How to Start an MES Project without a Budget

Companies without a specific budget for paperless manufacturing end up living with shop floor inefficiencies for no reason. There are steps you can take even without a budget for a project.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

There are shop floors still resisting digital manufacturing. They struggle with massive, inefficient bundles of confusing paper work instructions that no one ever reads and may not even be correct.  They labor under shop floor blindness – never knowing when or if a project will be completed.  Quality escapes are commonplace, and without strong analytics or real time quality checks, coming up with a solution is like throwing darts blindfolded.

In every case, some know things have to change. As the pace of manufacturing increases and customers demand more, the problems will only be magnified. At some point the profit eating problems must be solved or the company may disappear.

Problem is – these shop floors don’t have a budget, and so they wait and hope things get better.

Waiting Until Next Year Isn’t a Solution

Just because you don’t have a budget (yet), doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start work on a project. There are steps you can take that don’t require a budget, and some important tasks you can (and should) start before looking at budget. It may be a project can succeed even without a formal budget; just the dedication of a few individuals.

Process Improvement graph.

A successful MES project doesn’t start with a budget. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

For example:

  • Start building your team.

No one person can manage an MES or paperless manufacturing project alone. If there are problems with production hurting the bottom line, there will be others interested in finding a solution. Begin building a team. Bringing others into the project will not only help in finding a better solution, it will also help build consensus and support for the project. You and everyone else may be busy so how do you find the time to squeeze in a “skunkworks” project? Talk about it during breaks or during lunch. Develop a group of passionate believers in improving your company; it may save their jobs someday.

  • Evaluate your internal processes.

Before you buy a solution, any solution, you need to have a strong idea what shape the project will take. That starts with a thorough evaluation of your internal processes. What IT infrastructure do you have? How does an order go from sales to the shop floor? How are you currently tracking orders? What is the change order process? Are you proactively or reactively managing quality on the shop floor? How fast is the company growing? How fast can it grow? What production processes, if improved, will add to growth?  Consider this setting the baseline for your solution search, and it should uncover opportunities for a digital solution to add to your bottom line.

  • Identify your key requirements.

It’s time to turn those opportunities into requirements.  What are the key problems holding back the shop floor? Is it paper work instructions, a lack of quality, or no shop floor visibility? What annoyances does the shop floor dread facing?  What are the expensive phases in your current processes?  Determine the critical items a successful software solution must address to reduce expenses or time.

  • Forecast the ROI.
Confidence Button Shows Assurance Belief And Boldness

The steps you take before you have a budget will position your team for success. Illustration by www,colourbox.com

Now that you have a good idea of the key factors to be solved, begin considering the ROI. What are paper-based work instructions and travelers costing you? How much scrap is generated by your quality escapes? What would it be worth to management to have a real-time view of production at any time? Before you go to management for a budget, or seek our possible solutions, you should have a good idea of what a solution might be worth. Keep in mind, the ROI you calculate here doesn’t need to be precise. Even a rough sketch of potential savings will help as you evaluate potential solutions and begin building your business case.  In some cases the expense reductions can pay for the solution in the same year to realize a successful project without needing a budget above investing the time to implement.

  • Conduct a shop floor analysis.

Finally, it’s time to see how a solution might work on your shop floor and with your processes. Contact potential solution providers to discuss your requirements and shop floor processes. They should be able to match your requirements with their software, and give you an idea of how software will work on your shop floor.  We call this a shop floor analysis. It is a critical initial step in moving a project from the theoretical to reality. Ask what can be done with a limited, or lack of a, budget.

Putting It All Together with Paperless Manufacturing

Any digital manufacturing project should start with these steps. None of them require a budget, other than time and effort.  Even if you’ve never considered paperless or digital manufacturing before, it doesn’t hurt to take a look at what options are out there. Identifying potential ROI is critical for proving project need and the business case.

Waiting another year or ignoring problems isn’t a solution, but taking a few simple steps to kick-off a project and take control of production is.

Want to learn more, or speak to a CIMx representative for a shop floor analysis, then contact us today. We’re always happy to help.

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