Discover the Truth of MES Implementations

We offer a few simple tips that can help you discover the truth in the “implementation” claims in the MES and Paperless Manufacturing Market.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Deciphering the truth in vendor claims about MES and Paperless Manufacturing implementations can be a challenge, unless you're armed with the right questions to ask. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Deciphering the truth in vendor claims about MES and Paperless Manufacturing implementations can be a challenge, unless you’re armed with the right questions to ask. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Have you ever tried to implement desert-time with a clever and determined five-year old and his sweet-tooth?  The other day, I was wrapping up dinner at a friend’s house.  His son wanted dessert – a cookie.  I told him to pick out a “small-one,” and he came back with an entire plate full of broken cookies and a mouth already covered in crumbs.  “What happened to picking out a small one?” I asked.

“These are all small,” he argued.  “I just cracked them, see?”

Making sense of “implementation” claims from MES vendors can be a lot like managing a five-year old at dessert time.

The other day, I came across a news release from an MES vendor that celebrated a “rapid deployment” and implementation of the software in just under six months. This was the result of the “… robust, out-of-the box solution.”  My first thought was six months feels like a LONG time to deploy a true out-of-the-box solution (unless you keep the solution in a really confusing box).  Then I wondered at how long other implementations might be for these customers?  If six months is a “rapid” deployment, then what time frame are we talking about for a long deployment?  Years?

It reminded me of the difference in definitions of “a small one” when it came time for dessert with a five-year old.

Making Sense of MES and Paperless Manufacturing Installations

I’m not trying to single out systems, vendors or claims.  The truth is, there are many definitions for deployment and implementation, and every shop floor and enterprise is different.  In this industry, it is difficult to judge an industry claim due to variations in our definition of “implementation” or even when a project is complete.  This is why it’s important not to take “deployment” claims at face value, and to ask a few key questions before anyone heads to the cookie jar, including:

Not asking the right questions when researching MES can lead to project problems. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Not asking the right questions when researching MES can lead to project problems. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

  • How much customization (or configuration) will the project require?  Many vendors claim to have an “out-of-the-box” solution when all they have is a box of tools that require “configuration” to install and fit your needs. The larger the customization the higher the potential total cost of ownership and the longer implementation schedule.
  • Is there a method and technology to integrate the software with other systems?  Too often, the software is installed quickly, but the service costs creep up during phase 2 as custom work is done to integrate it with the ERP or other enterprise systems.
  • What is the average service cost for installing the software?  There are vendors out there who will sell software at a lower cost, with the intent to make up the difference in service charges during and after the implementation.  Having a clear idea of service costs will help determine a true price for the installation.  An out-of-the-box solution, by definition, must have lower service costs than license cost.
  • Will the initial implementation offer full system functionality?  Some vendors offer systems as a series of “modules” that are cobbled together like Frankenstein.  Each piece of Frankenstein may work individually, but the whole system will need additional work to meet your shop floor needs.  A group of boxes stacked together is not an out-of-the-box solution.
  • How will your existing work plans be entered into the system?  Many systems, especially template-based systems, can’t use your existing work plans.  Once the software is installed, you’ll face the massive task of getting all that data into the system in a strange format you need to learn and may have difficulty supporting.
  • How much training is required?  Systems that are too complex or won’t meet the shop floor need might be installed quickly, and then end up as shelfware.  Complexity rarely translates to productivity or efficiency.
  • How much shop floor disruption will the installation and training cause?  Six months may seem like a “rapid deployment,” but production lines down during installation will impact your ROI.

The truth is, you shouldn’t make a decision based on claims.  Minimize risk and cost by asking a few simple questions before signing a contract.

Get the facts and find a software provider you can trust, or you might be left with a plate full of broken cookies instead of the shop floor system you expected.

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