Myths and Legends of MES and Paperless Manufacturing

Many companies end up throwing away money and production by looking for the wrong software system. Save yourself time and frustration by following a few simple tips.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Save time, money and headache by taking a few savvy steps when selecting a software solution for manufacturing. Image by www.colourbox.com

Save time, money and headache by taking a few savvy steps when selecting a software solution for manufacturing. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

First off, an out-of-the-box (OOTB) MES or paperless manufacturing system is NOT a magical rainbow unicorn. Unless you are willing to pay for a custom-built, one-of-a-kind system, no system will EXACTLY replicate the massive and painstakingly precise requirement list many companies feel must be the centerpiece of a software search. That precision is the primary (and only) benefit of custom systems. For that exactitude you better have the fortitude to handle the high-risk of project failure, the (inevitable and unending) additional costs, the massive support necessary over the life of the solution, the general headache you get from any piece of rainbow unicorn custom software slowly devolving into a legacy system.

If you start your search for the rainbow unicorn of OOTB software living in your dreams, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment and failure. But, even though rainbow unicorns are works of fantasy, that doesn’t mean an out-of-the-box can’t solve your most pressing shop floor problems, delivering tremendous production support and becoming an amazing tool for your shop floor. You just need to refocus your search by taking a few savvy steps.

Don’t be Fooled by Rainbow Unicorns

It’s easy to see where the myth of the magical rainbow unicorn comes from. Consider how some companies sell their software. They have a library of modules and options, like a manufacturing software candy store. They make tweaks to the same-old code they’ve been using for decades and repackage it as a new product made just for you, and then promise it’s an “advanced OOTB solution.”

Truth is, with enough time and money a company can turn any old code into your very own rainbow unicorn. That’s how software works. Problem is, rainbow unicorns are expensive, hard to upgrade, and costly to maintain.

A much better method for selecting manufacturing software is to focus on key priorities – those requirements that will make a major impact on production and deliver a rapid ROI. Then, look at the long term viability of the solution. Will it continue to deliver benefits when change happens?

Finding the Right Manufacturing Solution

Don't rely on a massive requirement or wish list when selecting a solution - focus on key priorities. Image by www.colourbox.com

Don’t rely on a massive requirement or wish list when selecting a solution – focus on key priorities. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

For most companies, there will be a few high-priority items or requirements that drive the expected ROI for the project. They are the REAL story of the project. By adding other items to the initial requirement list, you are drawing attention from the high-priority requirements with a “wish list” of items that are more likely to bloat the price rather than add value. The result – the company offering you the best, most cost-effective and efficient solution might not even be considered because, according to the requirements, Widget B is found in the wrong column of Screen X in the accounting dashboard….

Focus your search on the key priority items, and then expand to additional requirements once you have a solid solution in place. Many times, those additional requirements can be added through a simple configuration or by mapping the software to your processes. Just because the code wasn’t written for you doesn’t mean the software isn’t designed for your specific manufacturing processes. It can be, once the solution is mapped. Don’t let minor items derail your search.

Software Adaptability is the Key

Just because we’ve ruined the magical rainbow unicorn dreams of shop floors everywhere doesn’t mean the right software isn’t out there waiting for you! To ensure you have a long-term, viable solution, you need a solution that will adapt and grow as your shop floor needs change. In fact, it can be argued that an adaptable system is preferable to a highly configured and customized system perfectly designed for your current processes because change will happen.  The slightest change will either force the shop floor to adapt to the system (never a good idea) or require costly configuration or coding work.

With this in mind, avoid forms-based software systems. With a highly configured and customized system, it is easy to EXACTLY replicate your paper-based forms in the software. It looks nice and is easy to do when building a software system, and might be comfortable for users at first, but the minute you need to change a form or process (which will happen) then the hard-coded form in your system is suddenly holding production back.

The most effective software solution will be one that models your processes and production, rather than your forms or individual tasks inside the process. Can the system adjust when change happens? What about upgrades for the software? Is there an upgrade path, and what additional costs will there be for an upgrade?

Avoiding Monsters on the Shop Floor

Today, with modern software technology and advancements in information systems, there is no reason to use a monolithic behemoth of a custom software solution. You can enjoy the same benefits from an OOTB solution with a lower cost, viable and affordable upgrade path, and adaptability in an easy-to-use and –install system.

The system you select should grow with your business. If you have a company promising magical rainbow unicorns in their solution, while they send “implementation teams” to live at your facility, then you are probably looking at the wrong solution.

Want to experience a better way to select software, from strategizing about the solution, to mapping the software to your processes, to the final implementation and training? Want to learn how trust in your software supplier can benefit you and your shop floor? Contact CIMx today for a free evaluation and learn what paperless manufacturing can do for you.

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