability and compliance. The system helped the company to track the movement of products through its manufacturing process and to ensure that all products meet regulatory requirements.

Lessons learned

  • Johnson & Johnson learned that it is important to choose an MES system that is designed for the specific needs of the healthcare industry.
  • The company also learned that it is important to have a clear understanding of the regulatory requirements that apply to the products that are being manufactured.

Industry standards: Johnson & Johnson’s MES system is compliant with the following industry standards:

* GAMP 5

* ISO 13485

* FDA 21 CFR Part 820

Compliance requirements: Johnson & Johnson’s MES system is also compliant with the following compliance requirements:




Company: Boeing

Industry: Aerospace

Success story: Boeing implemented an MES system to improve efficiency and productivity in its manufacturing operations. The system helped the company to reduce the time it takes to produce aircraft by 20% and to increase the utilization of its manufacturing equipment by 15%.

Lessons learned

  • Boeing learned that it is important to have a clear understanding of the goals of the 
  • MES implementation before the project begins.
  • The company also learned that it is important to have a strong project management team in place to oversee the implementation process.

Industry standards: Boeing’s MES system is compliant with the following industry standards:

* AS9100

* DOD-STD-2000

* SAE AS8000

These are just a few examples of case studies on Manufacturing Execution Systems. Many other companies have successfully implemented MES systems to improve their manufacturing operations. If you are considering implementing an MES system in your organization, I encourage you to research the different options available and to talk to other companies that have already implemented MES systems.

Future Trends and Innovations in Manufacturing Execution Systems

The Future of Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) is expected to witness significant advancements and innovations driven by emerging technologies. Integration of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 concepts will enable MES to connect and communicate with a vast network of smart devices, sensors, and machines, facilitating real-time data exchange and seamless process automation.   

Future Trends and Innovations in Manufacturing Execution Systems
Future Trends and Innovations in Manufacturing Execution Systems

Here are some specific examples of how these trends are being used in MES systems today:

  • IoT and Industry 4.0 Integration: The company Siemens is using IoT and Industry 4.0 technologies to create a “smart factory” at its plant in Amberg, Germany. This factory uses sensors and other devices to collect data from machines and processes. This data is then used to improve production efficiency, quality, and traceability.
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Applications: The company General Electric is using AI and ML to automate tasks in its MES system. This includes tasks such as scheduling production, managing inventory, and troubleshooting problems. AI and ML are also being used to identify patterns and make predictions. This information is then used to improve production efficiency and quality.
  • Cloud-based Manufacturing Execution System Solutions: The company SAP is offering a cloud-based MES solution called SAP Manufacturing Execution Cloud. This solution offers several advantages, including scalability, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness. SAP Manufacturing Execution Cloud can also be accessed from anywhere, which can be helpful for businesses with global operations.
  • Predictive Analytics and Advanced Data Visualization: The company Rockwell Automation is using predictive analytics and advanced data visualization to improve production efficiency at its plants. This includes using data to identify trends and predict future production output. This information is then used to make better decisions about production planning and scheduling.


In conclusion, MES software contributes to the digitalization of factories, empowering them with enhanced production agility. It aligns with the vision of Smart Manufacturing, where intelligent, interconnected plants enable unrestricted data circulation.

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) are fundamental tools in the manufacturing industry, enabling seamless coordination, real-time visibility, and optimization of production processes. MES integrates with ERP systems and provides shop floor control, ensuring efficient management of resources, materials, and workforce.

With the integration of IoT and Industry 4.0, MES can leverage advanced technologies like AI, ML, and cloud-based solutions, paving the way for predictive analytics, intelligent decision-making, and scalability. MES empower manufacturers with valuable insights, enabling them to enhance operational efficiency, product quality, and overall productivity. As the manufacturing landscape continues to evolve, MES will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of the industry by streamlining operations, reducing costs, and driving innovation.


An MES, or Manufacturing Execution System, is a software system that collects and analyzes data from the manufacturing floor. This data can then be used to improve production efficiency, quality, and traceability.

There are many benefits to using an MES, including:

  • Improved production efficiency: MES systems can help to improve production efficiency by tracking the progress of production orders, identifying bottlenecks, and optimizing resources.
  • Increased quality: MES systems can help to increase quality by tracking the quality of products and processes, and providing real-time feedback to operators.
  • Enhanced traceability: MES systems can help to enhance traceability by tracking the movement of materials and products through the manufacturing process.
  • Improved decision-making: MES systems can help to improve decision-making by providing real-time data on production status, quality, and traceability.

There are two main types of MES:

  • Standalone MES: A standalone MES is a stand-alone system that is not integrated with other systems.
  • Integrated MES: An integrated MES is a system that is integrated with other systems, such as ERP, SCM, and quality management systems.

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing an MES for your business, including:

  • The size and complexity of your manufacturing operations
  • The specific needs of your business
  • Your budget
  • The availability of support

The costs of implementing an MES can vary depending on the size and complexity of your manufacturing operations, the specific features and functionality of the MES system you choose, and the level of support you require.

The time it takes to implement an MES can vary depending on the size and complexity of your manufacturing operations, the specific features and functionality of the MES system you choose, and the level of support you require.

There are a number of challenges that can be encountered when implementing an MES, including:

  • Lack of user buy-in
  • Lack of data
  • Lack of integration with other systems
  • Lack of budget

The maintenance of an MES is important to ensure that the system is running smoothly and that it is providing the benefits that you need. Maintenance tasks can include:

  • Software updates
  • Hardware maintenance
  • Data backup
  • Security updates

The future trends in MES include:

  • The increasing use of cloud computing
  • The increasing use of mobile devices
  • The increasing use of artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • The increasing focus on sustainability

There are a number of industry standards for MES, including:

  • ISA-95
  • OPC UA
  • EPCglobal

The regulatory requirements for MES can vary depending on the industry you are in. Some common regulatory requirements include:

  • FDA 21 CFR Part 11
  • ISO 9001
  • ISO 22000

The integration of an MES with other systems can be complex. However, there are a number of ways to integrate an MES with other systems, including:

  • Using APIs
  • Using middleware
  • Using a hybrid approach
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