MES and IIOT systems - differences

MES and IIOT systems - differences

The increasing use of industrial automation in manufacturing and discrete plants has brought the manufacturing execution system (MES) market into a period of transition. Increasingly, questions are being asked about the choice between MES and IIOT (Industry Internet of Things) platforms. Is it possible to implement both solutions in parallel or opt for only one option? Which option will be best for a given manufacturing plant?

MES and IIoT - the fundamental differences

On one hand, the value of the MES market is expected to grow to around USD 23 billion by 2024. On the other hand, emerging solutions such as IIoT platforms, cloud-based automation solutions, and SaaS platforms are challenging the manufacturing industry. According to Gartner's Magic Quadrant 2019 MES, IIoT platforms are expected to be at the forefront of the disruptive MES process. The Gartner report further states that by 2024, MES as a market in "50% of solutions will include IIoT platforms to provide near real-time transaction management control." This statement highlights the fact that both solutions are expected to work together to optimize industrial processes as we know them.

IIoT platforms - what is it and why is it worth it?

The interest and adoption of IIoT continues to grow due to the benefits it brings to both traditional and newer production floors. IIoT platforms refer to a class of solutions rather than a single technical component, platform or solution. IIoT platforms are solutions that connect manufacturing processes to the systems or resources within it. This means that an IIoT platform is flexible and provides the manufacturing industry with the foundation and tools needed to develop new applications and methodologies to improve manufacturing operations.

IIoT platforms do not operate in a vacuum. They capture an MES consisting of hardware components connected to machines or manufacturing systems and applications to connect the back-end of the system and IoT hardware to manufacturing processes. With the support of IIoT platforms that provide these components, manufacturers can create custom applications that are tied to specific processes, while equipment manufacturers and OEMs can design innovative assets that leverage the tools they offer. 

MES system - the most important information

AnMES system is software used by manufacturers to track and document the process of turning raw materials into products. The software is also used to gain insight into operations on the manufacturing floor. MES software comes with modules or tools that allow you to monitor machines and manage operations.

MES modules are generally proprietary, meaning that vendors are expected to work only with the modules provided by the vendor, and upgrades can be costly depending on the module being updated. As a result, while an MES platform can do many things to simplify operations across a plant and organization, it can limit the development of new tools to specific tasks or processes. This is where IIoT platforms come in.

Complementarity between MES and IIoT

There are several reasons why MES integrates IIoT platforms to extend their use cases.

  • Complexity of the FEM
  • The proprietary nature of MES

MES provides manufacturers with a more centralized solution. These solutions perform the aforementioned functions well, but struggle to operate beyond their core functions. On the other hand, IIoT platforms are built as microservices-based infrastructures. This means that they offer applications as a set of services and are decentralized from the start. The second challenge manufacturers face when using MES is the limitations of the number of applications available. Yes, most MESs have an app store where you can buy apps. 

Data and the human factor in production

Any future manufacturing improvement initiatives should focus on asset data, not processes. Developing an automated infrastructure for data collection and transformation is the first and most important step on the road to Industry 4.0. The core functions of MES, along with various other functions and technology offerings, are the surface layer of this infrastructure if and when required.

MES or IIoT - which option to choose?

MES certainly provides a valuable service to the manufacturing industry, as its reputation is based on replacing legacy processes (e.g., machine monitoring) and management and bringing digitization to the shop floor.

On the other hand, the IIoT platform provides decentralization and applications as a service to the manufacturing industry, in addition to the functions offered by the MES. This means that IIoT platforms can do the work of the MES while expanding its use cases. Therefore, for manufacturers who want to start the process of transforming a Brownfield plant into a Greenfield, an IIoT platform is the cutting-edge option to choose.

In situations where the cost of service and subscription plays an important role in making a choice, it is important to remember that IIoT platforms reflect the extensibility and affordability of cloud computing. This makes the IIoT platform a much cheaper option compared to MES.

Monitoring of machines and production operations - applications

With this in mind, the Gartner Magic Quadrant predicts an increase in spending on MES solutions. This is because these systems are still necessary to move towards Industry 4.0. It also highlights the fact that millions of manufacturers are now using MES to optimize operations. For those who fall into this category, integrating an IIoT platform to maximize MES ROI is a logical decision.

It is important to remember that Industry 4.0 requires multi-enterprise collaboration and cross-enterprise cooperation to reach its peak. MES and IIoT platforms provide the services necessary to define the future of industrial automation, and while MES is doing a great job today, IIoT platforms will be the real enablers to deliver to ensure the smart factories of tomorrow.

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