What is a Management Execution System?

The past hundred years have ushered in several revolutions in manufacturing. First, the early 20th century saw the rise of the assembly line. Then, around fifty years ago, ruggedized industrial computers in the form of programmable logic controllers (PLCs) entered the market and dramatically reduced the repetitive labor needed for manufacturing processes.

Following this, in the last few decades, we have seen the increasing use of software to coordinate PLC and industrial processes. In particular, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) software has become a prominent staple in manufacturing.

SCADA systems automate equipment and machinery by leveraging data sources from sensors and actuators and interfacing them with PLCs, providing real-time intelligence and control over system effectiveness, production speed, and product quantity.

Due to the performance, throughput, and quality improvements it brings, SCADA software is set to remain part of the manufacturing landscape for many years. However, to further capitalize on its potential, SCADA is now being completed by other solutions — in particular, Management Execution Systems (MES). So why is this the case, and what does it mean for manufacturers?

What Does an MES Do?

The role of SCADA software is to control the PLCs and machinery on a production line in real-time by analyzing data from individual sensors and production machinery. This is because SCADA is focused primarily on helping teams get the most out of the machines operating in a live production environment.

SCADA systems provide monitoring, tracking, documenting, and controlling the production lines.  However, for monitoring, tracking, documenting, or controlling the broader manufacturing process beyond the production line environment, MES addresses these requirements.

Rather than just operating on production lines, an MES analyzes and interprets data from various sources across the manufacturing lifecycle. This includes:

  • Using real-time data on labor, materials, and machinery to analyze the allocation of resources.
  • Tracking the schedules and authorizations of workers and making more efficient use of their time.
  • Distributing and managing documents such as instructions, batch records, and schematics.
  • Generating effective predictive maintenance schedules through analyzing live and historic machinery diagnostics and records.
  • Access to extensive supply chain notes and product genealogy for customers, investors, and regulators.

So, an MES offers a complete lifecycle overview of manufacturing processes to complement a SCADA’s focus on providing oversight over PLCs and improving efficiency in the live assembly line environment. The MES provides information to stakeholders across the business on every phase of production, incorporating procurement, transport, labor, maintenance, and more.

Where Does an MES Fit In?

An MES is intended to serve as a bridge between high-volume and real-time software (like SCADA) and top-level software that informs business decision-makers, such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tools.

With the growing adoption of artificial intelligence and machine learning by industry, MES is fast becoming a critical asset for organizations. By providing a location to centralize and analyze data and insights, MES can serve as a foundation for AI models to deliver valuable suggestions to organizations regarding resource allocation, maintenance, and beyond. Alongside AI and automation, MES is particularly valued for its ability to streamline work around regulatory compliance. 

Happily, the demand for MES solutions is increasingly easy to meet; the software tends to be relatively inexpensive to install, with no significant capital or operational expenses. The potential for MES is further reflected in robust market sentiment, with analysts anticipating a growth rate of over 11% per annum until 2025 and MES providers generating revenues of close to $20 billion per year. 

The Two Applications of MES

When discussing MES software, we typically speak of two application categories or subsets: MES to measure overall equipment effectiveness and MES to prescribe statistical process controls.

Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) measures how effectively a manufacturing operation is utilized relative to its potential capacity; this value is recorded as a percentage of manufacturing time that is genuinely productive, considering manufacturing availability, performance, and quality. 

Historically, generating the metrics that serve as the inputs for an OEE calculation proved quite challenging. For example, finding accurate information on how much uptime there was during a production operation relative to how much time was budgeted on paper relied on access to timesheets for workers and maintenance logs on machinery, and assumed total accuracy in this data. By contrast, an MES can source this data using machinery sensors and automatically log when workers participate in a workflow.

In contrast, Statistical Process Controls (SPC) are prescriptions for manufacturers generated by an MES rather than the descriptions of processes an MES provides for OEEs. An SPC leverages machine learning to observe bottlenecks and inefficiencies in a manufacturing operation and then develops an alternative and more efficient way to approach a process. An SPC can serve to generate suggestions to teams or automatically implement an adjustment, depending on the environment and industry within which it is deployed.

MES to Optimize Industrial Processes

MES is an exciting development in the manufacturing world in both its diagnostic and prescriptive capacities: providing detailed and real-time OEE metrics as well as implementing SPCs to improve efficiency without human intervention. If you’re interested in seeing what this may mean in practice, take a look at the next article in this series — we’ll be delving more deeply into what an MES measures when calculating OEE and the sorts of improvements an MES can suggest and implement for SPC.

MES to Optimize Industrial Processes

MES is an exciting development in the manufacturing world in both its diagnostic and prescriptive capacities: providing detailed and real-time OEE metrics as well as implementing SPCs to improve efficiency without human intervention. If you’re interested in seeing what this may mean in practice, take a look at the next article in this series — we’ll be delving more deeply into what an MES measures when calculating OEE and the sorts of improvements an MES can suggest and implement for SPC.

Do you want to speak with someone about complementing your SCADA software with an MES solution? If so, ICA Engineering would be happy to help. Contact us today to discuss your manufacturing lifecycle pain points and explore how MES can help your team deliver more value.


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