5 Truths to Shatter the “Too Big to Fail” MES Myth

Many companies seek out the biggest MES vendor, believing it is the “best” option for their manufacturing software.  That decision is often the biggest obstacle in project success.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Process Improvement graph.

Are you selecting your software vendor for the right reasons? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

We’ve all heard about banks and financial institutions that are simply, “too big to fail.”  The reasoning – we’ve based so much of our financial well-being on the success of the company, failure would negatively and irrevocably impact the global market.

This same reasoning drives many companies to seek manufacturing software solutions from the biggest vendor they can find.  Size becomes the driving factor in the selection process, while every other factor, such as shop floor needs, ROI, or production benefit, becomes a secondary consideration.   The unfortunate result – many companies come to regret their decision and end up with a less than adequate and entirely over-priced solution.  Truth is, many times with MES a solution is too big to succeed.  Consider these factors:

  • The right solution is more likely to ensure success than extra manpower. For most companies, success will be reached by a solution that successfully maps to your work processes and delivers tools to help your team work better, faster, and with fewer errors.  Throwing manpower and tech support at a problem isn’t project management.
  • Old software will increase the risk, complexity and cost of a project. Many large companies offer older software because they no longer innovate.  Big companies don’t have an appetite for the risk required of innovation.  They buy smaller companies or different products to simulate innovation, while their core software gets old and dusty.
  • The amount of functionality is less important than the software’s match to your process needs. Few companies ever use all the functionality offered in manufacturing software.  A library of software modules and a sea of buttons on the screen don’t make the software better.  The right button and a sensible solution will.
  • Large service teams mean higher service costs, additional complexity, and greater risk. If a solution is truly flexible and scalable, massive service teams shouldn’t be necessary.  The system should adapt to your needs, offer a platform for improved production, and not require wholesale changes to existing operations.
  • Long-term project success requires an upgrade plan and flexibility. Often with a long development project, by the time the software is finished the production needs will have changed.  The software is already out of date.  Look for vendors that offer an upgrade plan and is flexible enough to meet the changing needs of your shop floor.

Enough time, patience, money and resources will ensure the completion of any software project.  However, simply completing a project isn’t success.  There are many examples of a “big solution” offered by a large company that ends up slowing down production on the shop floor.  “Big solutions” are often complex, and more focused on added functionality – such as front office reporting, data analysis, or PLM or ERP tools, rather than the shop floor.  As a result, the managers and shop techs dislike the solution enough to avoid it.  To be honest, why should they use it if it doesn’t offer them the tools they need?

When evaluating the size and scope of a project, especially one with a larger vendor, consider your companies appetite for cost and complexity.  Will the solution be used?  A solution will offer no ROI if no one uses it.  Also consider the installation schedule.  Technology changes so rapidly that 5-10 year old solutions can be obsolete before it is installed, especially from an efficiency, quality improvement and savings perspective.

Want to help ensure a successful MES or paperless manufacturing project?  Determine your key priorities with a focused list.  Minimize additional “wants” or lesser priorities, and use the list to drive your selection of a vendor.  The list will keep you focused on the key priorities that determine project success, rather than corollary factors with little ROI, such as the size of the company you are considering.

With modern software solutions, the size of the company is no longer a driving factor in the success of the software.  Steve Jobs once said “A small team of A players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.”  Make sure you work with A players.

Want to learn more, or talk about how you should go about creating a list of key priorities?  Give us a call and talk to a project engineer about how we can help.

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