Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit: Demystifying Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES)

Posted on 21 Nov 2018 by Jonny Williamson

The world of manufacturing is changing at such a pace that it can be hard to keep up with the available technology. Lighthouse Systems’ Martyn Gill offered a helping hand by outlining exactly what MES and the compelling reasons for adopting such a system.

Manufacturing Execution Systems MES Connected Factory ERP IIoT IoT Ecommerce - image courtesy of Depositphotos
Manufacturing Execution Systems provide the meeting point between IT and OT – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

Today’s manufacturing businesses typically have low levels of integration between office information technology (IT) and operations technology such as automation systems on the shop floor (OT). Manufacturing Execution Systems provide the meeting point for their convergence.

According to Martyn Gill, a manufacturer’s operation can be split into three broad layers:

  • Layer 1 – Plant equipment: machines, lines, automation, PLCs and sensors, operating in real-time.
  • Layer 2 – Plant operations, i.e. MES: production counts, downtime, process parameters, quality, analysis and assessment overseen by operators, supervisors, process engineers, continuous improvement teams and operations managers across seconds, minutes, hours, shifts or days, depending on the business/system.
  • Layer 3 – ERP: purchasing and supply chain, customers and sales order management overseen by finance, inventory, and core business function teams over days, months, quarters or years.

So, what’s the difference between ERP and MES?

“ERP is the business system; it offers the big picture view and is used predominantly by office workers,” Gill noted. “MES is the manufacturing system, it has detailed production information and is used by factory workers. MES is user-friendly, fast and many of the processes are automated.”

Manufacturing Execution Systems unite quality operations, production operations, maintenance operations and inventory operations under one umbrella, encompassing:

Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit: What exactly are Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) - slide

 The key benefits of Manufacturing Execution Systems:

  • All factory (OT) data will go into one place
  • All users will be able to access it from wherever they are
  • No data will be recorded on paper
  • Information will be immediate, live and accurate
  • Data will be transformed into actionable items
  • Performance, status, problems will be instantly visible to all
  • Users will be alerted to problems (SMS, email)
  • Users will be guided through business processes

“The panacea of the perfect ‘Smart Factory’ has all the measurement systems, line sensors and computer systems joined up in a completely seamless manner,” Gill said. “All this data should be available to each other and talk to each other.

“New technologies and capabilities like Manufacturing Execution Systems could dramatically change manufacturing operations by reducing spoilage rates and waste, increasing uptime and productivity, and making non-value -added manpower a thing of the past.”

Gill concluded his keynote by offering some words of advice, “Digital Transformation is a continuous journey that can only be made with incremental steps.

“The first steps you should consider taking are connecting your measurement systems and quality data to a centralised MES, connecting your machines, sensors and PLCs to a centralised MES, and tag your critical assets and track their usage in a centralised MES.”

Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit has been bringing together senior industry executives for more than a decade, and is the biggest manufacturer-to-manufacturer conference in the country.

It is the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Digital Manufacturing Week, an annual celebration of UK manufacturing excellence that takes place every November in Liverpool. This year saw 887 delegates attend Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit (up 45% on 2017) and 5,322 visitors to Digital Manufacturing Week (up 36% on 2017).

Clear your diary and join us next year: 13-14 Nov 2019!