Home Edge Computing What is MES? Understand the functions and benefits of a manufacturing execution system

What is MES? Understand the functions and benefits of a manufacturing execution system

MES is gaining attention as a system that supports manufacturing organizations. In this blog, we will introduce the features and functions of MES, why it’s gaining attention, why it’s crucial for the manufacturing industry, the benefits of implementing it, and how it differs from other systems such as production control systems and ERP.

What is MES

Let’s look at the meaning and functions of a Manufacturing Execution System, or MES, which has been proven to support manufacturers globally.

Manufacturing Execution System

MES is an abbreviation for “Manufacturing Execution System” and is defined as an information system that supports the production of products, which is essential for the manufacturing industry.
A MES can visualize and manage the manufacturing process, give clear instructions to employees, and provide information support.
In some cases, MES functions are incorporated as part of the production control system.

Functions of MES

MES has the following features and functions:

  • Allocation and monitoring of production resources
    A MES can manage production resources such as equipment, tools, instruments, and materials as well as the crucial skills and qualifications required for production. Some MESs have additional features for resource allocation.
  • Management of specifications and documents
    It manages essential documents and materials needed to carry out work efficiently. Within a MES, organizations can store and edit work instructions, work procedures, bills of materials and recipes, drawings, and design specifications.
  • Equipment maintenance and maintenance management
    Manage maintenance and maintenance schedules for facilities, equipment, tools, etc. required for production.
  • Product quality control
    This function supports quality control based on automatically collected measurement data and input quality data.
  • Work schedule management
    Based on the production plan, manufacturers can create detailed work schedules as well as employees assignments and work shifts.
  • Work arrangements and manufacturing instructions
    This function issues clear instructions regarding the start timing and quantity of production, the amount of work-in-progress, specifications of finished products, etc.
  • Worker placement management/situation management
    This function manages the placement and status of workers, supporting optimal placement.
  • Collection of process data
    Collect data for each process and display progress in real time.
  • Monitoring and supporting work processes
    Monitor work processes and support work procedures and decisions.
  • Product tracking and system management
    This function manages the storage location and movement of work-in-progress and finished products.
  • Performance analysis and reporting
    A MES analyzes the production status and reports the latest status while also comparing these reports with past performance.

Why MES is gaining attention

So, why are MESs gaining attention? There are three main reasons: labor shortages, the importance of critical data and information, and the development of new technologies.
Japan was once known to be a manufacturing powerhouse, but due to globalization and changing needs, it is no longer possible to maintain a competitive advantage through high quality alone.
Under these circumstances, labor shortages due to the declining birthrate and the retirement of older generations are causing serious problems for manufacturing companies. To solve this problem, manufacturers must efficiently create products with fewer resources and supply them according to needs.
By leveraging critical information, such as demand forecasting, allocation of crucial production resources, and real-time production status updates, production management is enhanced.
In the past, there was no infrastructure in place to fully leverage this information, and production activities were carried out by relying on human intuition and experience to make judgement calls.
New digital technologies, such as the spread of IoT and the practical application of AI, have brought about a major change. The need to utilize these digital technologies to create new production processes and business models, as well as efficiencies in production, have become a focal point in manufacturing.
The transformation of operations using digital technology is known as digital transformation (DX), and it is being promoted in all industries, including the manufacturing industry.
With the development of IoT and sensor technology, organizations can now obtain a large amount of information from manufacturing equipment. AI has also expanded opportunities by advancing data utilization from images and human movements.
A MES supports efficient production with limited resources by streamlining the use of information related to manufacturing management. The evolution of digital technology has made it possible to utilize critical information and data at a higher level, making a Manufacturing Execution System an essential tool for manufacturers.

Advantages of introducing MES

Introducing a MES brings the following benefits:

Reduce waste by optimizing resources

MES provides real-time insights into work status and production progress.
By gathering the latest information such as changes in inventory, work delays, defective product occurrence rates, and troubles with production equipment, it is possible to respond quickly and flexibly.
A MES empowers companies to allocate the necessary resources where needed to reduce waste and enable efficient production.

Eliminate labor shortage

By optimizing resources, companies can save on labor and manpower. The worker support function further reduces labor, making it possible to reduce and eliminate labor shortages.

Strengthen interdepartmental cooperation through information utilization

When information is not leveraged correctly and there is a lack of coordination between department and teams, problems may arise such as inadequate procurement of materials, excess or shortage of inventory, and a drop in production efficiency due to a shortage of personnel.
A MES can collect and analyze information in real-time and share it across departments. This strengthens cooperation and prevents efficiency loss due to miscommunication and lack of information in production.

Ensure traceability and improve quality

A MES accurately monitors and records the production status of each manufacturing process. This makes it possible to record changes in facilities, work processes, and both materials and raw materials at every stage of the production process.
When a problem occurs in a product, it is possible to trace the cause during the process or distribution process, which can then be used to solve the problem.

Standardization of work

In the manufacturing industry, issues arise such as quality changes and fluctuations in production efficiency due to individualization, which is often caused by a dependence on experienced, knowledgeable, and highly skilled workers.
A MES has a function to convert technical knowledge from skilled workers into data and share it. This eliminates the dependence on individual skills and enables a standardization of work, making it possible to stabilize quality, ensure worker safety, and improve productivity.

Differences between MES, production management system, and ERP

There are systems that have similar functions to MES, and systems with ambiguous functional differences. The features and differences of each are as follows.

MES and production control system

A MES is a system that supports manufacturing execution such as visualization and management of manufacturing processes in production management, instructions to workers, and information support related to quality control. MES features may be similar to functions of a production control system.

Please refer to this article for the difference between manufacturing control, production control, and quality control and their meanings.
Differences between production control, manufacturing control, and quality control | Stratus blog

Production control system and ERP

ERP is an abbreviation for “Enterprise Resource Planning” and is also called an integrated core business system or core system.
ERP is an integrated system comprising of:

  • Accounting management system
  • Sales management system
  • Inventory Purchasing Management System
  • Production control system
  • Personnel and salary management system

These systems are centrally managed by the same database, and each are linked.
If the production management system specializes in production, from procurement of raw materials to manufacturing and shipping, an ERP connects the entire business of the company.
However, production control is crucial for the manufacturing industry, and each subdivided task is intricately connected.
Depending on the type of industry and the types of products being produced, the required functions often differ. It may not be possible to respond with just the production management function of the ERP. In such cases, a production management system specialized in production management operations is often introduced.

Optimizing resources and improving production efficiency by utilizing information

A MES supports manufacturing management and work by utilizing critical information. Because of many similarities to a production control system, a MES is sometimes incorporated as a part of a production control system.
By optimizing the use of essential information and data related to manufacturing, organizations can expect to achieve higher productivity with limited resources.
It’s possible that Manufacturing Execution Systems will evolve and become a standard function of production management systems in the future.

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