MES vs. MOM: What’s in a Name?

Feb. 25, 2014
MESA recently organized an online panel debating the topic, working to come to a unified voice for industry.

Recently, participants from MESA’s Technical Committee held an online debate over the use of the term manufacturing execution system (MES) vs. manufacturing operations management (MOM) to describe the type of software solutions used in production operations. Is one term more accurate technically or functionally? Does either term have more name recognition or commercial acceptance to the masses? Is it an either/or discussion, or can both terms co-exist? The panelists explored these questions and many more, with a surprising level of passion on each side of the discussion.

Khris Kammer, MESA Technical Committee chairman and Rockwell Automation information partner and competency manager, moderated the discussion that included Technical Committee panelists from across industry and around the world: Rik Geerts, senior corporate MOM solution architect for Cargill in Belgium; Gerhard Greef, divisional manager of Bytes Universal Systems in South Africa; and Conrad Leiva, vice president of product marketing and alliances at iBASEt, and Dennis Brandl, MESA Americas board chairman and chief consultant at BR&L Consulting, both in the U.S. As you can see, this is a debate with global implications, and the location and background of the attendees was equally as diverse as the panelists’.

MES, an acronym coined in the mid-1980s, has been around as a term longer than MOM, according to Leiva, who argued that its longevity has made it more widely accepted for defining the plant-wide systems space between automation and enterprise business systems. MOM came into being a bit later, and its proponents, like Greef and Geerts, say that was out of necessity to broaden the definition of this space beyond execution. It sprang from an argument that systems like quality, inventory and production management solutions, enterprise manufacturing intelligence (EMI) systems, and a host of other offerings all fit in the space while offering non-MES functionality. Those complementary capabilities in the same solutions space mean MES cannot be the umbrella for all systems, hence the need for MOM, they said.

Brandl explained the ISA-95 standard for interfacing between enterprise and control systems that helped promote the popularity of the MOM term. The panelists touched on ISA-95’s evolution and impact on this topic, as well as industry-specific nuances and challenges, awareness/educational problems for manufacturers with having multiple terms with no clear-cut direction, and many other real-world, practical implications.

The panelists did not manage to put the issue to rest with one side declared the winner, which actually points to the importance of such discussions. You may have your own view. It may be the view of your department, plant or entire company. Or maybe it isn’t. To affect change in industry and drive clarity in areas like this, discussion is paramount.

For 22 years, MESA has watched people across industry try and tackle challenges like this—as simple as they appear to be on the outside—on their own, and we’ve seen firsthand that individual positions get strengthened, but the problem doesn’t get resolved on a greater scale. For that to change, we need more discussion with more people from more areas to add their individual perspectives so we can all speak with a unified voice.

I should note that MESA was founded as the Manufacturing Execution Systems Association in 1992, but changed its name about 10 years later to be the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association. We’ve had many debates and discussions throughout the years on MES vs. MOM; in fact, those discussions continue regularly. Do they frustrate me? Sometimes. Do they slow down progress? Arguably. However, I’ll never tire of MESA being a safe place in industry where passionate professionals can add their voice to important debates and speak as part of a larger body. With the rate of change in today’s IT and IT-based solutions and their impact on our personal and professional lives, manufacturers need that unified voice now more than ever.

The MES vs. MOM webcast is available for download by MESA members in our Resource Library. Come join the conversation!

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