Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Changing Face of MES

MES, as we know it, is a set of software that performs operational task executions: product track & trace, genealogy, quality, along with a host of other activities that provide manufacturers with the ability to make informed decisions on the proceedings and progress of their manufacturing operations. The definition has permutated over the years to be a broad-brush capture of ANY kind of overseer application, and so we’re finding Quality, LIMS, Historian, and even HMI applications calling themselves “MES.”

I, for one, flinch when I see that happening. I’ll begrudgingly give it to the “PIMS” guys that they are an offshoot of MES, but these broader, non-specific generalizations bug me.  Why?  Because when MES first came out, it was a very narrow, laser-focused application meant to fill the needs of a market segment.  High-tech electronics was one of the first industries to adopt MES, due to the value-add of their operations and the cost of quality for each wafer.  MES meant something—it contained tool recipe management, work instructions, wafer maps, and other very detailed functionality.  There were few vendors that supplied this software, and they were considered “experts” in the needs of the industry.  The software was expensive, it took a long time to implement, but at the end of it, it was a partner that lead, guided, and improved operations for these industries.

MESA ( has been around since the inception and they’ve for the most part been a guiding force for the industry.  Although their definition too has broadened, at the core, it’s still fairly true to its original “11 Functions of MES.”

At the end of the day, if you are an end user, you want software that gives you visibility and control of the execution of your manufacturing process.  Yes, I said manufacturing process, because if you don’t make something, you are not using MES. You may be using a Human Machine Interface application, or a data historian, or a Distributed Control System, but that is not MES.  At least, not in my book. I have been called “old fashioned” and “narrow minded” but I’m sticking with this concept: that MES software is there to guide you, help you execute a work order, and leads all operations that end with a product.  That product can be packaged & shipped, added to other products, or somehow further transformed, but it’s some tangible entity that is produced.  So MES is not appropriate for facilities management, water/wastewater, or fleet management, because nothing is being created.  You may monitor, visualize and analyze these processes, but it’s building management, SCADA or some other system that handles it, not MES.

There, I feel so much better J.  Your thoughts?

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