August 11, 2023 By Cole Stryker 4 min read

Manufacturing execution systems (MES) have grown in popularity across the manufacturing industry. Implementing such solutions could be the key to a new era of productivity for your organization, but implementing new and expansive IT software can be intimidating. The right time to implement an MES depends on the specific needs and circumstances of each organization, and while there is no one-size-fits-all answer, several key indicators can suggest that it might be the appropriate time. 

If your manufacturing processes have become more intricate and challenging to manage manually, an MES can help streamline manufacturing operations management, increase efficiency and reduce errors. As your company grows and expands its manufacturing capabilities, an MES can provide the necessary tools for managing larger and more complex production workflows. If you are experiencing inefficiencies, bottlenecks, quality control challenges or compliance issues in your production processes, an MES can provide real-time data and performance analysis across production lines to identify and address these issues promptly.

The benefits of an MES software solution

Acting as a connection between an enterprise’s planning and control systems (such as an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and the actual manufacturing operations), MES systems are the brains of the “smart factory”—pivotal in tracking and paperless documentation of the real-time transformation of raw materials into finished products.

Gathering data from machines, sensors, operators and other Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices, they provide accurate and up-to-date insights into the status of production activities. MES systems offer real-time visibility and control over production processes, empowering stakeholders to monitor operations, address bottlenecks, reduce downtime and rework and make well-informed decisions promptly. MES systems can assist managers with process management and process control, helping to facilitate optimal performance of manufacturing. They can create and distribute information across the production line, dispatching work orders and work instructions based on trigger events.

By facilitating optimized production planning and scheduling, these systems ensure efficient resource allocation, workload balancing and on-time deliveries, leading to improved profitability. Moreover, they play a crucial role in quality management and compliance by enforcing quality control procedures, monitoring metrics and capturing real-time data. Effective inventory management, minimal production delays and timely material availability are achieved through the management of inventory levels and material movements by MES systems.

Furthermore, MES systems provide organizations with comprehensive and accurate production data, enabling data-driven decision-making to continuously enhance business processes and optimize resource utilization. They also support the measurement of overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), a significant metric used to gauge manufacturing efficiency. By streamlining workflows, automating tasks and offering real-time feedback, MES systems enhance plant floor efficiency and productivity. Additionally, they enable supply chain traceability and genealogy, essential for industries facing strict regulations because they can track the movement of materials and processes throughout the smart manufacturing lifecycle.

Before implementing an MES, it’s essential to conduct a thorough assessment of your manufacturing operations, set clear objectives, involve key stakeholders and select the right MES vendor that aligns with your specific needs. Proper planning and preparation will contribute to a successful MES implementation and maximize its benefits for your organization.

Choosing the right MES software: 12 things to think about

Selecting manufacturing execution system (MES) software is a critical decision for any manufacturing organization. MES software helps optimize production processes, improve productivity, enhance quality control and streamline operations.

Here are some steps to guide you through the process of choosing the right MES software for your specific needs:

  1. Assess your requirements: Understand your manufacturing processes, workflows and KPIs. Identify the specific areas where you need improvement, such as inventory management, product quality, traceability or production scheduling. Involve relevant stakeholders—including production managers, IT personnel and quality control teams—to gather comprehensive requirements.
  2. Vendor research: Conduct thorough research on MES software vendors and their offerings. Look for vendors with experience in your industry and a track record of successful implementations. Check online reviews, case studies and testimonials to gauge their reputation and customer satisfaction levels.
  3. Scalability and flexibility: Choose an MES software that can scale with your business and adapt to changing requirements. A flexible system allows for customization and integration with existing apps and systems without major disruptions.
  4. User-friendliness: The software should be easy to use, with intuitive dashboards and user interfaces. A complex system might create resistance among employees, leading to implementation challenges.
  5. Mobile capability: In today’s dynamic manufacturing environment, it’s essential to have mobile access to MES functionalities. This allows supervisors and operators to monitor and manage production from anywhere on the shop floor.
  6. Integration capabilities: Ensure that the MES solutions can seamlessly integrate with your existing systems, such as ERP software, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, and other relevant manufacturing software.
  7. Support and training: Consider the level of support provided by the vendor during and after implementation. Adequate training for your team members is crucial for successful adoption.
  8. Data analytics and reporting: The MES software should provide comprehensive analytics and reporting capabilities, allowing you to track and analyze KPIs, production trends and efficiency metrics.
  9. Compliance and security: For industries with strict regulatory requirements (e.g., pharmaceuticals, aerospace, etc.), ensure that the MES software complies with relevant standards and provides robust security measures to protect sensitive data.
  10. Cost: Evaluate the total cost of ownership (TCO) for the MES software, including licensing, implementation, training and ongoing maintenance management. Consider the potential return on investment (ROI) based on improved productivity, reduced downtime and enhanced efficiency.
  11. Proof of concept (PoC): Before making a final decision, consider running a PoC with the shortlisted MES software to assess its suitability for your specific manufacturing environment.
  12. References and site visits: Reach out to the vendor’s existing clients to get feedback on their experiences with the software. If possible, conduct site visits to observe the software in action and understand its impact on manufacturing processes.

By following these steps and taking the time to evaluate your options thoroughly, you’ll increase the chances of selecting an MES software that aligns with your business objectives and contributes to your manufacturing success.

Taking MES software to the next level

A manufacturing execution system (MES) is an important means of data collection and an important part of digital transformation for manufacturers. But for a large organization, it’s just one of many sources. MES software can do more for you when it’s integrated alongside other data sources within an enterprise asset management (EAM) or asset performance management (APM) platform.

The IBM Maximo® Application Suite is a single cloud-based environment that integrates with your MES to help you improve manufacturing operations, reliability and performance. Reduce risk, maintain compliance and increase ROI with applications built on 30+ years of market-leading technology.

Learn more about IBM Maximo Application Suite
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