Technology is driving rapid innovation in manufacturing. Rapid technological change is transforming the production of goods and services across the global economy. As the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), advanced robotics, augmented reality technologies, and 3-D printing converge in the years ahead, manufacturers must keep up with the tools that keep their operations competitive. In the factory of the future, costs plummet, efficiency increases, and high-quality, quick turnaround ‘batches of one’ become feasible.

MES software is one of the technologies making this transformation possible.


Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) are real-time control systems for monitoring and managing all the work-in-process on the shop floor. MES tracks and documents the transformation of raw materials through finished goods. The systems work in real time to enable the orchestration of multiple resources in the production process, including material, personnel, machines, and support services.

According to LNS Research, MES is evolving into Manager of Managers (MoM) scope that connects shop-floor automation systems to the overall enterprise software network, and includes applications like quality management and planning, scheduling and dispatching, as well as production execution.”

MES facilitates the integration of manufacturing floor systems with engineering and business systems, allows a streamlining of business processes that span across the organization.


"MES keeps track of all the manufacturing information receiving up to the minute information from employees, robots, and shop floor machinery."

Joining These Important Functional Areas


Production Definition
Management & Dispatch

Product Tracking &


Process Execution

Process Definition





(Manufacturing Execution System)

MES handles product realization activities, including work execution, work-in-process tracking, and quality management.


(Enterprise Resource Planning)

ERP handles market facing activities, including planning demand fulfillment, purchasing, and inventory control.


(Product Lifecycle Management)

PLM handles the product definition including specifications and geometry.



(Manufacturing Execution System)

MES handles product realization activities, including work execution, work-in-process tracking, and quality management.



(Enterprise Resource Planning)

ERP handles market facing activities, including planning demand fulfillment, purchasing, and inventory control.



(Product Lifecycle Management)

PLM handles the product definition including specifications and geometry.

How MES Links ERP & PLM with
the Manufacturing System

A Manufacturing Execution System (MES) connects manufacturing with ERP and PLM to facilitate a more holistic approach to the complex manufacturing enterprise. The tight integration of these systems can compress time-to-market for both new product and major product upgrades.

The goal of MES is to improve productivity and reduce cycle-time. By integrating an MES with an ERP software, and PLM platform factory managers can be proactive about ensuring the delivery of quality products in a timely, cost-effective manner. ERP on its own is not enough, nor is PLM. Use MES for a more complete approach to the manufacturing process.

MES Software, Big Data and Manufacturing

As manufacturing moves towards Industry 4.0, software and big data are the main drivers in the sector’s transformation. Big data refers to datasets whose size is beyond the ability of typical database software tools to capture, store, manage, and analyze effectively. By introducing software-based big data analytics and more flexible production techniques, manufacturers can boost productivity by up to 30 percent. Moreover, big data can enable a 50 percent decrease in product development and assembly costs, as well as significant reduction in capital costs. This potential is just beginning to be tapped, as only 17 percent of manufacturers have reported implementing big data analytics solutions.

  1. Identifying which data is relevant

  2. Understanding what data to use and what to discard

  3. Formulating the right questions to ask

Dive Deeper with our eBook,

What is MES?

In today’s competitive global markets, manufacturing is increasingly challenging and complex. If you need greater control, compliance, time-to-market, and visibility for managing product lifecycle execution with accurate instructions, real-time data, and manufacturing intelligence, you are likely to need an MES.

The highest-performing Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) reduce the chaotic clutter of paperwork by delivering greater accuracy, precision and quality of online work instructions, while scaling processes across all production centers anytime, anywhere.

MES helps manufacturing organizations solve problems in these areas:


Difficulty in innovating to
meet market demands


Coping with the pace of
change: change management


Latency of information: getting
data too late for useful analysis


Issues with materials


Poor visibility into


Not meeting
production schedules


No achieving
production throughput


Too many errors due to paper-
based or manual processes


Too many systems on the plant
floor: lack of a unified version

Complex discrete manufacturing is a complicated industry with very specific regulatory requirements.  The global economy’s most critical sectors – aviation, defense, space, nuclear, medical device, robotics, and specialized industrial equipment – are built through complex discrete manufacturing.

Major characteristics that define a complex discrete manufacturing environment:

  • Long cycle times, low volume, make-to-order or engineer-to-order
  • Complex product with deep bills of material (BOM)
  • Highly skilled labor performing manual assembly and fabrication work including
  • complex NC machines and special materials such as composites
  • Complex process routing sequences with decision points and loops
  • High flow of engineering changes affecting work-in-process
  • Production is not repetitive and mechanics must be alerted to changes
  • Data collection during production includes manual data entry, verifications and signatures
  • Personnel have qualification requirements and equipment has calibration certification requirements
  • Documentation requirements include a complete history for every produced unit, and traceability of the components installed and material used

MES Technology for Complex Discrete Manufacturing involves:

  • Specific tailoring of the solution around the shop floor technician, with visual instructions and numerous data collections
  • Highly flexible/adaptable routing optimized for order quantities of one
  • Integrated non-conformance and deviation processes
  • Serial tracking at suppliers and factories

If You Need Real-Time Manufacturing Data, You Need MES

Many production environments have been historically serviced by paper-based processes and homegrown systems that have not kept up with newer requirements for increased speed, agility and traceability.

Complex discrete manufacturers realize that having disparate, disjointed applications supporting the shop floor increases the difficulty to integrate the required plant data into a complete and accurate top-level view of operations. Higher customer expectations, diverse product lines and complex supply chains are driving plants away from running the facilities with spreadsheets, paper and knowledge held by a few key experienced employees that might be nearing retirement.

A tailored MES system mitigates the negative factors of a paper-based system. Ready for the MES journey?

All Manufacturing Software IS NOT Created Equal

Get our FREE WHITEPAPER to explore the details, and make sure you’re choosing the best system for your needs.

The Case for Quality:

How MES Helps Achieve Quality Gains

In complex discrete manufacturing applications, MES can be an incredible tool for achieving quality gains.
Especially for enterprises with intense regulatory requirements, a robust Quality Management System (QMS) is essential. Integrated quality in MES means total incorporation of tracking processes – and ultimately corrective actions – directly into the manufacturing process.

Two questions every operation should ask when considering an MES:

  1. Is Quality integrated within this Manufacturing Execution System?
  2. Does this Manufacturing Execution System support my industry requirements?

Advantages of Integrating Quality in MES

Advantages of integrating quality with a robust MES system abound. By managing quality from the inside and throughout the entire manufacturing process with an MES that integrates inspection practices and verifies the certifications of personnel, tools and machines, manufacturers have an advantage.

The following proactive quality management functions that should be provided by an MES:

  • Process standardization and visual aids
  • Process enforcement
  • Configuration verification
  • In-process inspection
  • Statistical Process Control (SPC)
  • Production process verification
  • Tool control
  • Personnel qualification
  • Device history records
  • Streamline Operations of the Entire Product Lifecycle
  • Eliminate Time as the Greatest Contributor to Waste
  • Become the Master of Your Supplier Network
  • Catch Quality Escapes Early and Be the Hero!


Achieve Quality Gains with MES

See How Lockheed Martin, Made Quality

More Than a Buzzword.

The Benefits of MES

Manufacturers implementing MES experience a slate of important benefits, including improvements in total cost per unit and net profit margins. The payoff of MES motivates complex manufacturers all over the world to engage in new initiatives that propel their operations forward. Adopting a comprehensive strategy that incorporates Quality Management, as well as Planning, Scheduling & Dispatch, and MES leads to gains in production operations across several areas. This section explores the many benefits of MES.

The Manufacturing Execution System (MES) improves manufacturing productivity, quality, and compliance by giving technicians, supervisors, and plant managers complete visibility and process control at the shop floor. Manufacturing execution is a key piece to providing visibility and management tools throughout the entire product lifecycle.Real-time visibility helps manage risk and gives management the capability to assess schedule conditions, constraints, and expedite solutions as quickly as possible. Labor, scrap, downtime, tooling and other costs can be captured directly from the shop floor as they occur making the information more reliable.

Advantages of Comprehensive MES

As complex discrete manufacturers implement comprehensive MES to connect plant, business unit and enterprise levels, many are experiencing important benefits. Organizations such as Lockheed Martin, Virgin Orbit and Earlens are using MES to:

Companies that have implemented comprehensive MES report a 49% improvement in TAKT times AND inventory turns

The Manufacturers Enterprise Solutions Association (MESA) studied the effects of implementing MES. Participating organizations reported improvements in:

Total Cost Per Unit

Net Profit Margins

Time Delivery

  • 40% reduction in manufacturing cycle time
  • 15% average reduction in product defects
  • 36% reduction in data entry time
  • 55% reduction in time lost searching for blueprints

Optimizing MES for Maximum Benefit

Working with a reputable software vendor to implement a state-of-the-art MES system is only the beginning. To fully optimize your MES for the digital future, follow these quick tips for getting the most out of your MES:

  • Try implementing the cool features demonstrated during the sales process
  • Read release notes when a new version of your software comes out
  • Upgrade to the latest version and use new features and functionalities


for Improving MES Performance in Complex Manufacturing


As a solution to improve processes and connect siloed data across disconnected departments, a Manufacturing Execution System makes perfect sense. The benefits for efficiency and profitability are clear. So, how does an enterprise in aerospace and defense, medical device, or nuclear power make a decision on what software to trust? Selecting the right MES is an important endeavor, and it is one that is not free of risk. In this section, we share recommended best practices for choosing the right MES.

Best Practices for Choosing an MES

Define Goals First
Selecting the right MES starts with clear definition of the business and project goals for your organization. It is important to evaluate how an MES solution would enhance your specific initiatives before jumping into product demos, or implementation planning.

Some complex manufacturers start with goals and initiatives like:​​​​​​​​​​


Productivity and Lean


Quality and
Six Sigma


Enabling the


Consolidation of Legacy
Applications and Systems



How will implementing an MES to connect and enhance these processes and goals lead to measurable benefits for your organization? Involve key stakeholders to discuss goals and benefits prior to embarking on a selection process for MES.

Remain Aware of Industry Requirements

For complex discrete manufacturers working in high stakes industries, compliance with government and industry standards for safety, quality and supply chain is a key part of doing business. The systems in place to connect ERP, PLM and the shop floor must be based on solid frameworks.

Standards to consider include ISA95, QMS (ISO9001/AS9100/ISO13485). A framework like ISO9001 describes a Quality Management System for Product Realization and ISA95 describes MES/MOM functions.

Specify Process Requirements

Many MES solutions have been designed for continuous or batch manufacturing environments so when you’re researching for an MES provider, you want to find solutions that are focused on complex, discrete manufacturing

Proof of Concept
A proof of concept can be a strategic first step, or the last major step before a company commits to launching an enterprise solution, allowing it to gauge whether the proposed technology meets the appropriate needs as defined in the business and technical requirements analysis.

  • Clarify user understanding of the system or technology
  • Verify the adequacy of specifications for the system or technology
  • Validate the usefulness, efficiency, productivity, and effectiveness of the system(s) or technology

For 7 more proof of concept bullets, read Tom Hennessy’s blog, “You Need Proof, Not Promises When Selecting a Manufacturing Execution System.”

Debate: Custom vs. COTS

An MES solution can either be built custom, or it can be COTS (commercial off the shelf). Many COTS users reason a refined level of compliance in ready-made systems, and cite lower licensure and maintenance costs for MES. That’s not to mention the difference in cost and time investment in a custom solution. For complex discrete manufacturers, it may be wise to consider a COTS solution for MES

5 Risks to Consider
Taking the time to do proper risk management can protect the organization from unnecessary costs and heartache. Consider the following 5 risks when engaging in the process of selecting an MES, especially from the perspective of customization.

Budget Risk

Unexpected work required in Implementation services

Operational Risk

Insufficient hardware lack of training Improper Implementation

Change MGMT

RiskHeavy Commitment or change in the organization

Technical Risk

Configuration Problems and their ripple effects

Problem Risk

External factors such as company consolidations and new strategy