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Everything you want to know about Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES)

Everything you want to know about Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES)

This article answers the following questions on manufacturing execution systems (MES):



What is an MES?

A manufacturing execution system (MES) is a computerized system comprising a set of dynamic, software-based services for monitoring, tracking, documenting, and to some extent also controlling the product production process from start to finish.

The MES - constituting a functional layer between the machines (the OT layer) and administration or an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system (the IT layer) - provides the management data that are needed to quickly make decisions, ensure transparency in real time, and optimize processes.

MES Pyramide


An MES executes production processes on the basis of information, thus increasing a company’s overall productivity and therefore also its profitability. In fact, considering today’s high demands on performance and rapidly changing production environments, it’s now essential to have one in place. A report by Data Bridge Market Research predicts that the global MES market will reach a volume of 39.67 billion USD as early as the year 2029. The principal factors driving this growth are cost pressures in the highly competitive manufacturing sector. The demand is being met both by older on-premises MES systems and, to a rapidly growing extent, by cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) systems with low provisioning and project costs.

Many people use the term “production data collection” or “machine data collection” instead of MES. They are not the same thing, however. For detailed explanations of these terms, please see our article on production data collection.


What are the main benefits of MES?

More efficient productionMore efficient production

An MES helps boost the efficiency of production and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) by providing transparency and real-time analyses. Large data volumes are crunched to analyze the factors of performance, availability, and quality.

Better qualityBetter quality

Quality is improved by leveraging real-time quality data and digitally captured causes of problems. What’s more, MES can immediately spot and prevent downstream or large-scale faults. This reduces rejects and slashes resource consumption.

Reduced stocksReduced stocks

The MES can automatically report information on the numbers of units produced, rejects, and quality to the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, thus enabling it to reduce the quantities of materials kept in stock. Administrative departments, like those responsible for logistics or purchasing, are then consistently aware of how production is progressing and the amounts of materials that are additionally required. These interfaces and the resulting greater transparency permit better management of the “work in process” (WIP), thus generating savings in the areas of production, transportation, and storage. Monitoring of stocks, which in some cases is still done by hand, can then be almost completely eliminated.

Paperless manufacturingPaperless manufacturing

Digital operator guidance can send production orders, along with the corresponding processes and activities across all work steps. To some extent they can even be linked to production aids. This immediately eliminates the need to print out all order documents.

Traceability and product lifecycle documentTraceability and product lifecycle document

Using the time, order, product data, or serial number in an MES, it’s possible to generate a digital product lifecycle document containing all relevant information such as machining times, process values, machine states, or quality data and subsequently use it for traceability analysis if and as required. If production resources are integrated, process control parameters can be taken from the MES that, for example, don’t allow a subsequent step to be performed until the current one has been completed, verified by an OK signal, and registered in the MES. These functions together form a zero-defect process control system with process interlocking.



What are the core functions of an MES?

VDI guideline 5600 describes the seven core functions of an MES that are the basis for operating nearly any kind of system and should be included every modern production system. This is true despite the fact that, thanks to SaaS, a monolithic system is no longer a prerequisite.

MES core functions

Manufacturing Execution System (MES) Production planningProduction planning

Completion of the work list while taking the prevailing restrictions on production into account.

Manufacturing Execution System (MES) Management of operational resourcesManagement of operational resources

Deadline and provision of technically functional resources as required.

Manufacturing Execution System (MES) Management of materialsManagement of materials

On-time supply and disposal of materials to meet production requirements and manage work in progress (materials not included in the vendor-managed inventory).

Manufacturing Execution System (MES) Personnel managementPersonnel management

Timely provision of appropriately qualified personnel for the production process, while taking personnel-related capacity data (e.g. weekly working hours / shift schedules) into account.

Manufacturing Execution System (MES) Data captureData capture

Event-controlled capture of data from the process. Besides automatic data transfer, semiautomatic (e.g. by a scanner) and manual data capture are possible.

Manufacturing Execution System (MES) Quality managementQuality management

This comprises activities that concern the immediate production process and serve to ensure product and process quality.

Manufacturing Execution System (MES) Information managementInformation management

This is a switching point for integrating other MES tasks and performing all workflows while working through the order backlog and optimizing processes.


What interfaces and levels are there?

In the context of MES, ISA 95 defines the interfaces between OT and IT. The various levels between the technology and the business process are also considered. 

Level 4 – ERP: business planning and logistics 

Level 3 – MES: management of manufacturing operations 

Level 2 – process control systems: batch control 

Level 1 – process control systems: continuous control 

Level 0 – process control systems: discrete control

The main interface to third-party systems is that between the MES and the ERP system. Here master and movement data on products, work plans, bills of material, and orders are passed by the ERP to the MES. In the opposite direction, the MES typically provides feedback on orders and movement data on the individual objects.


Advanced technologies and trends

Modern MES systems are modular and based on advanced cloud technologies. The MES is service-oriented and networked with other services and systems. Topics such as analytics, data streaming, and artificial intelligence combine with the data and services of a modern MES to form the backbone of a modern “smart factory”.


What is the easiest, least disruptive way to introduce an MES?

Take a look at the sections on production metrics and production control or have one of our experts show you, in an individual Web session, just how quickly and easily this can now be accomplished.

MES - further information

Discover more exciting articles on the topic of MES below:

In addition, lean production, continuous improvement, Kaizen, Six Sigma and shopfloor management play an important role for MES in recognizing the potential for improvement in production. MES products enable efficient communication and coordination directly at production level (operational excellence), which is essential for identifying and quickly rectifying problems.


MES - how you can get started today

SYMESTIC is one of the world's leading cloud providers for native-based MES systems. Book a 4-week evaluation without obligation and see for yourself how quickly, easily and cost-effectively data can be automatically recorded using OEE Software-as-a-Service. Have the OEE and other key figures continuously calculated and analyzed. Use objective, trustworthy key figures, dashboards, reports and notifications in all production-related departments in your company!

Harness the power of the most innovative manufacturing software to make your production more efficient tomorrow!

Start working with SYMESTIC today to boost your productivity, efficiency, and quality!
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