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IT applications for manufacturing operations and control.


Today there are approximately 70 different MES software solutions offered for the German-speaking market (Wiendahl et al., 2007), and many more specialised applications which cover single MES functionalities. This shows that many software vendors try to answer the call for IT in the area of manufacturing. But in contrary to ERP systems there is no general agreement about the design of an MES.

The first step was to popularise the idea of MES. Over the past decade papers concerning the definition of MES and its functionalities have been published (MESA, 1997; VDI 2006). But the awareness of the term MES in the German speaking industry is still quite low (Wiendahl et al., 2007; Lewandowski et al. 2008). Further publications about practical examples, where MES solutions were implemented, were more focused on the advantages in general (cp. Kozian, 2000) rather than on the realisation of MES functions with software. Only the topic of interfaces between applications in the area of MES and across its boundaries is a slightly more developed (ISA, 2000).

For this reason two surveys within a study of the Vienna University of Technology were carried out in order to get a better idea about the state-of-the-art concerning IT in the manufacturing industry. This paper focuses on the implemented systems in layer 3 (manufacturing operations and control) of the functional hierarchy by ISA 95 (ISA, 2000). Furthermore the interpretation of the data basis will be the start for future researches.


The main part of the study is based on face-to-face interviews with twenty-two polled enterprises. In addition an online survey was carried out in order to increase the number of questioned companies to fifty-one.

2.1 Objectives

All objectives of the study focus on the area of MES:

* Identification of the used IT systems.

* Finding out the level of automation and integration of IT systems.

* Assessing the demand for IT systems.

* Looking for potentials in the companies' software landscape.

* Identifying the awareness of new IT solutions like MES.

2.2 Target Group

The regional origin of the enterprises was restricted to Austria. Moreover the study was primarily aimed at small to medium sized companies. The number of employees in the face-to-face interviews ranged approximately from 50 to 500 employees, whereas there was no limit in the online survey. All of the polled companies belong to the producing sector.

2.3 Survey Method

During the preparations for the study a theoretical framework was developed. It is based on the tasks and functions of the "Aachener model for production and control" (Schuh, 2006) combined with the structure of the functional hierarchy of ISA 95 (ISA, 2000). Furthermore the model was cross-checked with further American and European literature like MESA (MESA, 1997) or the VDI report (VDI, 2006).

This framework was used in the face-to-face interviews in order to build up a guideline for the interview procedure and to structure and document the information afterwards. The duration of the interviews ranged from 70 up to 180 minutes (with an average of 117 minutes). In contrast to the online survey, there were no predefined answers used in the face-to-face interviews.


In this chapter the results of both surveys are included. Percentage figures in this chapter always refer to the online survey and will be annotated by the experiences and analyses of the face-to-face interviews. Differing results in the two surveys will be marked separately.

The use of IT in the various areas of the manufacturing environment is diverse. Table 1 shows the used IT systems in eight manufacturing areas.

ERP extension stands for additional individually developed functionalities of the standard. For the purpose of the survey standard software modules like scheduling, shop floor data collection or an integrated MES are subsumed under "other standard software". In contrast, individual software stands for software which is specially developed for a certain functionality of one company.

In general MS Office products are the most used software type, followed by manufacturing-related models of ERP systems. Only in three areas (resource, maintenance and deployment management) companies work without any IT system. This outcome is a confirmation of the face-to-face interviews. There were also different systems used in the area of manufacturing but there were more companies which quoted to use no software for single functionalities like maintenance or in production control. It looks as if the area of manufacturing is well covered by IT systems, but the reality is different. Analyses of the face-to-face interviews, as well as the online survey, demonstrate that the reported systems in use show only half the truth. The range and level of supported functions is very important and differs a lot from company to company.

In the area of order management IT support (mainly ERP systems) ends after rough planning. 74% of the companies send their production orders as a printed document to the job-shop. Concerning completion-confirmation-data the majority of the companies' shop floor data is entered manually. Automated data collection is realised by 50% of the companies. In general completion-confirmation-data is seen as very important, but companies have some problems in the aggregation of the data.

In 87% the companies' resource management is covered by a software system. Slightly more than half of the enterprises are quite satisfied with the IT support and one third demands more automated data collection. Approximately 9% are not happy with their current software solution.

Although the companies stated that they support maintenance with several systems the level of automation is rather low. 73% of the enterprises have a manual interface for this functionality and only 23% demand more automated data collection. Approximately 60% of the companies feel comfortable with the IT support and will not invest in this area. In the face-to-face interviews many companies claimed maintenance to be an important function, but only few of them were using an integrated software tool.

In most cases material management functions are covered by production-related ERP modules. Furthermore the coverage of this area is very good. Material status or booking are well supported functionalities as well as the integrated inventory management. The area of tracking and tracing is also IT supported in many companies, but in in the face-to-face interviews users voiced that they were not satisfied with the provided functionalities. The topic RFID seems not to be important as almost no company uses RFID. Additionally the use of B2B, which was questioned only in the face-to-face interviews, turned out to be a marginal area of interest.

The most supported function of deployment management is the registration of attendance time. In this area 92% of the companies use an IT system. But only half of the companies use a software tool in order to plan the human resources. The willingness of the companies to invest in this functionality was approximately 30%. In many cases specialised systems are used for the deployment management which are seldom integrated. MS Office seems to be very important in this section, but it is always used in combination with other systems.

Similar to the deployment management there are also a lot of specialised systems used in the area of quality management. Moreover, the rate of MS Office products in use is very large, but ERP systems and individual software are also used quite often. The manipulation of the data is supported by 70% of the IT systems. A data transfer to another system is established by half of the enterprises. The readiness to invest is limited to quality inspection and documentation systems.

Document management is supported quite well by IT systems. Nearly 70% of the companies cover a huge range of functions with their software tools.

In the area of performance analysis every company records one or more performance indicators. Noticeable is that only one third of the companies quoted to use OEE. Furthermore, the enterprises polled in the face-to-face interviews stated that performance indicators demanded by the management level differ from the ones needed in the manufacturing area and are harder to provide due to missing integration or absence of IT systems.


In the area of manufacturing companies are using many different software applications. A reason for this situation is that enterprises have implemented IT systems in several manufacturing areas and different periods. Each solution was focused on the special needs of that area and realised with existing or best fitting software systems. As a result specialised vendors emerged, which provide IT applications for single manufacturing functions. But many companies have recognised the potentials of sharing the information of one IT system with others. On the other hand enterprises are quite satisfied with the present applications and in particular smaller companies do not want to replace their systems by an integrated MES software.


In order to find a solution for the problems reported in the chapters before, the Institute of Production Engineering of the Vienna University of Technology has built up a test facility, in which different software scenarios can be simulated. The idea is to work with an IT framework where several applications can be integrated with the help of standard interfaces of ISA 95 (ISA 95).


Instrument Society of America (2000). Enterprise-Control System Integration, Part1: Models and Terminology, ISA, 1-55617-727-5, North Carolina

Kozian, D. (2000). Anwendernutzen von MES / User benefit of MES, Available from: Accessed: 2008-08-01

Lewandowski, J.; Buhl, M. & Kittl, B. (2008) IT Applications in Production Planning and Control, Proceedings of the ICE-B, Filipe, J. et al. (Ed.), pp. 285-291, 978-989-811158-6, July 2008, INSTICC, Porto

Manufacturing Execution Systems Association (1997). MESA White Paper #06: MES a High Level Vision, Available from: Accessed: 2008-08-01

Schuh, G. (2006). Produktionsplanung und-steuerung / Production planning and control, Springer, 3-540-40306X, Berlin Heidelberg

Verein Deutscher Ingeneure (2006). VDI 5600 Blatt 1 Fertigungsmanagementsysteme / Manufacturing Execution Systems, Available from: Accessed: 2008-08-18

Wiendahl, H.-H.; Mussbach-Winter, U & Kipp, R. (2007). Marktspielgel Business Software, MES-Fertigungssteuerung 2007/2008 / Reflection of the business software market, MES-shop-floor control, Fraunhoferinstitut Produktionstechnik und Automatisierung/Trovarit AG, 978-3-938102-08-4, Stuttgart/Aachen
Tab. 1: Systems in use.

 MS Office ERP system extension

Order management 70% 70% 44%
Resource management 57% 43% 35%
Maintenance management 64% 41% 27%
Material management 59% 76% 41%
Deployment management 64% 44% 24%
Quality management 77% 46% 23%
Document management 64% 41% 23%
Performance analysis 76% 40% 44%
Average 66% 51% 33%

 standard individual
 SW SW no SW

Order management 44% 44% 0%
Resource management 17% 39% 13%
Maintenance management 45% 32% 5%
Material management 24% 38% 0%
Deployment management 44% 32% 4%
Quality management 35% 46% 0%
Document management 32% 36% 0%
Performance analysis 48% 44% 0%
Average 36% 39% 3%
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Author:Lewandowski, Jakob; Kittl, Burkhard
Publication:Annals of DAAAM & Proceedings
Article Type:Report
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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