MES Migration

Why change your old MES?

Manufacturing Execution Systems have been around since the early 1980s. Typically these older systems were tailor made, designed or deeply customized to execute a particular production process.

These legacy applications lack the capability to change and to accommodate significant process change, either because of the way they were designed or because of the fact that changing their current functionality would cost more than replacing them.

Global manufacturers are now facing a question whether to update or replace these custom solutions with commercially available modern MES software that has 80% or more of the functionality they need out of the box.


The decision to replace the MES in place usually comes from a combination of several factors. The most urgent one is when the existing system is displaying problems with reliability, e.g. slow response times or frequent system re-boots. Even if that is not the case, legacy systems have some very serious limitations.

MES vendors offer very limited support and are not interested in further development of the old applications. The odds of running out of support in case of an incident or hardware problem become bigger and bigger.

Old fashioned MES are incapable of providing end-to-end visibility, due to their inability to integrate with higher level applications like ERP, or CRM or SCM.

Legacy MES are not able to accommodate process changes. Not being able to adapt and make use of new functionality makes the company with the old fashioned MES lose the edge in fast-growing and rapidly developing industry.

Migration to a newer more functional, modular and flexible MES application becomes a necessity, when the manufacturer begins to realize that the opportunity costs associated with maintaining the legacy system are increasing to an unacceptable level.

Company's motivation to replace it is driven by the following expected benefits:

Reducing costs due to easier/faster use and maintenance of the new system, minimizing diversity of in-plant applications and increasing re-utilization.

Improving productivity through capitalizing on new technologies and taking advantage of modern products and new functionality.

Mitigating the risk by ensuring long-term product support.

From the business point of view, company's motivation to replace it is driven by the following expected benefits:

Greater speed and agility to respond to new customer requests, product improvements, and market shifts.

Improving quality through complete records on processes and products, with correlations and analysis available both real-time during the process and for engineering off-line studies.

Accelerate innovation and improvement in products and processes that span the enterprise with strong integration between MES and enterprise systems and plant automation.

Migration strategies

Once a company with old generation MES decides to invest in a modern application, they face two major challenges: selecting the new MES and planning/executing the migration project.

In the Big Bang strategy at one point of time the old MES system is switched off and the new MES system is switched on.

The simplicity of this strategy as well as the short migration switching time makes this strategy attractive. However, because of all the interdependencies and the difficulty of re-creating all the conditions of a live production environment, this strategy carries a lot of risk.

In the Phased introduction approach the new MES is progressively introduced, either:

a) by manufacturing unit (area by area, step by step, equipment by equipment) or:
b) MES function by function or:
c) lot by lot.

In Parallel Systems method both the old MES and the new MES are used in parallel until enough confidence is built in the new MES.

There is no single best practice approach to the process of migration. The environment and context conditions will determine the appropriate path. Nevertheless, it’s possible to compare the different migration strategies relative to each other.

BIG BANG: Strategy with the highest risk, but the shortest migration time and lowest cost.

Recommended for:
- Paper or Excel based MES;
- Standalone MES application.

PHASED INTRODUCTION: Balanced migration strategy.

Recommended for:
- Integrated MES application, low automation.

PARALLEL SYSTEMS: Strategy with the lowest risk, but the highest cost.

Recommended for:
- Integrated MES application, high automation.

The decision of which migration strategy to use is driven primarily by three factors that must be weighted depending on the levels of interdependence, automation and downtime impact.

Risk: how much risk and risk exposure (probability x cost) is associated.

Time: how much time the project takes from start-to-finish, including the pre-migration, migration and post-migration phases.

Cost: how much costs are involved in the planning and execution of the selected strategy, including opportunity costs (e.g.: downtime).

White Paper:

MES Migration Strategies
by Critical Manufacturing

Companies with older generation MES are now facing a looming question whether to update or replace the custom solutions with commercially available MES software.

This White Paper addresses the challenges for the global manufacturers that consider migration to a modern MES and helps them evaluate the business and operational drivers for MES replacement.