The Most Critical Factor in a Successful MES Implementation

After more than 18 years of offering shop floor software solutions to manufacturers, we’ve gained insight into one surprising factor that can lead a project to success or failure.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

When implementing a paperless manufacturing system, selecting the right vendor can be more important than the right system. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

When implementing a paperless manufacturing system, selecting the right vendor can be more important than the right system. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

I was once asked to name the one factor that would make a difference in the success or failure of an MES or paperless manufacturing implementation. I pushed to think outside of the box, but first considered many of the standard, and legitimate, factors that contribute to project success such as…

… an honest evaluation of your shop floor processes. This is vitally important. Without input from the users of a system and a vision of how it will support production, you can be left with a system that hinders more than supports operations.

… a focused list of requirements. There are projects doomed from the start by a requirement list numbering in the hundreds, even thousands, and many of those “requirements” offering little ROI. The price ends up ballooning as the project team focuses on items that add little to overall project success.

… product functionality. Functionality will define the software, but let’s be honest; comparing functionality lists isn’t a critical requirement for a project. Given enough time and resources, a software vendor can add any functionality you need. I’d rather have an adaptable system that supports my production than one that has more buttons on each screen, leading me to features I may never use.

… cost. An over-priced product that doesn’t aid production or offer a reasonable ROI will doom a project, and you do need a clear picture of the ROI before implementation begins. But, if you’ve determined your ROI on the project, and the schedule is acceptable, the project should pay for itself, or you go find another vendor.

There are a number of other factors I considered, but the more I thought about it, the more one factor kept coming up. It’s not one many companies think about, but it ultimately leads to success more than any other factor…

Trust.

The Trust Factor in your Manufacturing Solution

I know, it sounds silly. Even writing it, I’m reminded of the phrases you might find in an online dating form. “Seeking SO to build trust and for long walks on the beach…” BLAH!

But, consider these factors when evaluating how much priority to give “trust” when selecting a vendor:

  • Cost.

Many software vendors are reluctant to offer a “price not to exceed” guarantee on an estimate, because they rely on service charges to pad the final bill. They plan to add service charges for necessary work not included in the initial estimate. Yes, there are vendors out there giving the rest of us a bad name. Find a software vendor you can trust to give you an honest estimate.

  • Culture.

Shop floor software is as much a cultural solution as a technological one. Consider this – you can have the best software in the world, but if your workers aren’t using it to improve production, it becomes shelfware. Try to cram a solution on someone and they’ll find a way to ignore it. You need a vendor willing to work with your shop floor as well as the front office and management, helping to guide employees to a new way of working. Trust is going to be a vital tool for a successful vendor.

  • Processes.

The functionality of the software is only one piece of a complex puzzle that is a shop floor system. The functions need to manage and support the manufacturing processes. In the past, when MES and paperless manufacturing systems were only available to the largest manufacturing companies, software was built custom so process fit was (hopefully) given. Today, with the availability of modern, off-the-shelf solutions, you need a vendor who will work with you to map the existing functionality of the software to your processes, and partner with you to configure the system to meet your specialized needs. They have to understand your processes to offer the best, most cost effective solution possible. The only way to be sure they are working with your best interests at heart is through trust.

  • Total Cost of Ownership.

The first bill you receive for your shop floor system is only part of the overall cost of the software. Most solutions are designed to be a long-term solution, so there will be recurring costs, adding to the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). You want a vendor that isn’t going to sell you software, install it and then leave. You want one that will work as a partner, helping to ensure the software remains an effective and efficient tool for production over the life of the installation. Do they offer an upgrade path? Will upgrading the software be cost effective, or will it be cost prohibitive? Are you going to be relying on a help desk to solve problems, or will you have a knowledgeable resource available when you need them?


As I thought about the critical factors in project success, I kept coming back to trust. Purchasing an MES isn’t like purchasing a vacuum or even an app for your phone. It’s an investment not only in money, but time and company resources. The system should provide a long-term solution, not just short term relief. It should grow with you and your company, providing a foundation for growth and increased production.

You need to evaluate the purchase of a shop floor solution differently. Consider factors other than just cost, or a list of functionality. Done properly, you are purchasing more than just code on a server (somewhere) but a manufacturing partner willing to provide a tool for your shop floor for many years to come. This is why CIMx works so hard to earn the trust of our customers. We understand how critical trust is in an implementation. From the beginning, our goal is to offer a long-term solution to our customers. Building trust guides our every interaction with a customer. We see every implementation as the beginning of a partnership.

If you aren’t sure you can trust your vendor, then you are presenting your project team with a challenge they may never overcome. Want to learn more, or see how CIMx can help you solve manufacturing challenges, then contact us today,

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