What is the Difference Between MES and ERP Systems?

When looking to improve your shop floor control, it’s important to understand what is MES and how it compares to other software. In this article, we explore the world of MES manufacturing and how you can get more shop floor control.
In this article, we investigate what is MES manufacturing, how does it work, and how to get the most out of it with the proper software.

What is MES?             

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) help manufacturers track and record the transformation of raw materials to finished goods on the shop floor.  

When defining what is MES, you can think of it as a tool that manufacturers can use to monitor their production lines, to understand the status of operations and what can be optimized.   

MES manufacturing has real-time features, to help you control all aspects of your shop floor including:  

— Inventory;  

— Workers;  

— Machines, and  

— Support services, all from one dashboard.      

Along with handling your shop floor operations, your MES systems objectives will be to help you with:  

— Shop floor planning;     

— Managing the definitions of product life-cycle;    

— Order management;    

— Dispatching processes;  

— Production analysis; and  

— Product traceability.   

MES systems are especially important for industries that are regulated due to perishable inventory.   

So, that’s everything you need to know about what is MES, but with so many different types of software out there, what is the difference between MES and the others on the market?  

MES ERP are two different types of software for tracking manufacturing, but one considers the entire business while the other helps improve efficiency on the shop floor.

MES vs ERP: What’s the Difference Between MES and ERP?          

Firstly, enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a tool used to manage:  

— Inventory;  

— Order;  

— Accounting;  

— Human resources; and  

— Customer relationship management (CRM). 

There might be some confusion between MES and ERP, but MES systems are basically the step between ERP and analyzing the performance of machinery and resources.  

Though, as systems improve due to technology, the boundaries between the different software become blurred.    

The difference between the systems is this:  

ERP – Helps you manage and create your basic schedules for production, along with material use, your deliveries and shipments, and gathering information about your business.   

MES – Helps you manage your shop-floor manufacturing operations, as well as reporting on production line activities in real-time.   

As you can see, there’s some overlap when it comes to MES vs ERP, as some ERP’s on the market do also perform similar functions of MES manufacturing, such as batch inventory management.  

MES manufacturing will help managers and operators understand what needs to be made, how much needs to be made, and who has to make it.

Can MES Work with Your ERP or MRP?              

So, if you’re already set up with an ERP or material requirements planning (MRP) system, the big question on every manufacturer's lip, can your MES work with your other systems?    

If your system isn’t already performing the tasks that all three systems need to achieve, which some cloud-based manufacturing software do, here’s how MES systems can benefit your other software.     


With your ERP tools, you can prepare your operations, from schedules to deliveries needed, and with your MES systems, you can monitor the progress of jobs from the floor level.     


Firstly, MRP is software for handling your inventory, planning, and scheduling details. So, in the same manner as MES and ERP systems, your MRP is going to help you prepare your inventory ready for production, and your MES will help you track your raw material consumption on the shop floor.   

MES and ERP combined can help you get complete control across your manufacturing processes.

Scheduling with MES Systems                 

MES systems are at the forefront of Industry 4.0, opening the doors to modern manufacturers looking to manage and connect their shop floor processes to the rest of their business.  

And because of the scale of the manufacturing ecosystem, it needs to connect to your MES systems are going to need to handle information from IIoT, from your CPS and CPPS, to help you manage changes, in real-time, that might occur.     

This requires your scheduling to be flexible and integrated with your manufacturing processes. So, you can hit your targets and make adjustments to your workflow if a problem arises on your shop floor, like a bottleneck in manufacturing, immediately.   nbsp;

Your MES systems are going to provide you with the tools to effortlessly submit the most idealistic shop floor schedule for your business.    

Which will be crucial for helping you:  

— Improve on-time performance;  

— Make realistic order promises; and  

— Optimize production to adapt to market demand.     

What is the difference between MES and ERP? MES helps you get more control over your shop floor, while ERP helps you plan and organize resources.

Scheduling Methods                     

Before we look into how scheduling works on the MES Systems, let’s quickly delve into the main scheduling methods manufacturers use:   

1. Forward Scheduling         

Forward scheduling is the process of determining the earliest possible time manufacturing can begin before the due date.   

To achieve this, a manufacturer will schedule resources and raw materials for production as soon as they’re available.  

Forward Scheduling – When’s the earliest you can start production.     

2. Backward Scheduling         

Backward scheduling is the process of determining the latest possible time production can begin.  

This is to create a buffer, so if an order comes in that needs to be prioritized, you’ll still have space to schedule the prioritized order. 

Backward Scheduling - from the due date, you allocate resources and materials to the order to find out the latest possible moment you can begin production.  

3. Batch Scheduling                  

Batch scheduling is the process of scheduling the production of finished goods in batches or groups.   

A batch schedule is predetermined by what’s being produced and the number that needs to be manufactured.   

These schedules can be based on company policy, experience, and demand planning.  

MES vs ERP isn’t really this problem, as both tools have their benefits. It all depends on the type of manufacturing business you run.

MES Scheduling Methods                 

MES systems use these techniques when developing your shop floor schedule:   

— Finite scheduling;  

— Queue compression;    

— Visual scheduler;   

— Minimum operation priorities; and  

— Finite slotting.     

However, the most important factor is the finite scheduling.  

Finite scheduling (or finite capacity scheduling) is the process of determining how much work can be completed within a time frame and assigning resources to operations that need to be completed while considering the limitations.   

The point of finite scheduling is to put together a realistic model of your shop floor, taking into account the shop floor capacity in real-time.  

And this comes back to the confusion between MES and ERP, because finite scheduling is a core aspect of manufacturing scheduling software, and puts together a plan using:  

— Raw material constraints;  

— Your bill of materials;  

— WIP inventory;  

— Resource availability; and  

— Demand.  

Production planning and scheduling with Katana MRP software.

Key Functions of a Manufacturing Execution System         

That’s everything you need to know about what is the difference between MES and ERP. So, what are the key functions of using MES systems?    

1. Data Collection     

Collect valuable information on your production lines, so you can improve your manufacturing processes.  

2. Managing Your Labor Force      

Easily manage your staff and even equipment from the shop floor to maximize their utility.  

3. Product Traceability              

Effortlessly track your production progress and see the status of operations in real-time.   

4. Quality Control       

MES systems allow you to perform quality checks, which will help with address production variations and enhance product quality.    

5. Performance Analysis       

As you can see the entire production process, you can easily see in which areas of your production where productivity is lacking.   

6. Maintenance Management       

Perform predictive maintenance to avoid hindering or stopping your production flow.  

What is MES? A tool designed to optimize your shop floor control.

Benefits of Manufacturing Execution Systems     

So, what’re the benefits of using MES systems within your business:  

1. Recording Costs      

MES manufacturing allows you to track costs such as:  

— Labor;  

— Downtime; and  

— Maintenance. 

And you can track these costs, in real-time, all from the shop floor.  

Having this data at hand will help you increase productivity.  

2. Reduce Waste     

Easily identify inconsistencies or aberrations on your production lines, so you can immediately halt them to limit the number of faulty products or waste material that appears on the shop floor.   

3. Minimize Inventory      

You can reduce your carrying costs by having information to let you determine which raw material or finished goods you need to have on-hand and which inventory levels you can reduce.      

This allows your entire business to know how much inventory is available and what needs to be ordered from:  

— Purchasing;  

— Shipping; and   

— Scheduling departments.     

As you can see, MES manufacturing allows you to effortlessly improve your production efficiency.      

But, knowing the benefits is one thing, but the trick is to understand the variations (you can think of variations as problems) which can appear on your shop floor.  

MES ERP will allow you to make sure all your business is linked together by a manufacturing ecosystem.

Causes of Variations on the Shop Floor                

Knowing the variations which can appear on the shop floor will allow you to use your MES manufacturing system to mitigate these issues. But what is MES shop floor variations?   

There are two types of shop floor variations in MES manufacturing:    

Common Cause     

Common variations are a part of the process, such as natural wear and tear, old machinery breaking down, and other expected factors.   

Special Cause        

Special variations are unexpected issues, like something external to your production lines. Special variations include:   

— An operator making a mistake;   

— Parts breaking; and    

— Power outages.    

This is why SPC MES systems are perfect for observing the performances of your processes to predict, identify, and remove these sources of variations with:   

Real-Time Data      

Having a real-time overview allows you to detect problems immediately to make corrections and minimize faulty finished goods going into circulation.     

SPC Control Rules     

MES manufacturing allows you to detect out-of-control or non-random problems appearing by setting rules to highlight issues occurring on the shop floor.   

Corrective Actions           

Once you have a system that can identify variations, you can then start implementing solutions, which can be:  

— Training staff;  

— Process standardization; and    

— Refining your processes.     

So, that’s everything you need to know about what is MES. But, what is the perfect tool to help you get started on MES manufacturing?      

Katana Smart Manufacturing Software has the tools to help you unlock MES manufacturing.

Katana Smart Manufacturing Software                   

Katana Smart Manufacturing Software is an MES manufacturing tool for the modern manufacturer, who’s looking for shop floor control to help them with:   

— Inventory management;    

— Production planning processes; and    

— Waste reduction.    

Katana can help you optimize your production lines from the shop floor, with tools to:  

Prioritize Orders          

MES manufacturing with Katana has tools to prioritize orders, so you can easily schedule your production, and the auto-booking system will automatically:  

— Allocate materials and finished goods to orders;  

— Calculate manufacturing costs; and  

— Calculate deadlines.    

Manage Tasks        

Monitor and manage costs across your entire production or from on your shop floor, while allowing workers to keep on top their jobs by:  

— Receiving tasks;  

— Starting tasks;  

— Pausing tasks; and  

— Finishing tasks.     

Gather Analytics and Reporting           

Katana provides you with valuable information so you can:   

— Improve your price estimations;   

— Understand your manufacturing lead times;    

— Reduce your labor costs; and  

— Increase your shop floor worker’s efficiency.   

And that’s it, everything you need to know about what is MES and how manufacturers can take advantage of it.   

If you want to start MES manufacturing right now, simply sign up for our 14-day free trial, to see how much your shop floor can benefit from using scheduling software.  

If you have any questions, feel free to drop us a message, and until next time.  

Happy manufacturing.    

Smart manufacturing software with Katana MRP - free for 14 days.