September 9, 2019

How to determine if you need a Manufacturing Execution System

BY Scott Hageman
Share Article:


How do you know you need a Manufacturing Execution System and how do you choose the right one?

Many companies today are struggling with how to best support their systemic needs in the manufacturing process.  Most already have an ERP system, like SAP, to support their financial needs. These companies also use that ERP system to support the manufacturing process, but most ERP systems provide minimal capabilities for controlling execution on the shop floor.

Business Problem:

Many companies need a system to better track and manage what’s happening on the shop floor as it occurs.  How do you know if you need a better system?

If you answer, “Yes”, to any of the questions below, then you certainly need a Manufacturing Execution System to stay competitive.

  1. Do I need to know what orders are being worked on in real time?
  2. Do I need to know the status of those orders real time?
  3. Do I need to know who is working on each order and where?
  4. Do I need to know how long it takes to process a specific order?
  5. Do I need to know the quality of that order in real or near-time?
  6. Do I need to know which component parts went into a specific product?
  7. Do I need to know the availability of my assets in real time?
  8. Do I need to know if I’m on schedule to plan in real time?

There are many other qualifiers, but you get the point.  If you would benefit from having real time or near-time visibility of what’s happening on the shop floor, then you should be in the market for a Manufacturing Execution System (MES).

How to choose the right Manufacturing Execution System:

The key to choosing the right Manufacturing Execution System is clearly understanding your operation’s specific needs. In our experience, the companies that have been most successful on this journey use the following steps:

  1. Form a team that includes both operations and IT people that know the current processes and understand the pain points or weaknesses of the current system.
  2. Document the current “as is” process in as much detail as you can.
  3. Identify all integration points and connections.
  4. Identify the owners of each of the integration points.
  5. Document the current functionality supported.
  6. Identify all the known pain points (Lack of visibility, no integration, etc.).
  7. Assign an impact level to each pain point based on business outcomes and rank accordingly.
  8. Document the functional requirements needed to support each of the ranked pain points.
  9. Combine the ‘current’ and ‘needed’ list of functionalities into one Voila! This is your functional requirements document for a Manufacturing Execution System

Once you have the list of the functionality you need, then you can begin the search process.  A good way to help in this process is to create a spreadsheet of each functional requirement and their respective importance.  You can then create a matrix to show how each candidate measures up in supporting your needs.



This list can be supplied to the candidates you have chosen that might meet your needs. Using whatever process you use to select the candidates, you can have them respond to your requirement needs and narrow down the search to 2 or 3 finalists.  Then using onsite demonstrations and case studies, you can decide on the one that best meets your needs

The bottom line is that you need to understand and document what you want your manufacturing execution system to support so that you can intelligently compare each possible solution.

You could do this process internally, or partner with a company that specializes in operational technology such as a Manufacturing Execution System.  C5MI can help facilitate this exercise and help identify functionality that you may not know is available and beneficial.

The key to finding the best fit for your needs is to understand and clearly identify your needs and their impact on your business.