How to get started with a Manufacturing Execution System (MES)

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) are software systems that are used in manufacturing plants and factories across the world to optimize production processes. MES give manufacturing managers access to real-time information on the status of manufacturing operations and enable them to make informed decisions. MES capture critical information about production steps from tracking the movement of material throughout the factory to monitoring equipment performance and can play a crucial role in improving efficiency, reducing waste and increasing productivity.

MES can also be used to enforce compliance with regulatory requirements and industry standards, such as ISO 9000, and ensure material traceability throughout the production process. This is particularly important in industries such as pharmaceuticals and food and beverage, where product safety and quality are paramount.

Where do MES fit in the digital supply chain?

MES connect enterprise systems, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), with the manufacturing floor and warehouse operations. Understanding the data flow between MES and other systems is a key component in establishing an efficient and responsive digital supply chain. Implementing a MES can be a lengthy process so it’s essential to consider both current and future integrations when selecting a new system.

Understanding the functional areas of MES

MES offer a broad range of functionalities that support the manufacturing production process. Outlined below are some of the key areas:

  1. Production & quality management: MES are designed to help manage the production process – from planning and scheduling to monitoring and continued control.


  1. Inventory management: MES can provide real-time data on inventory levels all the way from the initial raw materials to the end-product, enabling manufacturers to reduce waste and maintain optimal stock levels with well-informed adjustments.


  1. Maintenance management: MES can track real-time equipment performance data to manage and optimize equipment maintenance activities, from preventive maintenance to repair and replacement. MES systems also generate production schedules which allow manufacturers to schedule maintenance activities more effectively and reduce downtime.


  1. Data collection and acquisition: MES collect data from a broad range of sources across the manufacturing operation to track processes and materials throughout the production process.


  1. Traceability: MES can provide an automated audit trail of data recording and modification which is essential for regulated industries where process changes could affect product quality and safety. This traceability enables manufacturers to ensure their manufacturing data complies with regulatory requirements for data integrity. Most MES also provide electronic batch record (EBR) functionality to create detailed digital records of all production activities and associated information. Learn more about EBR


  1. Increased productivity: MES can be a powerful tool for productivity improvements. By providing access to real-time production data, MES empower manufacturing managers and process engineers to identify and eliminate bottlenecks and inefficiencies via corrective action.


How can a MES streamline your manufacturing operations?

A MES can streamline your manufacturing operations in several ways, including real-time monitoring, improved quality control and inventory management, increased productivity and identification of bottlenecks. MES help prevent unplanned downtime by monitoring inventory levels to avoid running out of stock and notifying operators when equipment maintenance is required. For regulated industries, MES play an important role in ensuring material traceability and reduce the risk of regulatory noncompliance.

MES are good, but what else might you need?

In summary, MES play a crucial role in modern manufacturing by providing real-time visibility into the production process and enabling manufacturers to optimize operations for quality and efficiency. MES can be invaluable in helping manufacturers remain competitive in today’s dynamic and complex manufacturing environment by streamlining operations, improving product quality, and responding more quickly to changing market demands.

Yet while MES are designed to collect manufacturing data from various sources, they can become data silos within the broader digital landscape of the product lifecycle and overall business operations. Data sharing between the manufacturing floor and enterprise systems, such as ERP or PLM, often requires manual transcription which can introduce errors and cause delays. Comparing manufacturing data with process development data for troubleshooting or to gain insight into the process lifecycle is also often a manual activity. And while MES collect extensive manufacturing data for individual batches, it’s difficult to align, analyze and review data across batches. This means that other software solutions are needed to provide analytics and visualization of cross-batch data, which is a regulatory requirement in the pharmaceutical industry to demonstrate batch-to-batch consistency. Learn more about using software systems to drive a successful Continued Process Verification (CPV) program.

Skyland PIMS (Process Information Management System) from IDBS is a cloud-based system that can integrate with and complement MES. PIMS creates a contextualized data backbone of critical manufacturing process and quality data across products and batches that provides a single source of truth for life science organizations who are developing and manufacturing clinical and commercial-stage therapeutics. PIMS is specifically designed to address critical life science manufacturing requirements including regulatory reporting, deviation investigations and enhanced process optimization. Learn more about Skyland PIMS.