4 Tips to Kick Your MES Project Off Right

4 Tips to Kick Your MES Project off Right

Urban Myths abound with stories of improvement projects gone horribly wrong, such as a bathroom remodel leading to a flooded basement, or plastic surgery with Frankenstein-like results.

Heed the warning signs and don’t get trapped by unintended consequences of your improvement project.

MES improvement projects are notorious for unintended consequences.  Many MES projects have excellent results, leading to production improvements and a speedy ROI, but others deserve the notoriety.  Improvement projects gone wrong are usually the result of mistakes made early in the project.  Let’s take a look at a few tips as you plan a manufacturing improvement project:

1)      Plan a project that focuses on need and ROI.  Many times, MES project brainstorming leads to a MASSIVE list of business needs and potential functionality.  Everyone sees an MES as a solution to their workplace pet peeve, and with an MES provider eager for the work and willing to promise anything, a bloated list of “priorities” is the result.  Added functionality requires expensive extra programming code, and additional risk, project overruns and unnecessary complexity are what many companies are left with.

There are focused steps to producing a list of MES requirements.  First, identify core needs, and then calculate the ROI for each need.  An ROI and a clear goal should be attached to each element of functionality.  Once you have a strong system in place and are realizing an ROI, you can include additional functionality.  Initial brainstorming sessions that result in lists with everything but the kitchen sink fool many manufacturer’s into believing their only option for improving their business is to develop a one-of-a-kind, do-everything solution, which leads us to our next tip…

2)      Beware of the custom code pitfalls!  There is a reassuring element to a customized MES solution, because it is developed just for your business, but you need to BEWARE the warm, fuzzy feeling a singular, one-of-a-kind custom solution might give you.  No one can argue in a perfect world custom MES MIGHT be the best solution at a moment in time, but designing a one-of-a-kind solution requires an entire team of expensive software developers to create.  It is a lengthy, expensive, and risky process.

A few simple tips help ensure all the pieces fit with your manufacturing solution.

Upgrading an MES built on custom code is a costly project requiring another team of programmers.  This is an additional expense many companies don’t consider.  Since technology and processes are changing so rapidly, upgrades are necessary and frequent.  Problems with custom code are only getting worse.  Many manufacturers with one-of-a-kind systems are burdened with outdated solutions because the cost of upgrading is so high.  Don’t focus your attention on a solution based on custom code. Look at solutions which allow configuration and customized options that work for your existing processes without burdening you with custom code. There are much better options than a custom solution available for manufacturers, including…

3)      Paperless Manufacturing is a low-cost, low-risk option you should look at.  Paperless Manufacturing is not just another way of saying MES.  The differences can benefit the success of your improvement project.  Paperless Manufacturing, or the simple step of digitizing your existing work orders with a system of delivering and viewing those work orders on the shop floor, can deliver more than 80% of the benefits of a full MES with less risk and much less cost.  In addition, you have revision control to ensure the shop is working on only the latest version of the work order.  Procedural enforcement is encoded in the work orders to ensure tasks are performed in the proper order, and data can be collected as part of the work instruction and validated by the system to minimize errors.  These are a few of the benefits you can realize with Paperless Manufacturing.

Initially a Paperless Manufacturing system won’t deliver all the special reports found in a full MES, and there may be fewer data collection points, but this functionality can be added later, making Paperless Manufacturing an excellent first step toward a full MES solution.  And with no need for data migration, or extensive custom code, a Paperless Manufacturing system can be implemented in less than 30 days.  In addition, Paperless Manufacturing allows you the luxury of selecting the functionality and features you want to implement, giving you full control of the project including elimination of production errors and procedural enforcement, which is important when you want to…

4)      Ensure a “fit” to your processes and sustainable improvements. There are many times MES projects implement unnecessary complexities to a process, or the MES providers force their own processes on the shop floor.  Often this is the result of rushed projects or overly complex systems that don’t fit current shop floor processes.  Sometimes this leads to shelfware, or workers “backsliding” and using the old methods because they are easier or simply work better.

If the focus is only functionality, and not the human element of the manufacturing process, sustainability is sacrificed.  Look for MES or Paperless Manufacturing systems that accommodate your processes and use your existing work orders.  This will give you a good idea of how easy or “painful” implementation might be on the shop floor, and how quickly you can realize the ROI.

Face it, an MES can be a risky improvement project, but it offers rewards that dramatically improve a manufacturing business.  The benefits of an MES can’t be found in an ERP or other software, and competitive companies need to start embracing the technology if they want to stay competitive.  Make improvement work for you, dramatically reduce the risks and take control of the project by following these simple tips, especially find a solution that “fits” and not one you need to change processes to “fit to it”.

Have you considered implementing an MES on your shop floor recently, or did you lead a process improvement project?  If so, what did you learn?  How did you manage risk?  Let us know!

Next week, we’re going to take a close look at the stakeholders in a production improvement project, and how you can set yourself up for success by inviting the right people to the planning table.  See you then!

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