Overcoming the Shop Floor Grinch and Finding MES Success

Many paperless manufacturing projects fail not due technology, but cultural or personality problems.  We show how to overcome the problems and find success.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Don't let a Grinch hold up your MES project.  Illustration by www.colurbox.com

Don’t let a Grinch hold up your MES project. Illustration by http://www.colurbox.com

We’ve done a lot of MES and paperless manufacturing implementations over the years, so we’ve also heard a lot of excuses as to why a digital shop floor would never, ever, work. “That’s not how we do it,” is one that comes up a lot. Most often, that’s quickly followed by. “It’s never going to work,” or “I can’t use that.”  We often also hear phrases, like, “Why do we need that?” or, “That won’t work.”

There are times when those phrases are uttered out of fear – fear of change or fear of the unknown, but other times those phrases are a sign of mistakes made early in the process.  They are often uttered by the grizzled shop floor veteran. He (or she) know their way around the shop floor, and have worked out the “best practices” for their job. A new system, even one that automates many of the most annoying and time consuming tasks or eliminates the errors that cause quality escapes or scrap, can’t (and probably shouldn’t) replicate the processes they are comfortable with.  Maybe they’re afraid of what the new system will mean for them?

Many times, when you start pushing them to change their ways, adjusting their work station, or forcing them to log in with a user name they don’t want, people can get grumpy, stubborn. This time of year, you could say they become Grinch-like.

It’s going to happen. The grump, or the Grinch, will make an appearance any time you make a major change on the shop floor (even a positive change) and you haven’t positioned your team for success. You can’t ignore them, and you can’t let the Grinch hold your shop floor back, so what do you do?

Never fear – here four steps you can take to give your Grinch-iest a dose of the paperless manufacturing spirit:

  • Identify the shop floor leaders, and get them involved early.

Before you even select a vendor or start configuring a solution, identify the shop floor leader(s) and bring them into the project. Bring them in early. If the (potential) Grinch really does understand how the shop floor works, and knows the processes, they can add value. Plus, by giving them a stake in the solution, they have an interest in ensuring the project’s success and can help overcome resistance from other workers.

  • Introduce the system through a phased implementation.

Many implementations fail when the shop floor tries to take on too much change withoutconsidering the needs of the end users. With a phased implementation, you select what parts of the project to tackle, and when you tackle them. Start with areas more receptive to change. Early success will make the transition easier.

  • Conduct training on the shop floor.

Face it, online training modules and the peace and quiet of a classroom will never compare to training on the shop floor. There is a big difference between an online lesson and the noise, speed, sound and pace of actual production. Until your workers can see the system in action, in the environment where they will be using it, they may not fully grasp the benefit.

  • Eliminate unnecessary complexity.

Manufacturing is the heart of your business. No matter what software you purchase, you need to make sure it enhances production. Some systems, especially older software requiring integration of multiple modules, will create unnecessary complexity or hinder work. Take a moment and actually listen to the concerns of the Grinch – make sure the system is providing the intended benefit and not hurting efficiency.


In the end, with any new MES or paperless manufacturing system there will be those that fear change, or are reluctant to embrace a new way of working. Recognize potential problems early in the selection and configuration phases of the project, and address the concerns of the Grinches and Grumps early.

Success in an MES or paperless manufacturing project is dependent on the culture of your shop floor as much as the technology that provides the foundation of the system. Address the culture needs early, and ensure the project is seen as a benefit to your shop – not just the latest toy for the front office.

Questions, or want to see how paperless manufacturing can benefit you? Let us know and we can have a project engineer review your shop floor for a system.

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