Is Your Focus the Shop Floor?

If the shop floor is your primary area of focus, you might want to consider adding the capabilities of a Manufacturing Execution System to your company tool kit.

What is an MES?

A Manufacturing Execution System (MES) manages and reports on what is happening on the shop floor. This exclusive focus sets MES systems apart from ERP (Enterprise Resource System) systems, which manage a broader range of business operations. Some ERPs include components of an MES, but there are standalone MES systems, which can communicate with ERP systems.

One way to conceptualize the boundaries between MES and ERP is the Hierarchy for Enterprise and Control System Integration. This model is part of ANSI/ISA-95 which is a standard created by the International Society of Automation, in partnership with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to define consistent terminology and allow for better integration between manufacturers and suppliers. The hierarchy defines four different levels of enterprise and control systems as shown below. Based on this hierarchy, ERPs are classified as a level 4 systems while MES’s are part of level 3.


ANSI/ISA 95 Hierarchy for Enterprise and Control System Integration

Source: Åkerman, Magnus. (2018). Implementing Shop Floor IT for Industry 4.0.


Data Collection

MES systems collect large amounts of data and present it in a way that makes it easier to maximize efficiency, reduce costs, and ensure quality. The ways in which data are collected can vary from system to system. Often multiple methods of data collection are possible including bar code scanning, RFID tags, direct machine data acquisition, and operator (manual) data entry.


MES Key Functions

A comprehensive shop floor solution, the Manufacturing Execution System will manage, optimize and report on all processes involved in the manufacturing process:

  • Materials Management: Ensure parts and raw materials are available without overstocking.
  • Scheduling: Optimize labor and machine time to meet deadlines.
  • Process Management: Know where every job stands. If changes are made by management such as updating the routing of an order or certain jobs are prioritized, operators will be updated  in real time.
  • Document Management: Ensure work instructions, engineering drawings, and other critical documents are up to date and in the right place at the right time.
  • Quality Control: Automate quality checks and receive alerts so that problems can be addressed in a timely fashion.
  • Cost Analysis: Compare actual costs to expected costs and track the profitability of each job.
  • Real-Time Data & Visibility: MES systems allow real-time reporting on a wide range of metrics.


Benefits of MES

The ability to monitor, assess and optimize the production process in real time provides numerous benefits including reduced scrap and labor costs, decreased order lead time, and increased customer satisfaction.

Though the benefits will differ depending on each facility’s unique circumstances, one study sought to determine if the benefits from reduced labor overhead alone could justify an investment in a MES. This study analyzed a variety of activities at one injection molding plant and found that, after the installation of an MES, labor overhead was reduced by 19% for planning, 44% for work orders processing, 60% for manufacturing execution, and 76% for data recording and reporting[i]. This study only analyzed one plant and only considered one benefit—reduced labor overhead—so it is important not to assume that similar results will be realized in all circumstances. However, it does provide data to support that a well implemented MES system can offer significant benefits and cost savings.



Implementing an MES solution can deliver a wide range of operational benefits across the manufacturing floor. GLTAAC has experience working with clients who pursue MES System selection as one of their co-funded TAAF projects. To find out more, please contact the Great Lakes Trade Adjustment Center at 734-998-6227.



[i] Nasarwanji, A., Pearce, D., Khoudian, P., & Worcester, R.E. (2009). The impact of manufacturing execution systems on labor overheads.