MES manufacturing benefits for the plant floor

Well-designed manufacturing execution systems (MES) have a few things to offer to a manufacturing process, despite their pitfalls.

By Trent Maw August 8, 2022
Courtesy: Chris Vavra, CFE Media and Technology

MES Insights

  • Well-designed manufacturing execution systems (MES) have a few things to offer to a manufacturing process, despite their pitfalls.
  • With several different levels of management, an MES can help keep track of different pieces of information so the plant team can focus on other things.
  • There is still necessity for other systems to help fill the gaps where MES is lacking, such as quality control, transparency and a standardized approach.

Well-designed manufacturing execution systems (MES) have a few things to offer to a manufacturing process. It just may not keep all the promises it makes. Here is why MES hasn’t lost its place on the factory floor their benefits.

How do manufacturing experts define MES?

To dive into the history of the manufacturing execution system, we’re starting way back in 1996. Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association (MESA) has established 11 core functions of an MES. These 11 functions are organized around supply chain management (SCM), enterprise resources management (ERM), sales and service management, product/process engineering and controls are:

  1. Operations/detailed scheduling
  2. Resource allocation and status
  3. Dispatching production units
  4. Product tracking and genealogy
  5. Maintenance management
  6. Labor management
  7. Quality management
  8. Data collection
  9. Process management
  10. Performance analysis
  11. Document control.

This model has since been updated and reconfigured. However, the point remains that MES was originally expected to be a magic bullet.

Although these 11 functions created a helpful framework, they ended up illuminating all the ways in which traditional MES typically falls short. MES made promises and failed to keep many of them. Despite this, there are sill several benefits to MES.


Although a traditional manufacturing execution system (and even some outdated MES software) probably shouldn’t be the only solution for visibility, it certainly has a few things going for it. Take, for example, product traceability. Having an MES at your disposal makes this process more transparent and, thus, better at supporting your overall return on investment (ROI).

MES is also a good option for supply chain visibility. It helps a company more confidently navigate disruptions, raw material shortages and other key supply chain issues by tracking the goods needed.

Companies looking for better ways to handle logistics scheduling and planning will also reap the benefits of an MES. With the right MES software, they might even be able to overcome workflow inefficiencies and keep all assets and shop floor workers pushing in the same direction.

Machine management

If a plant is interested in machine process control, an MES might be the solution. The system gives the ability to monitor a machine’s production process, allowing the ability to make changes and see results in real-time. It doesn’t have the robust value of a modern enterprise asset management solution, but it does provide key data that can help improve manufacturing operation.

Data management

Recipe management is a particularly relevant example, as managing recipe data is one of the things a manufacturing execution system does best.

There’s also regulatory compliance to consider. Although there are elements of compliance that fall outside the MES umbrella, well-designed MES software can help manage data in ways that are both efficient and secure. It can also help keep track of how local, state and federal laws may impact the data capture process.

Labor management

An MES can help lay the groundwork for other solutions in a few crucial ways, giving some of the tools needed to help support workers on the shop floor (and beyond). Plus, it’s a great tool for more effectively managing the policies and procedures that make the plant stand out from the competition on the hiring front.

Getting more out of a manufacturing execution software

MES isn’t perfect. The industry has come this far with MES, and it has a few things it does really well. That means it’s best to identify gaps in the average MES solution and find a tool that bridges those gaps. Here are some of the most important shortcomings of a manufacturing execution system:

Lack of a standardized approach

It’s good at pointing out issues, but it’s not so good at telling a plant which solutions are ideal. It also results in a break/fix process that only treats symptoms of production issues and fails to address the underlying causes.

Quality control

Although a good MES solution is certainly capable of managing and monitoring certain elements of the production process, it lacks on quality assurance. MES is worried about how and when production happens; the outcome is someone else’s problem.


While a manufacturing execution system can help control some kinds of data, it doesn’t control all of it.

If  a traditional MES solution is helping manage an audit, it will become apparent that the system has not been keeping track of data like records. MES also isn’t great at tracking certain material data.

Skills and training

Traditional MES software only tells part of the story. It’s blind to other details like tracking employee progress in skills training and certifications. This puts the factory floor teams in a position where they often have to cross their fingers and hope other employees know what they’re doing.

– This originally appeared on L2L’s blog. L2L is a CFE Media and Technology content partner.

Original content can be found at L2L.

Author Bio: Trent Maw, senior director of marketing, L2L (Leading2Lean)