Beyond Manufacturing Execution Systems

Written by: Jordan Coffman

Read Time: 3 min

Your Manufacturing Fingerprint: One of a Kind

Every manufacturing facility operating today is necessarily a unique operational entity. Whether part of an extensive factory network within an extended enterprise or a standalone operation, no two functions are the same. The effective management of each facility will require a combination of systems aligned not only with the product being made but also with requirements specific to its location, workforce, supply chain structure, governing regulatory bodies, and more.  

Integration of the one-of-a-kind mix of business logistics and manufacturing systems that keep your operation running well can be difficult and expensive. That can result in information systems of equivalent complexity, reflecting the individual needs of the process. More than 20 years ago, to impose order on this rapidly evolving landscape, the International Society of Automation developed the activity-based ISA-95 standard (IEC 62264) to address the challenge of communication between and across the various systems that comprise manufacturing operations.  

Manufacturing Systems Evolve

The decades since, as we've discussed in previous blogs, have seen an aggressive increase in complexity of factory operations overall regarding productivity and the rise to prominence of Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES). A term first coined by AMR Systems in 1992, MES monitors and tracks manufactured goods' production on the factory floor. As far as they go, MES systems have proven their merits for delivering benefits in on-time delivery, better quality, and bottom-line profitability.    

But as these operating systems, in aggregate, become more sophisticated and capable for all manufacturers, the ability of anyone to deliver competitive advantage narrows. With a well-tuned MES integrated within your overall technology stack - are you just back to playing with table stakes? Where's the next opportunity for refining and improving your manufacturing operations to outperform your competition?  

The DPM Advantage

Introduced in 2021, PTC's ThingWorx Digital Production Management (DPM) is an innovative, integrated solution that complements – some might say completes – your MES system, adding visibility and generating insight for improved decision making. DPM and MES both focus on factory floor operations, intending to improve enterprise business outcomes. So, the first question many manufacturers ask is: "What's the difference?" A good question - and a logical one.  

Same Playing Field. Different Positions

Let's dig in. Simply put, the goal of MES is to execute schedule-driven work efficiently. Sure, ERP systems can generate schedules. MES evolved from realizing today's shop floor is too complex, too dynamic an environment, for ERP to effectively assimilate, process, and manage. MES accounts for a level of variation and critical detail beyond its scope. 

DPM builds on the capabilities of MES to further optimize performance, capacity, and productivity. Each system is unique and complements the other; MES data is a crucial input to the DPM system. A core characteristic of DPM is its openness – its ability to effectively integrate with your current tech stack and amplify the aggregate value of your constituent systems – PLCs, SCADA, ERP as well as MES.  

Wrap...or Rip?

Architecturally, DPM wraps around and extends your existing investments, whereas an MES system generally requires a "rip and replace" approach. Comparatively, DPM is faster to deploy, is easier to implement and adopt, and significantly lowers risk. From a capital investment perspective, DPM delivers faster time to value: from a few weeks or months, compared to many months – or potentially years – for an MES system.


Amplifying Functional Advantage

To further clarify the distinct and discrete – but entirely complementary – nature of the two systems, the following chart outlines the specific core functionalities of each.  




Identify, prioritize and track bottlenecks

Schedule production & execute orders

Analyze cell and process performance

Manage in-process quality

Track production time loss

Collect machine data

Define improvement opportunities

Monitor inventory levels

Track, measure & confirm production throughput improvements tied back to P&L

Execute track and trace functions to enable compliance

Positive Outcomes, Fast.

Despite the differing profiles of the two systems in terms of cost, difficulty, and risk, DPM delivers comparable business results, with efficiency improvements of between 5% and 20%. DPM introduces a closed-loop approach, leveraging time-based insights and providing real-time visibility. As a result, your shop-floor-level decision-making will have more impact on business results than ever before. 


ThingWorx Digital Performance Management

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Tags: Industrial Internet of Things Increase Manufacturing Productivity

About the Author

Jordan Coffman

Jordan Coffman is the IoT Director of Sales and Strategic Initiatives. Jordan creates integrated solutions to accelerate digital transformation for customers in the manufacturing industry. She empowers customers to redefine how they manage physical processes, products, and people with powerful technologies such as IIOT and AR.

Before joining PTC, Jordan held various positions at General Electric where she was responsible for delivering software solutions from ideation to implementation, supporting a range of Brilliant Factory initiatives. Her experience at GE has given her foundational knowledge to several manufacturing verticals, in a global environment. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Information Systems and an executive degree in Business Administration from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.