Care and Feeding of Your MES or Paperless Manufacturing System

Maximizing the ROI and benefit of your shop floor system isn’t hard, if you plan for regular upkeep and maintenance of the system.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

This spring, I planted a garden in the back yard.  With the kids, I tilled the ground, added fertilizer and topsoil, put up tomato cages, and carefully planted seeds.  I’m happy to report, our efforts worked.  In just a few days we saw new growth peek out of the ground.  There are leafy green lettuce, prickly tendrils of cucumbers, and tomato vines slowly making their way up the cages.

Like any garden, your paperless manufacturing system requires a little attention to continue to operate efficiently.

Like any garden, your paperless manufacturing system requires a little attention to continue to operate efficiently.

But, here’s what I’ve come to learn… planting a (successful) garden requires some work!  We now have a “watering schedule,” and each night one of us takes the hose and waters the garden.  On the weekend, we pull weeds.  We’ve added more stakes for the wayward tomatoes that want to grow out, not up.  Keeping the belligerent cucumber in line is daily task.  But, we’ve already made our first salad from lettuce in the garden, so the diligence in our upkeep is paying off.

I see a lot of similarities between an MES or paperless manufacturing system and my garden.

Any good MES (or garden) project starts by studying your current processes and work flow, then formulating a requirement list.  Then you have to plan the project, coordinate schedules with your team, gather the tools and materials and put it all together.

But the work doesn’t stop with the installation, which I didn’t realize when the garden was planted.  You need to keep the system up and running with regular maintenance.  Change is constantly happening on the shop floor.  There are new processes, new technology, new tools and new employees.  Every change subtly alters how you might be using the system, or how the system might be supporting your shop floor processes.  This is where simple upkeep and basic maintenance can have a substantial positive impact on your investment.  Here are a few basic tips to keep in mind as you evaluate paperless manufacturing vendors or plan your own installation:

  • Is there a cost for patches?  Face it, with any complex computer system there will come a time for a patch.  It’s part of the basic maintenance of the system.  Find out if there is a cost associated with a patch.  Does the system you purchased have a patch, maintenance and upkeep plan, and who is managing it?  How will it work?  These answers will have a direct impact on the ROI.
  • Make sure your MES vendor offers value when it comes to upkeep, maintenance and upgrades.

    Make sure your MES vendor offers value when it comes to upkeep, maintenance and upgrades.

    What about upgrades?  As new technology is introduced to the market, new features and functionality will be available for the system.  Before you install a system, look at the cost (if there is one) for an upgrade.  Some systems offer upgrades free of charge (or for a minimal cost), ensuring you aren’t looking for a new MES or paperless system every few years once your current system can no longer adequately support your shop floor.

  • How much does basic service cost?  Even if you aren’t planning on making any changes or updates to the system now, there may come a time when you need a basic service.  These services could include a custom report, an integration to another system, or a data migration.  Look at the service costs when evaluating vendors.
  • Does the vendor offer a schedule or price guarantee?  If not, then keep in mind the initial project estimate may not resemble the final price you pay for the system, especially if you are charged for the basic upkeep such as patches or continuing training.
  • Can your team configure or customize the system?  Face it, some vendors will charge you less up front, knowing that you must turn to them for any configuration or customization to the system.  Ask about the administrative functions of the system, and how the configurations are handled.

Many of these questions seem simple, but the answers will have an impact on the final cost of your paperless manufacturing system and the ROI.  Even as you install the software, change is happening, affecting the overall effectiveness of the system.  Basic maintenance through patches, upgrades and further training, will help ensure the software continues to deliver positive benefits to you and your team.

Think of it like the garden… without basic upkeep, the cucumber would slowly strangle the tomatoes, weeds would overwhelm the lettuce, and a few days of no rain would turn the leaves brown.  A little bit of work ensures a healthy garden and a continuing ROI (and no one wants their MES to strangle their ERP).

Questions, or want to see how CIMx helps our customers optimize their system with a dedicated product engineer?  Give us a call or leave a message, we’re happy to help.

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