The term Manufacturing Execution System was originally coined to encompass intelligent controllers often called System Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA), shop-floor data collection, quality management systems and granular scheduling functions (work sequencing and intra-day scheduling). An entire ecosystem grew up around this idea, with devices, sensors and applications communicating with each other, largely separated from the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) business systems. In the best of situations, ERP-generated production schedules and pick lists would be downloaded into the Manufacturing Execution System and activity reports and uploaded back into ERP. This was a less-than-ideal situation.
An MES comprises detailed plant floor data and activities and, as such, can be self-contained for day-to-day operations. However, information to and from ERP, such as schedules, priorities, inventory and master data must be shared with the MES. Integration is crucial. With disconnected systems, batch data transfer may be the primary mechanism but greatly limits the timeliness of communication between the office and the plant – in both directions.
Over the years, both MES and ERP expanded their scope and coverage to the point where the dividing lines between what functions and capabilities properly reside in Manufacturing Execution System and which belong in ERP became indistinct. Is quality management a part of MES or is it an integral function of ERP? How about scheduling, tooling and maintenance? Both ERP and MES have a role to play in these functions, and there is a logical integration point for tying ERP and MES together. In a fully integrated system, this is a non-issue. For separate ERP and MES, the integration between the systems becomes a critical factor.
Many companies find their preferred solutions for ERP and MES from different suppliers, or they integrate point solutions together for specific functions (best- of-breed approach). Internally integrated Manufacturing Execution System (full-function MES solutions designed to work together as an integrated solution) provides the needed functionality and eliminates the difficult interfacing of multiple systems and the less-than integral results.
However, proper synchronization between (internally integrated) MES solutions and ERP becomes a relatively straightforward upload/download that can be carried out through a timely, automated, periodic update process.
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