The best manufacturing execution systems (MES) link enterprise planning with shop floor activities via real-time data collection and resource control–increasing visibility, enforcing quality, and maximizing efficiency from raw materials to finished products.
We’ve examined 20+ providers across 7 metrics to rank the best MES software. We tested features such as production scheduling and workflow modeling to better determine the top options on the market today.
1 FactoryTalk - Best Overall
FactoryTalk MES software is built for supporting advanced industrial applications such as IoT. Offered both on-premise and on the cloud, this software provides global visibility of operations across your entire enterprise. The four main solution suites cover design, operation, maintenance, and innovation.
2 ShiftWorx - Also Great
ShiftWorx by FreePoint Technologies, stands out in the realm of machine monitoring and predictive modeling, offering real-time insights and data visualization.
This modular, scalable system is particularly effective for small to medium-sized manufacturers seeking enhanced productivity and waste reduction. Priced competitively at $100 per machine per month, ShiftWorx is a cost-effective solution for firms aiming to optimize their manufacturing processes.
3 HYDRA by MPDV USA - Best for ISO and FDA Compliance
HYDRA by MPDV USA is a fully integrated Manufacturing Execution System that collects and analyzes critical data related to production, HR, and quality management. Manufacturers can gather real-time data directly from the shop floor, along with personnel, machines, and other processes.
MPDV gives is both ISO certified and FDA validated, so it can be used in automotive, plastics, metals, and electronics manufacturing industries, as well as in the medical and food and beverage industries.
4 Eyelit MES - Best Platform-Independent System
Eyelit MES, is a next generation, platform-independent MES. This software includes functionalities for coordination, control, and optimization of production processes. Starting with the initial order receipt to finished goods, Eyelit MES manages the flow of critical information across the enterprise while reducing or completely eliminating paper to improve efficiency with real-time manufacturing and quality controls.
What is a Manufacturing Execution System (MES)?
Manufacturing execution systems (MES) enable complete shop-floor control and scheduling capabilities while also supplying monitoring and corrective action guidance for quality and performance continuous improvement. With a broad range of functionality, the main goal of an MES platform is to streamline and automate the processes necessary to turn raw materials into finished products.
Sometimes known broadly as manufacturing operations management (MOM), capable MES software supports key manufacturing initiatives:
- Maximization of throughput and resource utilization,
- Decreased manufacturing cycle times,
- Reduction of scrap and rework,
- Increased ability to reliably achieve quality targets,
- Minimized inventory holding costs based on just-in-time inventory, and
- Improved ability to meet regulatory compliance standards.
Read more: What is MES? Understanding Manufacturing Execution Systems to better understand what really goes into an MES platform.
MES Software Functionality
The best MES software for your business should offer a combination of these top features.
|Change management||Coordinate order changes including alterations to material, equipment, processes, or supply chain routing|
|Customer complaint management||Convert customer complaints into actionable inspections designed to discover the root causes of production quality issues|
|Document management||Go paperless with multi-format data storage, search, and retrieval for operational documents such as SOPs, CAD drawings, production specifications, and quality procedures|
|Downtime management||Schedule and track machine downtime based on connections with programmable logic controllers (PLCs) or via manual input|
|Electronic traceability||Barcode or RFID-enabled part, batch, or lot tracking to pinpoint order/material position in production flow without manual data input|
|Inspection management||Specify workflow controls for coordination and execution of product and process quality inspections|
|Job tracking||Real-time visibility into order status as a job progresses through the factory|
|Labor tracking||Track for labor time and attendance against job assignment and dispatching data|
|Master production scheduling||Planning of production orders based on assessed capacity, resource availability, and deadlines|
|OEE analysis||Measure overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) analytics based on collected performance, loading, and availability data|
|Production workflow modeling||Design production steps for optimal execution of manufacturing processes|
|Quality management||Coordinate quality control processes including data collection, defect tracking, and corrective actions|
|Rule-based routing||Route the production process based on conditional business logic inputs|
|SPC||Statistical process control (SPC) analytics measure process variation, analysis of process capability, and reduction of process variation|
|Supplier quality performance||Record, investigate, and manage supplier product quality non-conformances|
|Work-in-process (WIP) tracking||Identification of inventory position at all stages within the production process|
|Workload projections||Incorporate order forecast data for production scheduling and requirements analysis|
Benefits of Manufacturing Execution Systems
The automation of shop-floor decision-making capabilities manufacturing execution systems (MES) offers is an indispensable competitive advantage to companies, whether you are a made-to-stock, made-to-order, or process manufacturer. The chief benefits of MES software are categorized as: production planning, resource optimization, production workflow management, and quality management.
What Does Your Business Need?
The exact MES you need will depend on factors such as your company size and manufacturing environment.
- Small businesses: Since most MES solutions have initial investment costs of tens of thousands of dollars, most small businesses cannot afford a full MES. Fortunately, affordable manufacturing software options exist for small businesses which provide integrated financials, MRP, and advanced inventory to better improve your manufacturing process.
- Mid-range companies: For established and expanding manufacturers users requiring additional functionality, MES offers many different options. Software includes custom-built solutions or pre-made software packages which can integrate with existing software like an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution.
- Large enterprises: Companies with the resources to purchase and implement a new MES system should look ahead to the future and consider long-term scalability. Larger organizations have the flexibility to find the best solution to work for them with custom functionality, integrations, or add-ons.
Manufacturing Execution System Integrations
Manufacturing execution systems depend on inputs from various other business management systems to function properly. MES systems can be integrated with other management technologies via software APIs or provisioned as part of a larger software system, such as an ERP platform. Just a few of the top manufacturing integrations include:
|Integration||Functionality and Benefits|
|Programmable logic controllers (PLCs)||Information from PLCs passed to MES software includes equipment status, output, count, and availability information.|
|Sales order management||Data from sales order management systems on customer requirements facilitates better production scheduling. MES software passes order fulfillment status information back into sales systems to enable sales personnel to keep customers apprised of expected lead times, order status, and delivery dates.|
|Product lifecycle management (PLM)||Data from PLM and bill of materials modules is passed into manufacturing execution systems to coordinate the steps required to produce a particular product. Diagnostic quality information captured by MES systems can be communicated back to PLM/BoM systems to improve how products should be manufactured.|
|Computerized maintenance management software||A CMMS application helps MES software take into account scheduled downtime for equipment maintenance. Sensor data about equipment health collected in MES software is passed into CMMS modules to coordinate required maintenance events.|
|Warehouse management software||WMS and inventory modules provides information on stock availability to coordinate material availability and production scheduling. MES software provides information back to WMS applications detailing WIP inventory tracking.|
|Material resource planning (MRP)||Coordinate forecasting, materials management, production, and other business processes for manufacturing operations. MES systems can provide data about shop floor conditions to optimize the timing of material procurement activities to support just-in-time initiatives that lower inventory carrying costs.|
|Workforce management||Use labor scheduling and tracking functionality to guarantee employee availability when shift scheduling. Employee performance information captured by manufacturing execution systems can be passed to workforce management software to improve future workforce scheduling.|
|Business intelligence software||Allow for the aggregation of business data from multiple sources, while providing report generation and visual data analysis tools to support more effective business decision-making. MES data such as OEE analytics, throughput, quality metrics, and more can go to BI systems for additional reporting capabilities including visual display in executive decision-making dashboards.|
Platform Scope Options
In order to function most effectively, connecting MES applications with other software systems is vital. As a result, some buyers are better suited to purchase an ERP which includes MES as a module. In those situations, there are some advantages:
- Pre-configured integration. Provisioning an ERP system that includes an MES component offers the most confidence for strong inter-application integration, as developers of a consolidated system will have had ample opportunities in both development testing and live-use cases to verify integration capabilities.
- Single vendor support. Managing multiple support relationships and contracts can be tricky. Working with a single ERP provider with MES functionality can make contract negotiations easier and avoid issues of finger-pointing between solution providers.
- Common user interface. In today’s matrixed organizations, many users may have cross-departmental roles. The ability to rely on a single ERP program can reduce the friction related to learning multiple system interfaces and promote quicker training.
MES Software Technology Trends
The pace of technological change in the MES software market is rapid. Customer appetite for improvements in MES functionality and fierce competition among developers vying to supply product differentiators have ensured that MES programs are some of the most cutting-edge products on the market. It’s no surprise MES software options have embraced the leading technology trends, including the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and cloud computing.
When looking ahead to predicted manufacturing technology use in the next 3 years, our study found 34% of software buyers already use or plan to implement MES software within the next three years. After MRP software, MES was the most common tech manufacturers wanted.
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
Manufacturing execution systems have been one of the commercial application types at the technological forefront for adopting IIoT. While the popular usage of the term “IoT” has exploded in the last few years, manufacturers have been collecting data from industrial equipment via web interfaces for many years before the “Internet of Things” became a household phrase. Manufacturing execution systems benefit from the IoT collection of data from a variety of sources including: automation systems, robots, NC machines, digital gauges, cameras, sensors, and wireless tools. Data collected can provide information on equipment usage, condition, current job, output statistics, and more basic conditional equipment attributes like temperature, pressure, speed, and location.
The impact of taking advantage of IIoT capabilities to collect and integrate production data is significant:
- Production-level KPIs can be combined with other business metrics for analysis in a single system
- Asset tracking and maintenance management can be improved to lower equipment costs
- Real-time resource utilization information can be used to coordinate and optimize shop-floor scheduling
- The power of the IIoT is enabled by web APIs. Application programming interfaces (APIs) enable data sharing between interconnected devices and software platforms. As more manufacturing devices are equipped with web APIs, the opportunity for IoT integration possibilities for MES applications will continue to increase.
Cloud-hosted software has been a game-changer for the manufacturing industry. In traditional manufacturing environments, a manager or supervisor had to be physically present on the factory floor to oversee work. Today, a manager in a satellite office can check on real-time shop-floor conditions on the other side of the world in an instant. Other benefits include:
- Cloud enables access anytime, anywhere, so managers outside of the office or away from the production floor can still monitor plant floor conditions.
- The ability to host MES applications on vendor hardware in their data centers allows manufacturers the ability to minimize support and technology investments while focusing on core manufacturing competencies.
- The SaaS pricing model, often paired with cloud solutions, means the initial investment costs for manufacturing execution systems can be minimized, lowering the barrier to entry to cutting-edge technologies.
Over the years, MES software developers have released web-based software versions that enable native cloud capabilities. Additionally, traditionally client-server options can be made cloud-accessible with the usage of remote access technologies and hosting services, enabling a wider range of product options to modernize your smart manufacturing process.
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