Tag Archives: manufacturing shop floor

Getting to Zero in Manufacturing

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

For production, the goal shouldn’t be minimizing quality escapes, but eliminating them, and that requires the deep understanding of processes you only get with an MES.

A few months ago, I needed my furnace repaired. Winters in Ohio can be brutally cold, and we needed a solution fast. The repair company rushed the replacement part from a warehouse in Arizona (because the best place to keep furnace supplies is in the brutal heat of Arizona), only to have the part arrive broken.

I was furious (and still cold), the repair company apologetic, and the manufacturer defensive. After looking at potential solutions, we ended up going with another part supplier.  This single, broken furnace part led to a lost sale, a potentially lost customer (the repair company didn’t know if they could use the supplier again), additional charges, and a lot of aggravation – all because of a part that didn’t work.

As a manufacturer, how do you let a part out the door that doesn’t work? With so much potential risk, how do you not have processes in place for ensuring problems like this don’t happen?  The repair company tested the part the minute they received it, and quickly realized it wasn’t going to work. It wasn’t broken, there was a problem with the manufacturing – a problem quality control should have caught.

Identifying the Source of Quality Escapes

3d small people with a checklist

What can MES and Paperless Manufacturing do to improve quality? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

The problem in situations like this isn’t really the processes, but the lack of shop floor visibility. They don’t know what happens between the time an order comes in and the moment it ships, so unless EVERY single part is checked, there is going to be errors and problems that slip through.

For these manufacturers, quality control is reactive, rather than proactive. Broken parts are (hopefully) found and removed before they are shipped, preventing the immediate problems but ensuring you deal with the same issues again and again in the future.

The problem is not just broken products, but also parts or materials that don’t meet specs.  Rework will mitigate this loss, but finding it later after the complete production run adds to the cost of the rework.

The real cost of quality defects is much larger than many manufacturers realize. In the end, the cost of defects is significantly higher than the cost of a comprehensive solution to eliminate the defects.

A Comprehensive Solution for Improved Quality

To effectively address quality control, and stop shipping broken parts, you need a solution with the power to address the entire manufacturing value chain. Consider this –a Quality Management System will give you tools for disposition programs and for analyzing data, but it won’t offer the process enforcement and automated feedback loops necessary to eliminate the root cause of errors. Better production planning will help the shop floor to do their work better, and a simple data collection system will give you more data to analyze.  These systems are good at what they do, but none offer a complete solution capable of addressing the factors contributing to quality control problems.

Only an MES or paperless manufacturing system offers the complete manufacturing value chain visibility and control you need to truly address quality control.

With an MES, you have complete production visibility, with accurate and automated production records. With data collection, you can see in real time where the errors are occurring, and can design automated feedback loops to ensure problems are eliminated as they happen. You have control and visibility of the supply chain, ensuring parts and supplies meet exacting standards. By automating processes, monitoring production, and integrating best practices into production, you can begin to automate steps in a comprehensive quality control program that is a foundation of smart manufacturing.

This is what your customers have come to expect from a modern manufacturer, and there is no reason you can’t deliver what they expect.

Want to learn more, or see how you can start a modern quality control program, then contact CIMx for a personalized shop floor analysis with an application engineer – a simple first step to improving manufacturing quality.

Advertisements

Implementing a Successful Strategic Plan for Manufacturing

Many manufacturers use aggressive strategic plans to improve production, but without a shop floor system the goals are unsustainable.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Do you have a strategic plan for manufacturing growth?

ART-Solutions-&-Benefits-WEB-071013

You need a solid digital foundation to implement a successful strategic lan for manufacturing. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

Every company should have one. They help guide and shape the daily decisions of the company, and provide a common goal and purpose. For manufacturing, a business that relies on repetition and predictability more than others, a strategic plan is a critical tool in stimulating business growth.

The problem for many is the disconnect between the strategic planning and shop floor operations. Adding a bullet point in the strategic plan to reduce waste, or improve production is great, but the relentless pace of production doesn’t leave much opportunity for implementation.

A committee will meet, a few ideas get tossed around, a few words said at a morning meeting, and then another order will come in and the good intentions of the strategic plan are lost in the relentless need to get product out the door.

Making Shop Floor Changes that Work

There are several challenges facing manufacturers implementing a strategic plan, beyond what most companies will face:

1. Visibility

Many manufacturers simply have no visibility of their production processes. They don’t know what is happening on the shop floor, other than in dated reports and employee intuition. Without actionable data and insight into processes, any plan to implement a production strategy will be a “best guess.”

2. Control 

In a paper-based production environment, shop floor control comes from the morning huddle, a shift in the production line or work center, or a new best practice that is quickly forgotten. During production, the shop floor will use a process they know rather than a new process almost every time.

3. Analytics

More than just visibility, analytics is the ability to drill down into the data in real time to discover actionable insight. This is more than just a report generated each morning; it’s using data to drive decisions in real-time to improve outcomes.

Paperless manufacturing provides a solid foundation to implement a strategic plan to improve production operations. Automating processes, setting up reports using real-time data, and managing information throughout the manufacturing value chain are all tools and benefits of the paperless system critical to successfully implementing and executing the strategic plan.

Without a system, the shop floor will struggle to meet goals or sustain improvement.

Want to see how paperless manufacturing can help you improve production and meet strategic goals? Contact CIMx today for a personalized shop floor analysis. It’s a critical step in any improvement project.

Why Do MES Implementations Fail, and What You Can Do

An MES Implementation can be a high-risk project, but there are steps you can take to minimize risk and improve success.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Companies may not talk about it, but there are MES and manufacturing software implementations that fail. There is risk with any major software implementation. ERP and PLM implementations will sometimes fail (even more than MES), and while there is no magic formula for implementation success, you’re not helpless against trouble.  There’s no magic 12-step process for every project, but there are warning signs savvy manufacturers can use to avoid trouble, and steps you can take to help protect your company.

5 Reasons MES Implementations Fail

Implementation projects fail for a number of reasons, including:

  • Culture: An MES implementation is as much a cultural project as a technological one. If the software wasn’t selected with the shop floor’s needs in mind, or the project goal isn’t clear from the beginning, failure is likely. Operators need to use the software for the project to be a success. A smart platform can be introduced in stages that operators readily accept, eliminating the resistance and culture shock common in “Big Bang” implementations that try to implement every piece of functionality at once.
  • man under money on white background. Isolated 3D image

    Don’t get buried by the cost of your overly complex MES. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

    Expense: As project complexity increases, costs skyrocket. Changing requirements also lead to massive cost overruns. Annoying and unforeseen delays and service charges from the software supplier can also derail a project. At some point, most companies will cancel the implementation rather than continuing to bleed expenses.

  • Out-of-Scope System Work: Many companies try to sell “master” systems fulfilling a number of functions. An ERP is not an MES or PLM. Inevitably an integrated, single source solution causes more problems than it solves since it results in a lowest common denominator solution, as the supplier tries to cram functionality into their system. Many times, it leads to a system that is difficult to use.
  • Customization: Many companies initially believe custom software is the only solution for their shop floor. The truth is few companies have the resources for the initial development, or the capability necessary to maintain the system as production needs change.  Building that perfect system will take a long time, and you need to accept high risk and frustration. It’s better to use a supplier that offers custom features on a smart platform that can be implemented at a low cost and ensure a sustainable system.
  • Supplier Promises: Some suppliers make exorbitant promises during the sales process promises that are extremely difficult to fulfill. As the list of broken promises and scope modifications grow, some companies decide to cancel the project out of frustration. There are ways to limit scope creep, limit cost add-ons and manage in-house modification flow.

This is not a comprehensive list, but it does touch on many of the core reasons a manufacturer will choose to cancel a project.  Canceling a project is a passive, but final, failure, and is many times the best decision for the long-term growth of the business.

A worse failure is an “active failure” where the project is implemented and does not achieve the improvements expected nor provides a positive ROI.  Companies with an active failure continue to lose money year after year, clinging to a software system that bleeds profit and productivity with minimal, if any, benefit.

Protecting Yourself from Implementation Failure

Never fear, there are steps you can take to position your company for success when implementing a new MES or digital manufacturing system. Consider this:

  • 3d render of time concept roadsign board isolated on white background

    Don’t let fear stop you from improving production. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

    Phased Implementation: Rather than trying to install and implement everything at once ( “Big Bang” style), a phased implementation gives the manufacturer more control over the project. Risk can be minimized by selecting and using the features and functionality the company wants, dictating the pace of change and complexity.

  • Aligning IT and OT: An MES is as much an OT (Operations Technology) project as IT (Information Technology). A project has a much greater chance of success if IT and OT are aligned from the beginning, selecting a project that meets the needs of both core users.
  • Trust: Many times an MES buyer will make a software decision based on grandiose promises from a supplier, rather than embracing their intuition and finding a partner company they trust.
  • Focus on Core Requirements: Many MES projects start with an initial need, and then additional requirements are added to the project. Each addition increases the schedule, cost and risk. Focus on solving the real problems in Phase 1, and the savings can pay for additional items in phase 2. A supplier that cannot provide a phased implementation has a solution without the necessary flexibility to be sustainable in your environment.

Managing Software Projects

For most failed software projects, it’s impossible to identify a single reason for the failure. It’s a combination that leads to the painful decision to accept failure rather than continuing to work with an active failure that will limit your profitability far into the future. Most times, this is the right decision to make. Trying to twist and contort the shop floor or the software just to make it work isn’t a good way to optimize production.

No one likes to admit or accept failure. It leaves a bitter taste in your mouth and can be devastating to a business. By following a few simple tips and staying on top of your project, you can avoid the problems that lead to failure.

Want to learn more, or see why and how CIMx guarantees major project milestones? Contact us today for a shop floor analysis or project estimate to see how we can best help you.

Digital Manufacturing Strategies and MES

We offer simple tips for success for companies looking to improve manufacturing with a digital strategy.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

There are a lot of options out there for a company looking to update their manufacturing or improve production.

student with the laptop sitting on globe. 3D image.

Formulate a successful digital manufacturing strategy for your shop floor. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Do you buy new machines? Maybe you look at process improvement through Lean manufacturing or Six-Sigma? Then there are a dizzying array of software products – QMS (Quality Management System), PLM (Project Lifecycle Management), the standard MES (Manufacturing Execution System) or MOM (Manufacturing Operations Management), and then the more esoteric or arcane choices like process and performance analytic engines with IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) and colorful dashboards you can endlessly format.

What about a good CMMS (Computerize Maintenance Management System) or a Dynamic Scheduling (which just sounds like it needs a cape)? What about upgrading the ERP/MRP (Enterprise/Manufacturing Resource Planning), or purchasing a solid WMS (Warehouse Management System)?

With so many choices, it’s hard to see a strategy. Is there a “right” choice, or are you doomed to keep buying more and more products with diminishing returns? Worse yet, is it too complex and you end up buying nothing?

A Digital Manufacturing Strategy that Makes Sense

In this case, there is a “right” choice.

Consider this – production is a specialized business activity. It also directly generates revenue and profit for manufacturers. This means, you can have amazing IT staff, a fantastic marketing team, and some of the top front office staff in the world, but without optimized production and the proper support for operations, you are holding your company back.

You can’t expect production to use the same tools as the marketing team. You need more than an ERP (or even an MRP). You wouldn’t give an accountant a drill press, or have HR use a lathe, so why are you asking the shop floor to collect data on a spreadsheet and manage documents downloaded from the ERP. Sure, they can make it work, but do they have revision control? Can they track production? How much time is spent on non-value added time?  What does labor cost on each order?

If you want to improve production, you need to give operations the right tools.

MES – The Foundation of Manufacturing Operations

Better than any other product on the market, MES and paperless manufacturing provides the foundation for manufacturing operations.

Managing information and workflow is the primary goal of an MES. Your shop floor operates on workflow and is fueled by information. Other software systems support workflow and manage some information, but only the MES directly addresses these core needs of manufacturing.

Optimized Production Needs Optimized Solutions

Consider a QMS. It may support your production workflow by automating some tasks and structuring processes to address quality, but it leaves gaps in the manufacturing value chain which operations needs to fill.

Paperless Manufacturing Connects Your Operation

A simple integration ensure you have best-of-breed solutions like MES for your shop floor. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

But, once you have an MES in place, providing the foundation of overall workflow and managing production information, the QMS adds value by supporting quality when appropriate. The MES increases the value of both systems.

With dynamic scheduling you’ll improve OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness), and, with some work, improve production, but there will be gaps. Do you have revision control of planning? Have you optimized production if the shop floor is working with the wrong revision of work plans?

These “gaps” are also why many companies struggle with Manufacturing ERP and MRP solutions. Software that offers some MES functionality is limited and, inevitably, leaves the shop floor with coverage gaps. Production uses “workarounds” to fill the shop floor needs. They may need to use an old legacy system to store documents or collect data on spreadsheets because their ERP is still an ERP, no matter how the product is marketed.

A robust MES is designed to support the entire manufacturing value chain with a single software system, eliminating coverage gaps. Additional software solutions, like QMS and dynamic scheduling, should support the MES. The MES will work with other systems like the PLM and ERP. Simple integrations ensure the software works together.

Trying to get these software systems to do the job of the MES with creative problem-solving and wishful thinking isn’t giving the shop floor the support they need, and will leave you at a competitive disadvantage.

Simple Steps to Digital Manufacturing

Many companies won’t consider MES. They fear the changes on the shop floor or project failure more than they crave digital manufacturing and optimized production. They’d rather manage the problems they know than potentially invite new problems.

But with a modern software solution and a phased implementation, you can manage change and ensure a project stays on track. Implement and use the features and functions you want when you want them.

Still worried about MES, or struggling with coverage gaps on your shop floor? Give CIMx a call today and we can look at the options and potential benefits for your shop floor. We’re always happy to help.

What Our Software Does

Sometimes, the simplest questions can be the most difficult to answer.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Not long ago, a prospect asked what we do.

He was looking for a standard MES and paperless manufacturing system. He had been to the website, and read over the material posted there. As he explained, it seemed to be what he was looking for, but he wanted a simple list that spelled out what, exactly, the software was going to do for him.

There is No Easy Answer for MES or MOM Functionality

Answering that question isn’t as easy as you might think. We have customers all over the world, and our software is used by thousands (many thousands) of users each day, and each one needs the software to do something different.

question.

What can MES and Paperless Manufacturing do for you? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Consider this – for a normal implementation of our software in a single factory, one person might use Quantum to pull up visual work instructions. The plant manager might use it to track production and identify potential bottlenecks. A sales rep uses it to answer questions for a customer and prepare orders. Quality is tracking non-conformances. Engineering is streamlining production on a new product line and working with the shop floor on engineering changes. In another office, an analyst is running reports on past production cycle working on ways to reduce costs and improve cycle time.

Our standard software, a Smart MES or MOM system, will do all that. It provides a digital foundation for manufacturing processes, which means for Medical device manufacturers it might manage labels, electronic validation and compliance with FDA 21 CFR Part 11, and automatically generate Batch Processing Records (BPR) – for a start. Carbon composite manufacturers need to control and synchronize specifications, recipes and process documentation. For an MRO it will coordinate all activities in the maintenance and repair process, while optimizing scheduling and improving communication and collaboration with the customer.

Every industry has slightly different needs, which is why we designed our software to configure so easily between industries. The open, flexible software design makes it easy for manufacturers to implement and use the features they need.

The shop floor technician knows it is where he gets his work instructions and tracks his work for the day. The crib manager uses it for asset management, and IT sees it as an app for operations. Each one answers the question of what the software does slightly different.

What is Paperless Manufacturing?

To be honest, no one is wrong. All see the system as a tool for them to do their job better, faster and with fewer errors. There is nothing wrong with that, but we still want to answer the question. We’re not hiding anything, so here is our answer to that (not so simple) question: Our software will:

  • Author and manage process plans for product models and quantities to meet customer orders.
  • Automatically, or manually through a production control person, attach correct product plans to orders. An ERP integration is used for automatic work flow.
  • Distribute all order work to the correct work center with priority, estimated times, and all specific information such as specifications, measures, tooling, materials and special instructions.
  • Review and manage shop floor order schedules and routings.
  • Collect data on work processes (how the work was done and by whom).
  • Collect data on labor (how long it took to do the work).
  • Collect all quality data on the order (how accurate was the work done).
  • Collect data on scrap and rework. (what problems occurred).
  • Observe trending reports on selected data.
  • Observe Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on selected data.
  • Track all orders on the shop floor on a dashboard showing progress to the minute.
  • Create automatic reports of product events and order data.
  • Create real time report of all quality issues (a real time dashboard).
  • Create automatic report of the complete, accurate as-built record for all orders.
  • Create report of all serialized parts for accurate traceability in the future.
  • Manage and oversee shop floor machine maintenance schedules and processes.
  • Manage inventory of tooling, materials and parts.
  • Manage a secure data warehouse of all historical, orders, plans and data.
Efficient Manufacturing

Paperless Manufacturing and MES provide digital support to your manufacturing operations. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

So, this is our answer, bereft of the marketing and sales copy.

You can go to MESA for their model of MES. In a few years, I’m sure the model will change yet again, and with good reason. Other software vendors can pick at this list and find holes they can fill with their own glorious functionality. We aren’t trying to challenge the industry with this list, just answer the question of what we do. The needs of manufacturing are constantly changing. New tools, technologies, and market demands are a disruptive influence on our industry, and we need to adjust with them or we fall behind.

In a few months we can go back to our list and see if it has changed, because we are a dynamic company. Our customers need and expect us to continue to innovate. That’s the value we bring to them.

Have a question, or want to see how we can benefit your operation, then contact us today. We’re always happy to help.

One Simple Step that Improves Manufacturing Productivity

Your shop floor hides dangers that eliminate more than 13 hours of productivity each week for every employee.  Learn how you can quickly improve productivity and profit with one simple step.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

As a culture, we are driven by technology.  There’s a chip in your coffee maker and a computer in your car, not to mention a smart phone that connects you to the greatest database in human history.  Technology can make our lives better and improve productivity.  With technology, it’s possible to get through your whole day without thinking (a skill many seem to have mastered already). But, some technology can be disruptive.  Rather than helping us work better, it hinders productivity.  Consider email – email can be a constant interruption, wreaking havoc on your day if you’re not careful.

The Dangers of Technology

Are you letting distractions hinder your shop floor productivity? Image by www.colourbox.com

Are you letting distractions hinder your shop floor productivity? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Many of us start the day with a list of priorities.  A good day would see every item on the list complete.    Unfortunately plans for productivity are often waylaid by the disruptive influence of email.  Each morning, you grab a cup of coffee (or your vice of choice) and sit down at your computer.  Then email starts beeping at you, demanding attention.  Email is like a thief, stealing your time for unplanned distractions.  Sure, some messages may be important, but most aren’t.  They certainly aren’t more critical than the items on your list.

In 2012, the Huffington Post reported that the average worker spends 25% of their day reading, attending to and answering email.  Just one short year later, that number jumped to 28%.  That’s roughly 13 hours a week.  What could you do with an extra 13 hours of productivity each week?  What could your shop floor workers do with that extra productivity?

Many manufacturers embed distractions in their workflow just as distracting, if not more, than email.  We plan for distraction in the workflow by having workers seek out information in massive binders or consult safety manuals, then wonder how we can improve productivity.

The Effect of Interruptions

Interruptions have ripple effects far greater than the interruption itself.  There’s an entire field devoted to Interruption Science, the study of what happens to job performance after an interruption.  Studies show that interruptions significantly disrupt workflow.  Employees need time to recover, leading to even more lost productivity.

The New York Times reports that 40% of workers cannot complete the task the same way after an interruption.  In fact, another study found an interruption during work increased errors by as much as 20%.  Companies know eliminating distractions and interruptions will drastically increase productivity and work quality.  For example, Toyota (with andon cords) and other companies have made it a priority to remove any interruption or distraction from the shop floor.  The goal is simple – protect the worker, improve production and profit.

 Increase Productivity with Paperless Manufacturing

Properly implemented, an MES will manage information and keep your shop floor focused on production by automating many of the tasks that were once “interruptions” in paper-based production.

Improve productivity and profit by removing a major source of shop floor distraction - paper. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Improve productivity and profit by removing a major source of shop floor distraction – paper. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Missing parts, unclear instructions, lack of certification and other critical issues cause distraction and interruptions to the shop floor workforce.  These interruptions, common in a paper-based work environment, quickly add up to 13+ hours of lost productivity each week.  If you look at any paper-heavy shop floor, workers are often doing one of two things – checking their work in a paper traveler packet, or ignoring the work instructions and doing work as they have always done.  Either way, you’ll pay for the interruptions with lost productivity or errors.

When a worker undertakes a task requiring precision, electronic instructions reduce confusion and provide everything the shop floor needs to complete the work without interruption.  Engineering specifications, safety instructions, machine set-up and more are only a mouse click away if they need it.  With all the information they need at hand, workers are more confident as they complete tasks, while the system provides a seamless transition from one task to the next, greatly increasing the overall performance of the shop floor.  Your team can focus on production.

Studies show distractions and interruptions lower overall worker productivity.  The goal of any shop floor manager should be to remove distraction and provide workers with everything they need to complete work better, faster and with fewer errors.  Paperless manufacturing manages workflow, automating many tasks, with productivity gain exponentially enhanced with distractions removed.

Consider this – how quickly could you deliver an ROI on a computer system that gave each worker 13 more hours of productivity each week?

Want to learn more, or see how our system can support workflow on your shop floor?  Give us a call or leave a message for a no-cost consultation on paperless manufacturing.  We’re happy to help and answer questions.

How to Win With a Manufacturing Shop Floor Pilot Program

Conducting a Pilot Program for your MES or Paperless Manufacturing system won’t guarantee project success, but there are clear benefits for the savvy shop floor.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Ever talk to someone in the manufacturing industry about a software pilot program?  Unfortunately, I don’t know of a topic more likely to kill a conversation at a dinner party (… “So, how’s your pilot program going?  Pass the biscuits, please!)  If it does happen to come up, you will quickly discover something we’ve come to accept.

Understanding the reasons and potential benefits of your pilot program will help ensure a focused project.  Image by www.colourbox.com

Understanding the reasons and potential benefits of your pilot program will help ensure a focused project. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

We call it the Shop Floor Pilot Program Conundrum – a strange place where multiple realities merge.

Here’s what I mean.  The vendor might see the pilot program as an extended demo, or as an easy way to get their foot on the shop floor and another step in the software sale.  The manufacturing executive sees it as an inexpensive vendor service and low risk way to confirm product selection.  The shop floor sees it as a pain-in-the-butt project from corporate.  Savvy shop floors, however, see it as a way to kick the wheels of a new toy and proof the sky is falling, and shop floor errors can be fixed with the right tools.  IT might be wondering how much work this will mean for them.

Benefits of the Pilot Program

The conundrum in all this… they may all be right.  In the end, there’s no “wrong” way to view the pilot program, but conflicting ideas can lead to missed opportunities that negatively impact the final project.  So, in our quest to de-mystify the conundrum, here are a few things a shop floor pilot program could (potentially) definitely do for you:

  • Define an achievable requirement list.  Many MES projects suffer from “requirement bloat” as everyone in the company offers their opinion on what the system should do.  A good pilot program will splash some needed reality on the requirement list.  It will focus the project on achievable requirements that make a positive impact on the business.
  • Build shop floor acceptance for the program.  Giving the shop floor team, who will be working with the new system the most, the chance to work with the software is a great idea.  Once they see the software won’t lead to robots replace people, but will help them do their job better, faster, and with fewer errors, they’ll work hard to make the project a success.
  • Low risk first step before a much larger investment.  Spending a little money to install the software on one line is much cheaper than buying all the equipment to install it everywhere before you know how it works.  This way, you can identify challenges early and will have a better idea of final cost of the total project.
  • Build a stronger case for an ROI.  Before you install the software, an estimated ROI will be mostly conjecture.  With a pilot program, you will have real shop floor data you can attach to the estimate to prove the ROI.  Plus, nothing can build an advocate for the project than an executive seeing firsthand the benefits of the investment and how it will work.

There are benefits to a pilot program.  They can help define a project, prove the ROI, and minimize risk.  But, if you begin your pilot project with false expectations, you end up with confusion.  The vendor isn’t sure what they’re offering, the shop floor isn’t sure what they’re getting and the executives aren’t sure what they’re buying.  No one is happy.

Eliminate confusion, and make sure you understand what the pilot program can do for you.  Have you been part of a successful pilot program in the past?  If so, what made it a success?  What did you do to eliminate confusion?  Let us know, we’d love to hear from you!