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Digitization is nothing new for manufacturers; it helps improve scheduling, automation and monitoring from the frontlines of the plant floor to all the way to the top floor. There are several systems used to help with this — MES and ERP being particularly commonly used in manufacturingWhile MES and ERP systems are often confused with each other, they are, in fact, very different in their functionality 

What is an MES? 

A Manufacturing Execution System (MES) in its simplest form, is software that enables manufacturers to keep track of and monitor their raw materials and goodsThe purpose of an MES is to gain insight into manufacturing operations to analyze what can be done to improve performance as well as to cut costs and maximize production efficiencyAn MES can perform the following functions: 

  • Collect real-time dataSince MES systems are integrated right into factory machinery, information is collected in realtime to keep track of production efforts 
  • Enable production analysis: A way to gain insight into manufacturing operations including resource use, production cycle time and scheduling conformance.  
  • Enforce process requirementsBy having an enforced process, steps are in place to make sure every product is built to spec. For example, if a machine requires three parts to interlock, the machine knows to expect these three particular parts to fit in place and will not run if there are only two parts inserted or, more likely, the operator mis-positioned one of them. 

Benefits of an MES  

Real Time Visibility and Monitoring 

You can get a full scope of your MES data in real- time to analyze performance and maximize how you can improve your production line. 

Reduction in Operation Cost  

An MES system keeps track of costs into labor, downtime and maintenance in realtime. Utilizing this data, an MES can identify how to optimize and make the most of budget and expense in running a plant.  

Improvement in Productivity 

With insights into your plant floor operations, you’ll be able to manage your production line to run at its peak potential to make the most use out of materials, labor hours and scheduling.  

What is an ERP 

An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is software used to manage operational activity such as plant scheduling, order processing, inventory management and customer service. Compared to an MES, ERPs are geared to optimize business performance by providing reports into business operations and identifying where processes can be streamlined. An ERP can perform the following roles: 
 
• Oversee business operations: An ERP gives you accessibility to all business operational data through only one system 
• Performs scheduling: From plant workers to shipping, an ERP system lets you schedule all functions of the plant.  
 Integrates business process with manufacturing processesWhile ERP systems aren’t integrated with the machines on the plant floor, they gather information from them to ensure they’re running effectively to require as little maintenance as possible. 
• Track materials: Get insight into raw materials to allocate resources appropriately to maximize cost efficiency.  

Benefits of an ERP  

 Better Inventory Control 

Stock can be monitored closely to analyze what products are in high demand to get the most out of your inventory.  

Better Customer Experience 

With better production planning and control, manufacturers can deliver products on time, which in turn means improved customer satisfaction 

Mitigation of Risk 

By automating certain business operations, human error is reduced to streamline processes. Compliance can also be regularly monitored to ensure that the manufacturing plant is continuing to adhere to regulations, which minimizes risk even further. 

What are the Differences Between MES and ERP?  

1. Functionality 

As previously mentioned, ERP and MES systems serve different roles in manufacturing plants. An ERP system is mostly focused on scheduling and quantitative analysis, while MES manages the actual shop-floor process and operations of your production line in realtime.  

2. How Data is Captured and Delivered  

Another difference is the timing of how reporting is delivered. For an MES system, reports are available in realtime. An ERP system gives a general report over a period of time, i.e., hours, days, months or years.  

3. System Integration 

MES systems are usually integrated directly to machines on the factory floor — which is how data is delivered instantaneously. ERP systems, however, are not integrated within devices. Instead, it is integrated as software working with business applications such as CRMs (Customer Relationships Management) and marketing tools.  

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Integrating MES and ERP  

In manufacturing, MES and ERP systems each bring something different to the table. Frequently, ERP systems act as a top layer to handle orders and inventory, while an MES system focuses on real-time operations on the floor. There are some areas, however, where MES and ERP systems coordinate together to provide better insight into manufacturing operations as compared to these systems separately.  

With an MES ERP integration, your MES system helps in sending data to the ERP system. This data contains information such as part numbers, quantities of material as well as shipping information. This information is delivered via a shared database or HTTP communication between the two systems. This helps manufacturing managers keep track of what’s going on within an operational level to see if changes need to be made to remove bottlenecks or improve performance. 
 
While you could use either an MES or ERP system exclusively, we recommend having them work together. No doubt, an MES ERP integration provides clear operational insight into your floor with the ease of adjusting performance to increase overall manufacturing efficiency. 

Want to learn more about what’s really possible with an MES ? Check out our blog to see what our MES, IntelliWORKS can do

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