When the term Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) was coined nearly 20 years ago by AMR, the MES acronym was intended to sound like “mess” because that is what it was. While enterprise applications had taken hold firmly for many other areas, the diversity of plant operations had prevented the same level of standardization and use for plant floor software. Individual plants and even individual functions within each plant have often used spreadsheets, homegrown applications, or standalone software to support monitoring, guiding, and recording outcomes. However, production companies are realizing they cannot continue to work with piecemeal support for and minimal visibility into their main revenue-generating area. Many early MES systems were purpose built closed systems that lacked the configurability and flexibility needed to adapt to changing business needs. This caused many early implementations to have a very high service to software ratio and often created an implementation process that seemed to have no end. For these reasons, and others, MES earned a reputation early on as an expensive and risky endeavor that often did not deliver on initial ROI goals.
Over the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, much of the good work done by the automation industry in creating batch level standards, like ISA-88, was being extended to the enterprise with the ISA-95 standard. In this standard the term Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) was laid out and detailed activities and business processes were defined within the MOM space, including the areas of: Production, Quality, Maintenance, and Inventory.
Traditional Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) focus mainly on the plant floor, with minimal integration beyond the four walls or across business functions. The new MOM solutions created the flexibility and scalability needed to become a true enterprise application.“MES” is still used by many vendors. In some cases it can refer to a company that has similar capabilities to those of a MOM vendor but in other cases it can refer to companies that have not kept pace with technology advancements and still promote legacy systems.