You Can Build a Business Case for an MES

Many manufacturers understand the benefit of an MES for their shop floor operations, but struggle to build a case for implementation.  We offer three tips for building a convincing case for MES.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Ever try to convince a 3 year-old to eat vegetables?

kids

What can a savvy 3 year-old teach you as you build a case for paperless manufacturing?

Most times, you explore tactics looking for one that works.  You start with logic (“It’s good for you!”).  Then you try threats (“Eat those peas, now!”) before moving on to bartering (“We’ll eat dessert if you try the peas.)  Finally, other strategies are considered, like reverse psychology (“I figured you wouldn’t eat the good peas,”) identification, (“Dora likes to eat peas,”) to pure insanity (“Tater tots are SO lonely in your belly, can they play with peas?”).  The negotiation continues until you find the strategy that works… and many times it never does.

Unfortunately, for many shop floors, building a case study for MES resembles convincing a 3-year old to eat peas.  The MES team knows there is a problem (more than likely, many problems).  They need to present a convincing case study, but aren’t sure how to start.  The team will try everything to build a case, creating a mess that does more to confuse than convince.

Building a Case for Paperless Manufacturing

Here are three expert tips for building a case study that works:

  1. Focus

Most MES or paperless manufacturing projects begin with a single problem – such as quality escapes, paper-based errors, poor data collection, or no shop floor control.

Unfortunately, once a potential solution is identified, companies begin to add functionality.  The solution grows (and adds cost and complexity) as people add their requirements to the project.  The scope balloons as everyone wants to make it “their” project.  The project quickly explodes with requirements and additional functionality.  The original problem is lost in the chaos.

When building a case for MES, more is not better.  Adding functionality and requirements will not make it easier to prove an ROI, it will just increase cost (dramatically) and delay implementation – which isn’t a good thing when building a case for MES.

Focus on solving the initial problem.  The benefits and ROI delivered with the initial solution will help justify later requirements, and keep the project focused, manageable, and cost effective.  One costly problem solved with a positive ROI is better than 10 problems partially addressed.

  1. Plan in phases

It is much easier to build support for a project that makes incremental changes through smaller phases than tackling a massive project that with a very high cost and significant risk for production disruption.  We call this incremental process a “phased implementation.”  A phased implementation allows greater project control with more immediate benefits, helping you build your case for MES.

Think of it like this – the bigger the project, the more variables you’ll need to address.  A 2-year project will have 2 years of costs, potential disruptions and project unknowns to punch holes in your business case.  A single 2 month phase of a (potentially) larger project is much easier to predict.  The costs can be managed, and shop floor disruption (if any)  controlled.  The ROI is often easier to calculate, and with lower costs you can more easily build a case.  In some cases the most important benefit of short measurable phases is a tangible demonstration to management of increased efficiency or quality.

There is a reason why the savvy 3 year-old will first ask for an elephant before requesting a new puppy.  A single puppy is easier to justify than the massive, elephant-like MES project.

  1. Follow a few simple tips to build an air-tight case for shop floor innovation and production improvement.  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

    Follow a few simple tips to build an air-tight case for shop floor innovation and production improvement. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

    Assign a cost

Once you’ve identified a problem or challenge, determine the cost.  If troublesome as-built records are the challenge, then calculate employee time currently spent searching and assembling as-built records.  Identify how much other work is delayed assembling the records.   Calculate production delays or business lost because you don’t have readily accessible as-built records.

Spend a little time putting the numbers together.  Most of the time, companies are shocked to learn how much they spend struggling to overcome (avoidable) shop floor problems.  Compare that number to the cost to purchase and implement a solution, and you’ll have the core of your ROI.  A true business case is more than just a retelling of the requirement list.  It should look at the costs to determine whether the solution offers an ROI.  It may not, but working with a focused solution over a single phase will help minimize costs and simplify the ROI calculation.  Most company executives welcome the shorter phases, smaller costs, and frequent examples of positive impact on the business.

 Building For the Future

Building a business case for an MES or paperless manufacturing is not only possible, but likely much easier than you might think.  It’s definitely easier than convincing a 3 year-old of the importance of peas and spinach when they know candy is SO tasty.

Want to know more?  Check out our blog on Insider Tips on Calculating ROI for your Shop Floor System, or a recent article we wrote on Uncovering the Real Benefits of MES and Paperless Manufacturing.  No other purchase has the potential to significantly improve shop floor production like paperless manufacturing.  Still worried?  Give us a call and let us answer your questions.

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