Many times an MES or Paperless Manufacturing implementation becomes an internal political struggle, which leads to production consequences that may take years to recover from.
By Brandon Mendenhall, Product Support Engineer for CIMx Software
From our experience, most MES and Paperless Manufacturing implementation projects begin with a specific problem the customer needs to solve. This problem may be a failed audit, a quality escape, or even just out-of-control paper records. One person or group may be determined to solve the problem. They will drive the project, attending the implementation meetings and demos, and drafting the list of requirements. Even so, they may not be the ones LEADING the project… That may be an entirely different group in the organization, which can be a serious problem for many implementation projects.
Maximizing the Benefit
With technology changing at a rapid pace, shaping all aspects of enterprise operations, it becomes a challenge to determine who owns information systems such as MES. In the past most assumed IT supported/owned all technology, but today those lines are blurred and we need to question those assumptions. So, the question remains, who is responsible for Manufacturing Executions Systems (MES)?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a one size fits all type of answer. Consider this – the goal of systems like an MES or QMS (Quality Management System) is to improve production, so is IT best positioned to select and implement MES and QMS functionality? Is Operations or Sales and Marketing best suited to maintain and upgrade the system over the life of the installation? The idea that a single group should have full ownership of a system is dated and inefficient. As complex and integral as today’s enterprise software is, joint ownership is necessary. User groups need to have an active role in supporting and maintaining the system.
Tips for Sharing Ownership
Each group in a company has different priorities and different requirements for a new software system. IT may require ease of implementation and a low-maintenance system, so they may look for an additional module or add-on to an existing system, rather than a whole new implementation. For management, it may be analytics, and for sales and customer service it may be a real-time view of production. Operations may need data collection, or elimination of paper build books.
For the software, there are two key factors that must be considered when selecting an MES. One would be the infrastructure, and the other would be the functionality of the system. IT is best suited to manage the infrastructure requirements. They should already be monitoring and maintaining the infrastructure for the company, which makes them a key asset to ensure that the MES can be implemented and function on the organizations current infrastructure.
The second key factor is the functionality of the system. For most manufacturers, production is the key profit driver for the company. Since an MES directly impacts production, plant operations should at least guide the functionality requirements. The users utilizing the system to manage and improve production need to influence the final selection of the system. Other users may have different requirements, but the primary requirements should be focused on production needs.
Putting All the Pieces Together
Understanding that multiple groups are dependent on the success of an MES helps build a stronger relationship between departments and more easily allows support and functionality to scale as the company grows. IT can best determine when to change or upgrade the infrastructure of the system, while Operations can guide the adoption of new functionality to meet the changing needs of production. Even Management and sales and marketing should provide input in the direction of the system.
In the end, an MES is a critical foundation for the enterprise, and each department needs to provide input to maximize the effectiveness of the software.
Organizations run into issues when there are barriers between departments/teams. It’s crucial to understand that not just one person has responsibility for an MES, but all groups impacted must take ownership of the requirements, maintenance and implementation. When you begin the project with this goal in mind, the silos and barriers that once crippled a company can be eliminated as the system becomes the foundation for improved processes across the enterprise.