Can ERP Replace MES?

March 12, 2012
As developers of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems continually add functionality that reaches down to plant floor operations, some question the need for a separate manufacturing execution system (MES).

Though there are no clear pathways that provide insight into how this issue will resolve itself, for now the answer as to whether or not you need a separate MES application rather than MES-like functionality in an ERP system comes down to one question: How important is real-time visibility for your business?

It’s a question of granularity, says Jon Miller, director global project delivery, Invensys Operations Management.  “Discrete assembly processes and consumer packaged goods manufacturers tend to need a high level of granularity” and thus will always likely need a separate MES application.

Another question to ask is how important is manufacturing to your company’s strategic direction.

The size and criticality of ensuring that production execution occurs without disruption is another important point. A dedicated system makes more sense as risk-to-deliver on all the fronts that MES supports grows in importance to the organization, adds Darren Riley, business solution manager for Apriso.

If you follow the ISA 95 standard promulgated by the International Society of Automation (ISA), the answer is clearer: A separate MES system is required.

“It is true that ERP and supply chain systems are providing significantly more functionality in plant operations than they have historically,” says Rob Gellings from Maverick  (a systems integrator based in Columbia, Ill). “However, they do not replace the need for MES functionality as it is defined by the ISA 95 standard.”

When it comes to process industries, no ERP or supply chain system “comes close to eliminating the need for a true MES that closely integrates the control layer of a plant environment with the enterprise and provides the appropriate integration between those systems,” says Gellings.

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