Manufacturing Execution Systems

MES is a subset of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and executes the plan determined by the manufacturing resource planning (MRP) system. The functions of MES programs include: compiling a bill of materials, resource management and scheduling, preparing and dispatching production orders, preparing work-in-progress (WIP) reports and tracki... read more

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Katana Manufacturing ERP

FrontRunners 2022

Katana Manufacturing ERP gives you a live look at all the moving parts of your business — sales, inventory, and beyond. Combining a visual interface and smart real-time master planner, Katana makes managing inventory and manufactu...Read more about Katana Manufacturing ERP

4.74 (139 reviews)

24 recommendations


Shiftconnector is a cloud-based shift log management solution that helps manufacturing teams across a variety of industries including pharmaceutical, electrical and gas, chemical, food, automotive, energy and more optimize communi...Read more about Shiftconnector

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ShopVue is an on-premise shop floor control solution designed for job-centric discrete manufacturing businesses. It offers labor tracking production planning, machine monitoring, component control and time and attendance tracking ...Read more about ShopVue

4.13 (12 reviews)

2 recommendations

Infor LN

Infor LN is a powerful ERP solution for managing end to end processes with greater efficiency and data driven insights. It is available on premises or in the cloud and is core to industry-specific solutions: CloudSuite Aerospace &...Read more about Infor LN

3.74 (27 reviews)

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FrontRunners 2022

With an integrated system that includes ERP, financials, commerce, inventory management, HR, PSA, supply chain management, CRM and more – NetSuite enables fast-growing businesses across all industries to work more effectively by a...Read more about NetSuite

4.14 (937 reviews)

94 recommendations

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ECI M1 is a subscription-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, available on-premise or via the cloud, that automates financials, inventory, production, sales/quoting and production planning. The solution is suitable for...Read more about M1 ERP

3.69 (71 reviews)

26 recommendations

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FrontRunners 2022

ECI Shoptech brings together industry-leading solutions E2 SHOP and JobBOSS to create the next evolution in job shop business management: JobBOSS². Designed specifically for job shops and make-to-order manufacturers, JobBOSS² is a...Read more about JobBOSS²

4.24 (861 reviews)

49 recommendations

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FrontRunners 2022

Fishbowl is the #1 manufacturing and warehouse inventory management software! Its powerful inventory control system gives your small or midsize business the exact tools needed to transform your inventory management and scale your ...Read more about Fishbowl

4.16 (787 reviews)

124 recommendations

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MISys Manufacturing

MISys Manufacturing is a cloud-based and on-premise manufacturing solution designed for small and midsized companies. It caters to electronics, food and beverage, aerospace, defense, chemicals, health and beauty, medical devices, ...Read more about MISys Manufacturing

3.83 (6 reviews)


DELMIAworks (formerly IQMS) ERP is developed specifically for SMB and large discrete and batch process manufacturers in the aerospace, medical device, automotive, food and beverage, consumer products, plastics, packaging, and elec...Read more about DELMIAworks

4.06 (286 reviews)

18 recommendations

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Quantum MES is an engineering/planning, asset management and quality control solution for U.S. aerospace & defense, medical device and other make-to-order manufacturers. Quantum can receive orders from third-party ERP systems, man...Read more about Quantum

3.80 (5 reviews)

Plex Smart Manufacturing Platform

Plex gives manufacturers the ability to connect, automate, track and analyze every aspect of their business -- from the plant floor to the top floor -- to drive business transformation. Built in the cloud, the Plex Smart Manufactu...Read more about Plex Smart Manufacturing Platform

4.18 (11 reviews)

Visual EstiTrack

Henning Software has helped small to midsize manufacturers and job shops for 30 years. Visual EstiTrack ERP has complete material requirements planning, product lifecycle, supply chain, customer relationship, human resource and ma...Read more about Visual EstiTrack

4.77 (11 reviews)

20 recommendations

MIE Trak Pro

One word sums up MIE Trak Pro: flexibility. You may be using tired old spreadsheets or an ERP system that can't scale with your manufacturing company. When your organization grows, MIE Trak Pro adapts to your needs, striking a bal...Read more about MIE Trak Pro

4.66 (118 reviews)

14 recommendations

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Shopfloor-Online is an on-premise and cloud-based manufacturing execution system (MES) that helps to manage manufacturing operations and monitor performance. It is suitable for manufacturers in industries such as aerospace, automo...Read more about Shopfloor-Online

4.25 (2 reviews)


Realtrac is an on-premise job management solution designed for job shop manufacturers and modular machine shops. It helps small and midsize manufacturers to schedule workflows, manage shop operations, track inventories, manage pur...Read more about REALTRAC

4.07 (68 reviews)

16 recommendations

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InstantGMP MES

InstantGMP MES is a cloud-based manufacturing solution that offers document management, inventory management, batch production records and barcode scanning features. InstantGMP MES helps users to create virtual bins and align...Read more about InstantGMP MES

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Mar-Kov Chemical Management System

Mar-Kov CMS (Chemical Management System) is a cloud-based process manufacturing solution for process, batch, and formulation based manufacturers. The solution can also be installed on-premise to automate daily routine processes of...Read more about Mar-Kov Chemical Management System

5.00 (1 reviews)

4 recommendations


FrontRunners 2022

Kinetic (the new name for Epicor ERP) is the cloud ERP solution built with manufacturers, for manufacturers. Epicor offers a cloud ERP platform with deployment flexibility (cloud, on-premise, hybrid) that provides manufacturers wi...Read more about Kinetic

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ProfitKey is an on-premise manufacturing management solution for small and midsize manufacturers and job shops. It caters to various manufacturing industries including aerospace, defence, automotive, capital equipment, electronics...Read more about ProfitKey

4.35 (13 reviews)

Buyers Guide

Last Updated: November 23, 2022

Manufacturing execution systems (MES) manage operations on the shop floors of factories. Some MES support a single class of machine; others are designed to oversee operations on the entire floor. We wrote this buyer's guide to explain MES technologies and assist buyers in making a selection.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What Is MES Software?
What Type of Buyer Are You?
Benefits and Potential Issues
Market Trends to Understand
The MES Vendor Landscape

What Is MES Software?

“If you build it, they will come,” is not a quote about manufacturing, but the concept is related. MES software manages operations on the shop floor. The scope of MES can vary from scheduling a small set of critical machines to managing the entire fabricating operation for a manufacturer. In all but a handful of cases currently, the MES does not directly control a machine but rather tracks the work-in-progress on the shop floor. 

MES is a subset of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and executes the plan determined by the manufacturing resource planning (MRP) system. The functions of MES programs include: compiling a bill of materials, resource management and scheduling, preparing and dispatching production orders, preparing work-in-progress (WIP) reports and tracking production lots. Advanced systems will also have a product definition library with revision history and can report on production status to an ERP. In contrast, an MRP system sets the production schedule, determines the make versus buy list and determines inventory requirements.

Screenshot of E2 Shop System scheduling whiteboard

Screenshot of E2 Shop System scheduling whiteboard

The MES is responsible for scheduling and tracking each step of the production phase of a particular job. It prints out the bill of materials that the operator will require and production steps to complete at each phase. It repeats this process for each operator and each step until a particular job is complete.

MES is not generally effected by a manufacturer's mode, be it make to stock (MTS), assemble to stock (ATS), assemble to order (ATO), make to order (MTO) or engineer to order (ETO). This is because by the time the MES is invoked, the parts and schedule are already set, usually by the MRP system.

MESes are generally installed on-premises, but cloud-based solutions are becoming available. In most businesses, one of the reasons for having a cloud-based system is the reduced initial cost for equipment. This is not necessarily true for manufacturing; if the system has just a few users then they are usually located in the same facility and it is just as easy to link them to each other as it is to give them access to the Internet. If it is a large implementation, the expense is in creating a robust network and acquiring suitable fixed and mobile workstations. The incremental cost difference between having a server for the software is generally minimal. Instead, the benefit of cloud-based systems is the reduced cost for system management; the servers are out of the shop floor environment, can be backed-up and replicated automatically, and do not have to be maintained by trained on-site personnel.


What Type of Buyer Are You?

The first step in evaluating MES software is to determine what type of buyer you are. Over 90 percent of software buyers fall into one of these three groups:

Enterprise resource planning suite buyer. These buyers value the seamless integration of data and processes that comes from having one system for all functions. For example, they would prefer a full-suite system for estimating, work-in-progress management and accounting that can automatically turn an estimate into a budget for project management and then match invoices to project status and allocate job costs. These buyers favor complete software suites from companies like Oracle, SAP, Sage ERP or Microsoft Dynamics.

Departmental buyer. Specialists in one function, such as creating process set points, may value the feature depth of best-of-breed solutions designed for their function. These buyers may need specific functionality, like the ability to interface with a specific computer motion control system.

Small manufacturer. Small organizations often have limited budgets and fewer IT resources and tools to dedicate to software. In many cases, they may be deciding between a new software system and a new piece of equipment. These buyers need cost-effective SMB manufacturing solutions that are easy to implement and use. Some will prefer full-suite systems, while others may just want one application, such as bill-of-materials production or shop equipment scheduling operations.  

Benefits and Potential Issues

  • Increase utilization of equipment: MES systems let manufacturers measure the actual utilization of equipment. With this knowledge, you can adjust job prices to either encourage the use of certain equipment or dissuade the use of that equipment.
  • Better record-keeping and data analysis: MES provides records not of machine use, jobs and lots. This yields several benefits. First, there is better tracking of actual materials used, increasing accountability of material use to individual operators, which generally reduces waste. Second, should a quality problem occur, lot tracking allows tying back the issue to the individual lots instead of having to potentially recall an entire run.
  • Real-time WIP reporting: MES systems can report on progress on jobs and lots in real-time, giving shop managers better information and allowing for modifications to the schedule to adjust for changes in productivity.

One of the big issues with implementing MES is the possibility it will be rejected by the shop floor personnel. Some workers find the method and amount of information collected intrusive. This can become a contract issue in a unionized shop. The best defense is to use a phased-in implementation coupled with training that emphasizes the benefits to workers.

Market Trends to Understand

Increased use of electronic documentation. Not so long ago, a shop floor had stacks and stacks of operator’s manuals, procedure manuals and material safety data sheets. Operators had clipboards and notebooks with bills of materials, work orders and reports. More and more, however, this paper is being replaced with electronic documents. MES documentation is no exception, most users produce electronic work orders and schedules.

Mobile devices used for reference and control. Related to the increased use of electronic documentation is the use of mobile devices on the shop floor. The days of using clipboards and paper kanban cards are quickly coming to an end. Instead, workers are using tablet computers and handheld devices to enter information directly into the MES system.

Increased integration with enterprise systems. Considering that ERP grew out of MRP and MES systems, it is no surprise that the integration with other systems is a continuing trend. Even stand-alone MES systems can receive data from MRP systems and inventory systems, and send information to others, like preventive maintenance systems (which track the hours that equipment has been used) and payroll systems (which track how much time workers spent on each job).

Machine integration. MES systems can now integrate directly with computer-controlled shop-floor machines, downloading directions and recipes when required.

Data consolidation and visualization. MES systems can collect and consolidate information from the various production systems. Production dashboards are beginning to make their appearance in systems, giving production managers a single view to track operations in real time.

The MES Vendor Landscape

This type of buyer... Should evaluate these systems
Enterprise resource planning suite buyer Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle, SAP, Sage
Departmental buyer Microsoft Dynamics, Epicor, SYSPRO, Casco
Small manufacturer E-Z-MRP, ECi, Exact, Fishbowl