MES Closes Information Gap

Achieving — and maintaining — the competitive edge is imperative for manufacturers today, not just to stay a step ahead, but to survive. Success depends on operating lean and efficient. In this information age, this means harnessing all the tools available to improve precision and quality of production and manufacturing operations.

By Jeanine Katzel, Control Engineering March 1, 2008

Achieving — and maintaining — the competitive edge is imperative for manufacturers today, not just to stay a step ahead, but to survive. Success depends on operating lean and efficient. In this information age, this means harnessing all the tools available to improve precision and quality of production and manufacturing operations.

Newest and foremost among those tools is the manufacturing execution system, or MES. Described initially in the 1990s by AMR Research ( ) as applications that occupied the space between business-level planning systems (such as enterprise resource planning systems, or ERPs) and traditional plant-level systems (such as batch control), MES products are helping manufacturers share information enterprise-wide, and streamline, optimize, and improve day-to-day plant operations.

The growth of MES installations and applications and their impact on the automation and control environment prompted Control Engineering and Reed Research Group ( ) to survey subscribers — for the first time — on their views and preferences about these products. Highlights of this recent email/online study follow, based on more than 100 responses.

A significant majority of respondents get data to MES applications and other systems through manual data entry, although custom code and OPC were also used by almost as many.

MES status report card

Ascertaining how and the extent to which MES is being applied in the plant, respondents indicated they were involved in specifying and purchasing such systems. More than three-quarters said they did so for process manufacturing applications, while almost a quarter said they used them in discrete manufacturing. Nearly 70% said they already have an MES in place; the remaining 31% said they were planning to purchase one.

In almost all cases (93%), the company IT team is or was involved in MES selection or implementation. In nearly a third of the cases (31%), IT was heavily involved, having the authority to recommend or reject a system. IT was moderately involved in the selection and implementation of 43% of the systems (provided technical guidance but was part of a larger decision-making team). Nearly a fifth of the respondents (19%) said IT was involved, but not heavily, in the process. Only 7% said IT was not involved in the effort, that the project was driven by operations or finance.

Off the shelf, home grown, hybrid

When asked about the configuration of their systems — in place and planned — slightly more than a third (35%) of the respondents said they were using an off-the-shelf system. Less than a fifth (17%) had a “home-grown” solution. Nearly half the respondents (48%) have systems that are hybrids of the two types. Answers to why they were purchasing or had implemented an MES application were varied. Most (89%) said they were seeking to improve productivity and throughput. Around 70% said they wanted to reduce costs, improve quality, and reduce errors. Almost half (46%) hoped to reduce scrap and rework. Many gave multiple answers.

Respondents were queried at length about system use patterns and preferences. More than two-thirds (69%) said they had integrated (39%) or planned to integrate (30%) their MES and ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems. Nearly three-fourths (73%) characterized the integration as “not easy,” the sum of 30% “not at all easy” and 43% “somewhat uneasy.” Virtually no respondents said the process was easy, although about a quarter (26%) selected “somewhat easy.”

When asked if they were using the MES to capture employee time-based data and machine-based data from the plant floor, most respondents (71%) said yes, they were now doing so or soon planned to do so. Queried further about the level of granularity at which they were capturing and analyzing data, more than half of that group (52%) selected “machine/process.” Other levels noted were plant (by 14%), cell (by 13%), line (by 10%), and multi-plant (by 8%).

MES benefits depend on how effectively data are captured and handled. A significant majority of respondents (57%) get data to MES applications and to other systems through manual data entry at least some of the time. Nearly half (48%) said they used custom code and almost as many (46%) use OPC. A sizable portion (36%) use middleware and nearly a fifth (19%) use XML schemas. (View the complete distribution in the accompanying bar chart.)

Information from MES applications is delivered in a variety of ways, according to respondents. More than half have a plant-floor HMI or dashboard (56%) and/or Internet-based (Web-browser) access (53%); 43% generate paper reports and almost a third (31%) use a proprietary network interface. When asked about using MES data for calculating overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) or developing other key performance indicators (KPIs), nearly all (84%) said they already were doing so (44%) or planning to do so (41%).

Another area of interest was how frequently information was extracted from an MES and for what purpose. More than half (52%) of the respondents said they leveraged data in real time to make adjustments of the plant floor. For 17%, data extraction was done once-a-shift to assess the performance of a specific line. Seven percent said they drew information once a day, and 9% said they pulled data weekly to compare performance again established goals. (The accompanying bar chart illustrates the frequency rates in more detail.)

Benefits, lessons, pitfalls

To help determine the impact of MES on manufacturing operations, respondents were asked to share information about their investments in MES and the return on those investments. Although respondents were somewhat hesitant to cite clearly demonstrable returns on MES investments, a significant number admitted their systems had led to improved efficiency, and planned to up — or maintain at least — their MES investments.

Looking at this concept more closely: only 30% of respondents said they measured a demonstrable return on investment (ROI) on MES. Some 18% said they had experienced no measurable ROI, 32% said they were not measuring or calculating these figures, and 20% were unsure they had measured a demonstrable return. However, more than half (57%) said the systems improved efficiency, quality, or throughput. In addition, more than half (55%) anticipate their MES investment would increase in the next 12 to 24 months; 39% said they would spend about the same. Only a few (6%) expected to see a decrease in MES investments.

The positive outlook reflected in these statistics is supported by comments from respondents; many took time to offer advice to those just beginning with MES implementation. Many suggestions apply to all projects: “Be sure to define your goals.” “Remember that details are important.” “Develop a well-defined roadmap.” “Involve all stake-holders.” “Keep in mind future technological evolution.” “Focus on actual needs, not what someone else thinks you need.” “Build a team to manage the endeavor.”

But other comments targeted the MES more specifically. Said one respondent, “Develop a realistic, long-term strategy that focuses on collecting only data that have value. Put a sound infrastructure in place and work closely with those on the plant floor who’ll be providing input to the data stream.” Offered another, “Create a team consisting of IT, controls, accounting, and production, with at least one senior manager closely involved.” Another respondent noted that it was critical that business customers are thoroughly engaged through the requirements gathering and design process. “The correct design will provide valuable and useful information to the business,” he pointed out, “instead of a lot of non-useful information.”

Perhaps most emphatic was the respondent who said simply, about MES: “Do it now! The payback is there. Working with IT is a must, but operations must keep control.”

Have a different opinion? Want to add some advice? Use the TalkBack feature with this article at , under March 2008.

MES products

Control Engineering subscribers participating in this research survey identified, from a list provided, the vendors included here as leading MES product suppliers:

Rockwell Automation, GE Fanuc Intelligent Platforms, Wonderware, ABB, SAP, Siemens, Honeywell, Oracle, OSIsoft Inc., Emerson Process Management, Yokogawa, and AspenTech. Included were SAP and Oracle, ERP vendors who also offer MES-related modules. More vendors, links and information appear online.

For more manufacturers and distributors, visit . Find system integrators with related experience at . Read the complete research report at / . For more information on products described here, visit the Web sites included with each product description.

Manage plant floor to top floor with MES

FactoryTalk ProductionCentre modular, integrated software suite from Rockwell Automation delivers comprehensive production management functionality and decision support tools to manufacturing environments. The system improves control over quality, speed, and waste; creates a flexible real-time production environment; manages capacity and cycle time for efficient growth; automates records management; evaluates value-add versus non value-add functions; and analyzes overproduction, excessive inventory, faulty processes, and more. The suite promotes paperless tracking, including supplier management, manufacturing, quality control, and returns and complaint handling. It also provides improved connectivity to control systems; fully integrated security capabilities; and improved integration with HMI and industry-specific applications through vertical market extensions. The system gives manufacturers visibility on the plant floor or top floor to monitor inventory levels, repairs, returns, and work in progress. It manages business risks, allowing backward and forward traceability and materials history monitoring; and provides quality assurance so products may be built with the right materials in the right processes.

Rockwell Automation

MES: Real time virtual plant

Proficy Plant Applications from GE Fanuc Automation digitizes the collective information from production facilities into a “virtual plant” that can be accessed where, when, and how needed so that performance may be monitored and measured across key criteria in real time. Scalable modules focus on efficiency, quality, production, and batch analysis. Integrated Web-based reports, KPIs, and notification services form the basis for making real-time decisions throughout the plant. Benefits include better utilization of plant assets; increased product quality for lower waste, scrap, and product recall costs; improved production operations through added insights into product flow through the plant; and full compliance with such regulations as the U.S. FDA 21 CFR Part 11 rule and other requirements. Proficy Plant Applications reportedly combines the best plant performance analysis and execution tools into a system that differentiates itself in a number of critical dimensions including greater levels of analysis, reporting, and flexibility. As part of the company’s Intelligent Production Solution, the system is said to allow manufacturers to make real-time business sense out of plant data beyond traditional MES applications.

GE Fanuc Automation

MES modules manage production, performance

MES modules from Wonderware, a business unit of Invensys, include Equipment Operations Module (EOM) 2.1 and Equipment Performance Module (EPM) 2.0 software. Designed to improve the consistency and effectiveness of plant operations, the latest version of EOM 2.1 helps lower the maintenance and administration costs of overall operations management. Module supports database clustering using Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Enterprise Edition and improves capabilities for data archiving and restoring mechanisms for compiling “as built” records of production events. It also provides for consistent execution of plant floor activities with central management of formula parameters. EPM 2.0 software is said to help tracking, analyzing, and improving equipment, line, or plant downtime and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). It is built on Wonderware’s recently acquired Factelligence technology from the Invensys Cimnet acquisition. EPM 2.0 combines Invensys’ ArchestrA’s industrial service-oriented architecture with the latest InTouch 10.0 HMI and System Platform 3.0 software to enhance capabilities, and correlate equipment performance metrics with broader MES functions.


Collaborative production management for MES

Collaborative Production Management (CPM) suite for the process industries from ABB Inc. extends the functionality found in most MES or the manufacturing operations management (MOM) model defined in the ISA95 standard. It focuses on collaboration, ensuring that information available inside the manufacturing environment can be used anywhere else, effectively tearing down boundaries that exist in a typical MES environment. System provides tight integration between business and manufacturing systems, and breaks down organizational boundaries, allowing business objectives and values identified at the ERP level to be used throughout manufacturing. ABB says that CPM extends the value customers have already achieved from its System 800xA integration platform. CPM suite layers atop ABB or third-party automation systems and provides manufacturing asset utilization and management, recipe management, batch management, production tracking, process information management, energy management, manufacturing visualization, and external system interconnectivity. Interconnectivity follows the ISA95 standard.


MES for planning, quality

SAP says that its SAP Manufacturing capabilities cover planning, execution, quality, maintenance, and environment, health, and safety. Features and function are said to: Optimally plan, schedule, and sequence factory-floor production to produce and deliver promised orders; deliver on production plans by managing production processes, staff deployment, and other factory-floor resources and document, monitor, and dispatch inventory during the production life cycle; monitor and document compliance with quality standards; plan, schedule, and sequence maintenance to optimize assets and minimize downtime; as well as handle product safety, dangerous goods and their disposal, waste and emissions, industrial hygiene, and occupational health and safety.


Integrated MES modules close info gaps

Simatic IT MES for Plant and Enterprise is part of Siemens’ Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) system. Module MES software offers a wide range of components for optimal planning, execution, and documentation of production and development processes and for boosting plant efficiency. System is based on standardization of interfaces, ISA95-compliant programming architecture, and compatibility with Siemens components and third-part products. Simatic IT operates with all common ERP systems. Components include IT Production Suite, Intelligence Suite, R&D Suite, and Options to contribute to a manufacturer’s market responsiveness for quality, throughput, and visibility. IT Production Suite consists of predefined and easily configurable modules to bridge the boundaries between ERP and process automation systems. Intelligence Suite stores relevant production and business data for real-time evaluation and comparison with other values from the manufacturing cycle. R&D Suite optimizes research and development processes to reduce time-to-market for new products. Options components include a historian and a laboratory information management system.

Siemens Energy & Automation

Managing total production lifecycles

Honeywell MES solutions support business performance by managing effectively all production lifecycle steps, from specifying materials to shipping the product, company says. Better management of execution decisions improves cycle times, reduces cost of compliance, and increases efficiency. Suite of products includes Business Flex, OptiVision, and POMSnet. Business Flex helps industrial facilities synchronize production schedules with business objectives while reducing operating costs. OptiVision manages the order-to-cash cycle for pulp and paper companies. POMSnet enforces good manufacturing practices, provides for regulatory compliance history, and controls and tracks production cycle aspects in the life sciences industries. The company says Business Flex helps companies increase production 3% to 6% while decreasing costs 2% to 3%. OptiVision reduces raw material and work-in-progress inventory, and improves load quality. POMSnet improves cycle times, and reduces compliance costs.


More production: MES for manufacturing

Oracle E-Business Suite Manufacturing family of applications enables optimization of production capacity, from raw materials through final product, regardless of manufacturing methodology, company says. A unified data model is said to provide one, accurate view of the manufacturing process, to configure customer orders, optimize subcontracting, and manage for cost, quality, and compliance. Using Oracle technology speeds implementation, optimizes performance, streamlines support, and maximizes return on investment. Oracle Manufacturing is part of the Oracle E-Business Suite, integrating with other E-Business Suite applications, including Oracle CRM and Oracle Product Lifecycle Management. Areas covered include discrete manufacturing, flow manufacturing, Oracle Mobile Supply Chain, and process manufacturing, including batch processes.


MES: Enhance performance management

PI Notifications alarm and alerting infrastructure and PI AF 2.0, the underlying structural database, from OSIsoft Inc. extend data management and real-time event notification delivery with intuitive visualization and a highly integrated infrastructure, enabling customers to easily access, organize, and provide alerts on their data. The offerings, within the PI System data historian platform, deliver enhanced scalability, redundancy, and workflow management across the enterprise. Alerts and alarms created with PI Notifications are stored in the PI Server for fast search and analysis. PI AF offers flexibility and capacity to organize millions of assets to play a critical role in asset-intensive industries. Also recently announced are product updates for the company’s PI System enterprise data historian. In support of the Microsoft Office 2007 initiatives, new releases of the company’s RtWebParts and PI DataLink for Excel Services are available as office business application (OBA) tools. In addition, in support of OPC UA, the company is building a set of products that will expose operations data through the UA standard to provide a more complete picture of PI System data. PI System provides companies with visibility into real-time data, making the global operations business more effective.

OSIsoft Inc.

MES eases manufacturing execution

Compliance suite, DeltaV process automation system, and AMS (asset management software) suite make up Emerson Process Management’s MES offerings. Products are based on Microsoft technologies .Net framework and DCOM (distributed component object model); the process industry’s OPC standards for real time information, XML (eXtensible markup language) for transactional information, and Web services (service oriented architecture) for real-time process application integration. Highly scalable and configurable out-of-the-box, Compliance Suite consists of integrated, configurable off-the-shelf applications that address manufacturing needs and includes functions for order management, scheduling, operator guidance and workflow, material flow management, product genealogy and traceability, and more. DeltaV integrated system of real-time process automation hardware and software applications lets users control, interlock, sequence, manage, and optimize process units in real-time. AMS Suite best-in-class diagnostic software applications let users detect and manage plant equipment problems before they occur, for effective decision support critical to improving business performance.

Emerson Process Management

PIMS collects, processes MES data

Exaquantum plant information management system (PIMS) from Yokogawa combines with a powerful user interface and Web application to collect and process data from all plant control and data collection systems to deliver high-value business information to company decision-makers. Exaquantum/Batch adds batch and event monitoring and reporting based on ISA88 standard and easily integrates with Yokogawa’s CS 3000 Batch Control system. MDX (manufacturing data exchange) works with Exaquantum and Yokogawa OPC-enabled products to provide standards-based integration for continuous and batch processes. It supports standard Web services and the ISA95 Enterprise-Control System Integration standard using B2MML (business-to-manufacturing markup language). Visa (value-added information sourced application) combines process and business data into validated real-time information to increase efficiency and maximize resources. Modules include Mass Balance, Performance Monitoring, and Electronic Logbook. Visa-OM (oil movements) Manager combines the Visa value-added application extensions with the Exaquantum process historian in an oil inventory management system.


MES functions for pharma applications

The MES software, aspenONE Production Management & Execution for Pharmaceuticals, from AspenTech improves end-to-end operational efficiency, from order dispatch through execution to order fulfillment and batch release. Based on the ISA95 workflow model, the system drives efficiency through paperless operation, U.S. FDA 21 CFR Part 11 compliance, comprehensive process data capture, and analysis and improvement, and integrates with existing legacy systems. According to the company, users will achieve positive ROI in months instead of years, improving operational reliability, visibility, and flexibility. Product brings order and control to the “execution gap” between enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and the many data sources and control systems on the shop floor. Components include a roadmap for controlled and progressive implementation of site or network-wide solutions; simplicity that reduces complexity through modular, scalable, and integrated products that make deployment easier and faster; and lower TCO (total cost of ownership) for customized designs that can be rolled out across multiple sites. Workflow engine delivers “total procedural compliance,” encompassing best practices into interactive standard operating procedures.



Other posted MES information from Control Engineering =

More MES vendors, with links

Another MES product, below
Additional data tables, below

Leading vendors, according to survey results, were mentioned above. Additional vendors follow below.

Applied Materials, Brooks Automation, Camstar, Citect, Invensys Infusion, Lighthouse Systems, Futureware IT, Panasonic, Samsung, Aegis Industrial Software, Elan Software Systems, Geometrics, Matrikon, AIM Systems Inc., EnteGreat Inc., iBASEt, Iconics, Infor, Global Solutions, and InQu Informatics.

Additional product information:

Production management in integrated framework
Production Management from Matrikon enables companies to act on business goals using applications that improve the way assets are being used. Suite of products, designed to deliver production management products within an integrated framework, offers transactional and reporting information assembled in real time from data systems. These include Plan Manager to close the loop in operations for continuous performance improvement; Materials Manager for tracking of quality, quantity, and composition of all materials; Production Accounting to generate balanced, reconciled, auditable production accounts; and Performance Manager to monitor key business indicators 24/7. System “listens” to data objects within a plant to provide accurate representation of the current state of operations, and adapts to physical, business, and data changes as they occur. Key to the system is the Intelligent Plant Data Model which provides integration of the communication flow; portal technology for secure, Web-interface access; data broker technology that creates “objects” to simplify changes and enable activities based on real-time data; and a business process orchestration system to synchronize workflow processes across the entire business.

IT involvement in MES implementation
93% Involved in some way
7% No involvement
31% Heavy
43% Moderate
19% Light
Source: Control Engineering and Reed Research Group

IT almost always plays a role when MESs are selected and implemented, but degree of involvement varies widely.

Level of granularity for data capture/analysis
52% Machine/process
14% Plant
13% Cell
10% Line
8% Multi-plant
3% Other
Source: Control Engineering and Reed Research Group

Examining granularity, the study found more than half of all respondents captured and analyzed data at the “machine/process” level. Plant, cell, line, and multi-plant were also noted but by significantly fewer respondents.