IT in Manufacturing

Manufacturing, integration, execution and intelligence: Part 2 – MES and EMI; which one is for you

June 2010 IT in Manufacturing

Manufacturing integration, execution and intelligence is a large topic addressing some complex issues. In part 1 we looked at the importance of shop floor to top floor integration and what it involves. In this part 2, we examine the roles of MES and EMI. MES (manufacturing execution systems) and EMI (enterprise manufacturing intelligence) have been with us for some time but many people have unanswered questions as to what they actually do, what is the difference between them and what they have to offer specific industries.

Manufacturing execution systems

20 years ago, when the term MES was coined, the manufacturing operations landscape was in turmoil. The operations processes between industries were so vastly different that it prevented the same kind of standardisation that existed in ERP. Hence, the need arose for standards-based manufacturing execution systems.

Since then, MES has evolved into a relatively mature ‘group of applications’ guided by ISA-95 standards and designed to manage production workflow from beginning to end, operation by operation. From generating electronic work instructions for operators, to ensuring that the right materials are available, to communicating set-point instructions to shop floor systems, while at the same time recording actual outputs measured against quality, cycle time and throughput. As MES evolved further, so did capabilities like full product genealogy (including product tracking) and maintaining an ‘as built’ bill of materials (BOM).

MES became the control link between the top floor and the shop floor. Due to its complexity and extensive functionality which reaches virtually all the corners of the organisation, MES is rather like a large jigsaw puzzle. It is easier to confront when put together a few pieces at a time, and successful implementation requires certainty that new pieces will fit the existing puzzle precisely when required. Because of this many companies have been reluctant to implement MES solutions as they could not map their needs to the available functionality. Enter the EMI solution.

Enterprise manufacturing intelligence

EMI is a term which applies to software used to bring a company’s manufacturing-related data together from many (and often disparate) sources and possibly across many plants for the purposes of creating context, generating reports, doing analyses, providing visual summaries and passing data between enterprise-level and plant-floor systems.

As data are combined from multiple sources, they can be given a new structure or context that will help users find what they need regardless of where it came from. The primary goal of this concept is to turn large amounts of manufacturing data into actionable knowledge that will help achieve the desired business results.

The diversity of plant operations in the mining and manufacturing industries will continue to challenge many companies and solution providers. While MES provides the necessary control over synchronising production with business requirements, EMI collates information from a variety of sources to provide the contextualised knowledge or actionable intelligence about the enterprise that is vital to decision-making at all levels.

So, while MES may remain the central anchor in the operations value chain for a large proportion of manufacturing, mining and processing operations, EMI technologies can provide new tools to assist with operational challenges.

To find out more about the differences between MES and EMI in order to help determine whether the full range of MES functionality is required, or if near real-time visibility into operations through an EMI solution is sufficient read the full second article in this series at

For more information contact Ugan Maistry, EOH Mining and Manufacturing, +27 (0)11 607 8142,,

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