MES, ERP, PLM, QMS…as manufacturing continues to incorporate sophisticated software to improve processes and ensure viability, we manufacturing geeks sometimes juggle acronyms like little digital balls. To keep from dropping them, it’s good to go back from time to time and visit what they are and how they differ in function. Let’s throw a few in the air.
Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) are software solutions that ensure that quality and efficiency are built into the manufacturing process and are systematically enforced. MES connect multiple plants, sites, and vendors’ live production information, and integrate easily with equipment, controllers and business applications. The result is complete visibility, control, and manufacturing optimization of production and processes across the enterprise.
MES monitor and synchronize manufacturing activities across globally distributed plants and link them in real time to the enterprise for optimal performance. They track product and order details on the plant floor, collect transactions for reporting to financial and planning systems, and electronically dispatch orders and manufacturing instructions to shop floor personnel. MES eliminate human error in manufacturing by providing real-time quality data checks, yield monitoring, automatic enforcement of specifications and business rules, and as-manufactured lot, batch, device or unit traceability. All these processes result in improved product and process quality as well as higher productivity.
In addition, paperless manufacturing with MES helps to reduce scrap and eliminates paperwork errors and redundant checks. Moreover, MES provide the flexibility to model and change complex processes and enforce them immediately. On the whole, these systems provide the real-time feedback needed to quickly identify and resolve issues for continuous product and process improvement and optimization of manufacturing processes.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software comprises a suite of modules that automate the business administration functions of an enterprise. According to Manufacturing and Logistics IT, ERP is generally defined as integrated, multi-module application software packages designed to serve and support several business functions across an organization. So an ERP system is a strategic tool that helps the organization improve operations and management by integrating business processes and helping to optimize the allocation of available resources. These systems are typically commercial software packages that facilitate collection and integration of information related to various areas of an organization. By becoming the central information center, ERP systems allow the organization to better understand its business, direct resources, and plan for the future.
Although ERP is considered a desirable tool for most organizations, it has been traditionally associated with discrete manufacturing companies, having originated as an extension of Materials Requirements Planning (MRP). Today, the majority of ERP systems span all the functions of an enterprise. Modules usually include finance, order processing, manufacturing, supply chain and inventory management, human resources, and customer relationship management.
In manufacturing, product lifecycle management (PLM) software manages the processes involved in the entire lifecycle of a product, from its conception, through design and manufacture, to service and disposal. PLM integrates people, data, processes, and business systems and provides a product information backbone for companies and their extended enterprises. PLM helps organizations cope with the increasing complexity and engineering challenges of developing new products in the global marketplace, particularly across increasingly disparate and complex value chains.
Quality Management Systems (QMS) are software solutions that typically include event management and nonconformance management systems. A QMS that creates a closed-loop quality process proactively monitors events from any source—including supplier issues, manufacturing non-conformances, complaints, services, and audits—across local, distributed, or outsourced operations. In this way, it identifies potential problems before a quality issue occurs. When MES Is present, closed-loop quality management provides root cause analysis, rapid containment, and corrective action methods to minimize the scope and impact of quality issues when they do occur. QMS ensures compliance with corporate and industry regulations, and also enables quality programs such as Lean and Six Sigma to advance product quality and prevent adverse events.