ERP and MES solutions serve to optimize business and production processes. Increasingly companies today are vesting in the benefits of both systems, because ERP systems generally lack the scheduling and production benefits of flexible MES solutions in a production environment. An MES can react quickly and afford the flexibility to quickly reflect the ever more rapidly occurring changes in the production area and to optimally support these.
ERP systems are complex and cumbersome, but they also provide for optimization of business processes and standardization of an organization; they also facilitate and optimize communication between departments. Their benefits reside primarily in Finance and Accounting, Controlling, Personnel, Sales and Marketing, and in master data management. Also, the have a rough-planning background that is very important; every MES normally builds on that. Thus beyond question, ERP is the foundation, even in production.
Reliable data from MES for Management
The benefits of MES solutions in production begin up front with scheduling. A scheduling board in MES enables setup optimization and precise allocation of individual machines. By contrast, ERP systems allocate work center groups and do not refine beyond an individual aggregate. Only seldom are secondary resources such as workers. Detailed planning (scheduling board) in an MES addresses this issue directly.
Nonetheless, an MES is only one of many systems arranged like satellites around the ERP. In practice other areas such as BI, Big Data, Controlling and QA join an overall system landscape. The ERP system is and will remain the necessary backbone, while an MES clearly targets production and serves as the connector to machines. An MES provides data from the real world as they occur in production – in real time and good quality, and collected only once. These data are transferred to the ERP system in aggregated and validated form.
In the high quality delivered by the MES, these data serve as a reliable basis for computing index values and presenting detailed information. The resulting information center is then used in various other areas; it is available to production staff and serves as the basis for management decisions.
Added value with MES direct on the shop floor
The focus of MES solutions is clearly on production, while ERP systems concentrate on business management aspects of the company. There is no question that the two systems must understand and communicate with one another.
Additionally, an MES is always confronted with the necessity of rapidly adapting to changing conditions in production, for production is an extremely dynamic area. Companies acquire new machines in a half-year cycle and change their personnel capacities. An MES must be able to quickly and flexibly adapt and meet the new challenges.
However, large bandwidth and high speed are normally not attributes of ERP systems and not necessarily required because the processes mapped there have longer durations. This is not meant to indicate a weakness of ERP systems, for their focus is clearly elsewhere: the finished product. By contrast, an MES must react quickly in production and afford the flexibility to quickly accommodate and optimally support changes. We dare to say that the actual creation of added value occurs directly on the shop floor.
Production in Industry 4.0 demands changes
If we look toward Industry 4.0 and the future of production, we clearly see that both systems must change, although with different requirements. Industry 4.0 covers a broad field in which automation provides new possibilities in production, which in turn enables new business models. Such new business models must be supported by leading ERP systems. For MES, Industry 4.0 will also bring changes: if not toward production with lot size 1, then at least toward smaller lot sizes.
The immense capital that data from MES represent in the Industry 4.0 environment will also force ERP systems to radical changes to enable the associated possibilities. Thus MES and ERP vendors need to keep their eyes open and jointly travel the path toward Industry 4.0 if they are to develop their true strengths.
More on the subject: Warum MES und ERP?