What is the definition of an MES (Manufacturing Execution System)?

What is the definition of an MES (Manufacturing Execution System)?

Michael Möller
Michael Möller
14 mins
October 5, 2023

The Manufacturing Execution System (MES) is an information-controlled, computer-based system that enables direct monitoring and control of manufacturing processes at the workshop level. MES acts as a link between Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and the operational manufacturing level by providing real-time data and analytics to ensure production efficiency and quality. It integrates and synchronizes all operational processes and flows to ensure optimal use of resources and efficient production.

The manufacturing industry is constantly faced with the challenge of optimizing its processes, increasing product quality and operating cost-effectively.

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) have established themselves as key tools to address precisely these challenges by enabling precise control, monitoring and analysis of production processes in real time. Compliance with international standards also plays a central role: MES not only helps manufacturing companies to optimize their internal processes, but also to comply with standards such as DIN 56000 and ISO 22400. These standards define, among other things, terminology and key performance indicators (KPIs) for MES and ensure that MES systems are implemented and used in accordance with internationally recognized best practices. In this article, we will look at the basics of MES, its core functions, benefits, and the development of MES standards as well as current trends and technologies in MES.

Basic functions and objectives of an MES

A manufacturing execution system pursues these functions and goals

Features of an MES

  • Resource allocation and status: MES allocates and monitors the status of machines, personnel, and materials to ensure a smooth production flow.
  • Operations management/detailed planning: It enables the planning, sequencing, and optimization of production orders and cycles to avoid bottlenecks and minimize turnaround times.
  • Document control: MES manages all production-related documents to ensure compliance with standards and regulations.
  • Data collection and collection: It collects, stores, and analyses real-time data from machines and systems to enable well-founded decisions.
  • Work management: MES monitors and controls work processes and performance to maximize productivity.
  • Quality management: It monitors and documents quality parameters to ensure product compliance.
  • Process management: MES controls and optimizes manufacturing processes to maximize efficiency.
  • Maintenance management: It plans and monitors maintenance activities to maximize plant availability.
  • Product tracking and genealogy: MES tracks products and components throughout the production cycle to ensure traceability.
  • Performance analysis: It analyses production performance data to enable continuous improvements.

Objectives of an MES

  • Increasing efficiency: MES aims to maximize production efficiency by optimizing processes and resources.
  • Quality assurance: It ensures that products are consistently manufactured within established quality parameters.
  • Inventory reduction: MES enables precise inventory management to avoid excess inventory and material shortages.
  • Production flexibility: It enables agile production in order to be able to react quickly to market requirements and changes.
  • Compliance: MES ensures that production is carried out in accordance with relevant norms, regulations, and standards.

Overall, MES enables data-driven, efficient, and quality-assured production by enabling real-time monitoring, control and analysis of manufacturing processes. It plays a crucial role in implementing Industry 4.0 initiatives by enabling the digital integration and automation of manufacturing processes. MES is therefore an important factor for manufacturing companies to ensure competitiveness and sustainability in an increasingly digitalized and networked industrial environment.

Optimizing production control

Supervision and control of the production of goods

Optimizing manufacturing control starts with meticulous monitoring and control of the production of goods to ensure that production is efficient, cost-effective, and of high quality. MES systems provide real-time monitoring of machines, materials, and personnel to manage production flow and identify bottlenecks. By continuously monitoring production parameters such as cycle times, workload and reject rates, MES enables proactive control of production to correct deviations and ensure product quality. This includes adjusting production plans, resource allocations, and work instructions in real time to respond to unforeseen events or disruptions.

Dynamic software systems in the manufacturing process

Dynamic software systems are an integral part of production control, as they increase production flexibility and responsiveness. MES systems are able to make dynamic changes in production plans and resources to respond to changes in demand or disruptions in the production process. They enable adaptive manufacturing control by automatically adjusting production plans, machine parameters, and resource allocations to achieve optimal results. This includes the ability to identify and utilize alternative production routes to avoid bottlenecks and minimize turnaround times.

Connection between ERP and process control systems

The connection between ERP systems and process control systems is crucial to ensure coherent and synchronized production control. While ERP systems plan and manage corporate resources at a higher level, MES systems focus on operational control of manufacturing. The integration of MES with ERP enables bidirectional communication between the planning and manufacturing levels to ensure that production plans, inventory data, and order status are synchronized between systems in real time. This enables consistent and coordinated production control, in which production data and performance flow directly into corporate planning and decision-making.

Overall, the optimization of manufacturing control through MES enables improved production output, quality and efficiency by enabling precise control and coordination of manufacturing processes and resources. By integrating MES with ERP and other systems, consistent and synchronized production control is achieved, which makes it possible to react proactively to changes and disruptions and to continuously improve production performance.

Benefits of MES

Improved quality control

The implementation of a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) makes a significant contribution to improving quality control by enabling seamless monitoring and documentation of all production-relevant parameters and processes. MES systems continuously collect and analyze data such as material consumption, machine parameters, and product measurements to ensure that production is within established quality standards. In the event of discrepancies, the system enables immediate corrective action, reduces waste and thus improves overall product quality and consistency.

Increasing production time

MES optimizes production time by efficiently planning and allocating resources, minimizing downtime and maximizing machine utilization. By providing real-time information on the status of machines, materials, and orders, MES enables proactive production control to avoid bottlenecks and reduce turnaround times. This results in improved utilization of production capacities and an increase in productivity.

Reducing inventory

MES enables precise inventory management through real-time tracking of material consumption, production progress, and inventory levels. By synchronizing production and inventory data, MES enables just-in-time production and delivery, reduces safety stocks and minimizes capital commitment in inventory. This results in more efficient use of resources and a reduction in total operating costs.

Paperless manufacturing

The implementation of MES supports paperless manufacturing by providing digital work instructions, production plans, and quality documents. This eliminates the need for physical documents, reduces errors due to outdated or incorrect paper documents, and improves data integrity and accessibility. Paperless manufacturing helps increase efficiency, reduce errors, and improve compliance.

DIN 56000 and ISO 22400

An important aspect that should be emphasized in this context is also the ability of MES to contribute to compliance with international standards such as DIN 56000 and ISO 22400. These standards define specific KPIs and terminologies for MES and ensure that the systems are implemented and used in accordance with globally recognized best practices, which in turn reinforces and validates the benefits mentioned above.

Improved product tracking

MES enables improved product tracking through real-time collection and storage of data regarding the use of materials, components, and process parameters. This enables seamless traceability of products from raw material to end customers and vice versa. In the event of quality problems or recalls, traceability enables affected products and batches to be identified quickly, minimizes risks and costs, and supports compliance with regulatory requirements.

Overall, MES systems offer a variety of benefits that have a positive impact on product quality, efficiency, compliance, and costs. By integrating MES into manufacturing processes, companies can optimize their production, use resources more efficiently and achieve higher customer satisfaction.

Key features of MES

Resource allocation and status

MES coordinates the allocation of resources such as machines, personnel and materials and continuously monitors their status. This includes monitoring the availability, performance, and quality of resources to ensure optimal utilization and smooth production flow.

Operational management/detailed planning

Detailed planning and operational management through MES include the creation, optimization and adjustment of production plans. It takes into account factors such as order priority, resource availability and turnaround times in order to efficiently manage production and ensure delivery dates.

document control

MES digitally manages all production-relevant documents, ensures that the latest versions are always used and facilitates access to documents such as work instructions, specifications and quality guidelines.

Data collection and collection

By continuously recording and collecting data such as machine status, production quantities and quality measurements, MES enables well-founded decision-making and continuous improvement of processes.

work management

MES manages work processes by providing work instructions, monitoring work performance, and improving worker efficiency by providing relevant information and data.

quality management

Quality management through MES includes monitoring, documentation and analysis of quality data to ensure product compliance and identify and correct quality deviations at an early stage.

process management

MES monitors and controls manufacturing processes in real time to ensure compliance with process parameters and immediately correct process deviations.

maintenance management

Maintenance management through MES plans, controls and documents maintenance activities to maximize the availability and reliability of machines and systems.

Product tracking

MES enables the traceability of products and materials along the entire value chain by collecting and storing data on the origin, use and quality of materials and products.

performance analysis

By analyzing performance data such as workload, efficiency and productivity, MES enables the identification of improvement potential and supports the optimization of production.

Overall, these core functions form the basis of an MES by making it possible to monitor, control and optimize production on an operational level. MES integrates and synchronizes these functions to ensure coherent and efficient production control and thus contributes to increasing productivity, quality and efficiency.

Development of MES standards

MESA-11 model

While the MESA-11 model is considered the global origin of the MES definition, with its 11 main categories (resource management, order management, document management, performance management, quality control management, data collection management, process management, maintenance management, product tracking management, performance analysis management and product definition management), specific standardization and terminology has become established in the DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland). Reference is often made to VDA standard sheets 66412 (part 1-20), ISO 22400, which was derived from the VDA standard sheets, and VDI 5600. These standards and guidelines provide specific frameworks and definitions for MES in a European context and are often the basis for discussions and projects in the region. It is essential to consider regional preferences and applications of standards to ensure relevant and accurate discussion and application of MES in specific geographical and industrial contexts.

MESA smart factory model

The MESA Smart Factory Model and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) are closely linked, as they work together to pave the way for smarter, connected and more efficient manufacturing. MES, which acts as the operational backbone of manufacturing, finds a structured orientation in the MESA Smart Factory Model to navigate the implementation and optimization of smart manufacturing initiatives. The model's “enabling technologies,” such as IIoT and AI, expand the capabilities of MES by enabling improved data availability, analytical capabilities, and automation. At the same time, the model's “life cycles” and “cross-lifecycle threads” support the specific application of MES by providing clear guidelines and structures for managing and optimizing business processes and value streams in manufacturing. This enables coherent, targeted and technology-based production control that embodies the principles of Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing.

ISA-95 standard

The ISA-95 standard, also known as ANSI/ISA-95, is an internationally recognized standard that defines models and terminologies for integrating business and control systems. ISA-95 provides a structured interface between business processes and production processes and thus enables a clear separation between management information systems (e.g. ERP) and control systems (e.g. MES). The standard defines models for information that is exchanged between these two levels, thus supporting integration and data consistency across the organization.

MES and ERP integration

The integration of MES (Manufacturing Execution System) and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) is crucial to ensure a continuous chain of information from shop floor to company management. MES and ERP fulfill different functions within a company: While MES focuses on operational control and monitoring of production, ERP deals with planning and managing corporate resources on a higher level. The integration of MES and ERP enables a bidirectional flow of information between production and company levels, which enables consistent planning, control and monitoring of production and corporate resources. This results in improved responsiveness, efficiency, and agility of the company as a whole.

The development of MES standards and the integration of MES and ERP reflect the efforts to achieve coherent, standardized and efficient control of production at all levels of the company. These standards and integration practices help companies optimize production, improve data consistency and availability, and ultimately achieve greater competitiveness in the modern manufacturing landscape.

MES Trends and New Technologies

Cloud connectivity and IIoT devices

The integration of cloud technologies and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) into MES systems represents a distinctive trend that is significantly influencing the manufacturing industry. While the use of cloud solutions enables improved scalability, flexibility and accessibility of systems in some manufacturing environments, the handling of data, particularly in the context of MES, remains a critical issue. In this sense, condensed data, such as aggregated information and reports, is stored and processed in the cloud, while mass data and current data are kept locally. This approach ensures that extensive and time-critical production data is available directly on site, while taking advantage of the benefits of the cloud, such as global access to consolidated information and advanced reporting capabilities. IIoT devices, including sensors and connected machines, play a critical role in collecting, transmitting, and analyzing real-time data from production, with connectivity helping to efficiently monitor, analyze, and control production, and support data-driven decisions and predictive maintenance.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are technologies that are increasingly being integrated with MES systems to improve analytical capabilities and automation of production. AI and ML algorithms can analyze large amounts of production data to identify patterns and relationships that are not obvious to humans. This enables improved forecasting of trends, identification of improvement potential and automation of decision-making processes. For example, AI models can be used to predict quality deviations, forecast maintenance requirements, or optimize production plans.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are innovative technologies that open up new opportunities in production control and planning. VR makes it possible to virtually simulate and analyze production environments, which can be used, for example, to plan factory layouts or train employees. AR can be used to display additional information and instructions to employees in the real production environment, improving the efficiency and quality of work. For example, assembly instructions or quality data can be displayed directly in the employee's field of vision to support the execution of tasks.

These trends and technologies represent the next generation of MES systems that enable improved connectivity, analytic capabilities, and user interaction. They help manufacturing companies overcome the challenges of digital transformation and make their production more efficient, flexible and intelligent. In an increasingly connected and data-driven production world, these technologies are crucial for achieving competitive advantages and making manufacturing future-proof.

Conclusion on MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems)

Summary of key points

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) have established themselves as essential tools in the modern manufacturing landscape by forming a bridge between the planning and manufacturing levels and enabling efficient, data-driven production. MES's core functions, including resource allocation, operations management, quality management, and performance analysis, provide a solid foundation for monitoring, controlling, and optimizing production in real time. By integrating MES and ERP and complying with standards such as MESA-11 and ISA-95, coherent, synchronized and standardized production control is achieved. Implementing MES provides numerous benefits, including improved quality control, increased production time, reduced inventory, and improved product tracking.

Outlook on future developments in MES

With regard to future developments in MES, trends and technologies are emerging that will shape the next generation of manufacturing systems. The integration of cloud connectivity and IIoT devices will further drive connectivity and data availability in production, while AI and ML open up new opportunities for data analysis and process optimization. VR and AR offer innovative approaches for planning, simulating and supporting work processes in manufacturing.

The continuous development of MES will help manufacturing companies successfully master the challenges and opportunities of Industry 4.0. In an increasingly complex and dynamic production world, MES systems will play a key role in helping companies make their production agile, efficient and intelligent in order to be successful in a competitive environment.


Question 1: What is a Manufacturing Execution System (MES)?

Answer: A Manufacturing Execution System (MES) is a computer-aided system that enables the monitoring, control and optimization of manufacturing processes at the workshop level. It serves as a link between corporate planning (ERP) and manufacturing by providing real-time data about the production process and supporting efficient, quality-assured production.

Q2: Why is MES important for manufacturing companies?

Answer: MES is critical for manufacturing companies to ensure efficient, quality-controlled, and data-driven production. It enables real-time monitoring and control of manufacturing processes, supports compliance with quality standards and regulations, and improves productivity by optimizing processes and resources.

Question 3: How does MES integrate with other business systems, such as ERP?

Answer: MES integrates with ERP systems to enable a bidirectional flow of information between the planning and manufacturing levels. This integration ensures that production data and performance flow directly into corporate planning and decision-making and that production plans and resources are synchronized in real time with operational activities on the shop floor.

Question 4: What role do new technologies such as IIoT and AI play in MES?

Answer: Emerging technologies such as IIoT and AI are expanding the capabilities of MES by enabling improved data availability, analytics, and automation. IIoT devices enable real-time data from production to be collected and transmitted, while AI and ML can be used to analyze data, identify patterns, and make proactive decisions to optimize production.

Question 5: How does MES contribute to the implementation of Industry 4.0?

Answer: MES plays a key role in implementing Industry 4.0 by supporting the digital integration and automation of manufacturing processes. It enables the networking of machines, plants and systems, the use of real-time data to control production and the integration of advanced analysis and automation technologies into the production process.

Question 6: How does MES support quality management initiatives in manufacturing?

Answer: MES supports quality management by enabling continuous monitoring and documentation of quality data, carrying out automated quality checks and triggering alarms in the event of discrepancies. It also enables the traceability of products and processes to identify the causes of quality issues and take corrective action.

Question 7: How does MES support compliance with international standards such as DIN 56000 and ISO 22400?

Answer: MES supports compliance with standards such as DIN 56000 and ISO 22400 by providing standardized terminology and KPIs for production management. These standards define clear guidelines and best practices for MES to ensure that MES systems are implemented and used in accordance with internationally recognized principles. This not only promotes consistency and comparability of data across different systems and organizations, but also supports the optimization and continuous improvement of manufacturing processes.

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