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MES and PLM: A Match Made in Heaven

NOTE: In Part 1 of this 2-part series on comparing digital enterprises, we compared two manufacturing software solutions, ERP and MES systems. If you missed it, read it now.

We spelled out the many challenges facing manufacturers for the remainder of 2020 and beyond, then jumped into both ERP and MES systems, discovering how compatible they are, especially when it comes to Industry 4.0 and digital transformation.

Manufacturers are looking to adapt quickly while keeping focused on efficiency and cost-effectiveness. What many may not realize is that using multiple, affordable technologies can create the biggest long-term impact.

Specifically for this article, we’ll explore both PLM (product lifecycle management) and MES (manufacturing execution system).


PLM — an information strategy and an enterprise strategy

PLM software integrates data, processes, systems, and people in an extended enterprise. Hold it. That sounds like an ERP, which “manages, stores, and uses data to help complete numerous business activities.”

Here’s the difference: PLM, as its names implies, is focused on the product lifecycle: ideation → realization → utilization

With efficient and cost-effective product lifecycle management, a business can make unified decisions about a product based on information. So, its ability to consolidate multiple systems and build a coherent data structure makes it an “information strategy,” and its ability to learn from best practices and unite an entire organization makes it an “enterprise strategy.”

It’s easier to collect data than to do useful things with it, which brings us to the big question: Is PLM software ready for the future? The ongoing rush of Internet of Things (IoT) data requires management and insight. Cloud-based PLM is a natural progression, helping manufacturers bring IoT data into new product development.


MES — ready for the future now

For good reason, many PLM software solutions are in use today. What could an MES possibly add? Some manufacturers want to truly see and understand plant floor activity. An MES is a holistic solution, providing 360-degree visibility into production processes.

Best of all, high-end MES solutions — the ones that regularly undergo upgrades and the latest advancements — can be matched to the right environment and seamlessly interfaced with PLM software.

Similar to an ERP system, this isn’t really an “either-or” decision. An MES complements the strengths of an existing PLM system. In fact, both MES and PLM software share a passion for creating and enforcing a repeatable process.

When it comes to Industry 4.0 solutions that unite workers and machines on the factory floor and throughout an organization, an MES solution is:

  • Inexpensive — especially when compared to other manufacturing investments
  • Smart — it communicates with all the equipment you currently have
  • Flexible — it aids digital transformation, leveraging your current technology
  • Easy and Quick — installation in weeks, not years


There’s no doubt that manufacturers are feeling the pressure. Technology to stay competitive is needed, but the fear of choosing one can be paralyzing. We’re here to talk through your options or even arrange an MES demo. Contact us when you’re ready.

We’ve boiled down the top three digital enterprise systems into one infographic, The Digital Enterprise — ERP vs. PLM vs. MES. Get your copy by clicking the button below!

4 Big Benefits of an MES Solution
for discrete manufacturing