Tag Archives: shop floor

Manage Change on the Shop Floor with Manufacturing Software

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

With any software system, there’s a balancing act between flexibility and standardization.  Where flexible solutions give you agility, standardization is sustainably repeatable.  You need both in a system for your shop floor.

Manufacturing utilizes negotiable and non-negotiable rules to manage work and deliver repeatable processes.  Enterprise software solutions need to support these processes and change the “negotiable” rules where it is necessary.

A recent visit to a small airport showed the importance of accommodating change.

When Processes Get In the Way of Success

You see, I travel a lot.  It’s standard practice for airlines to reward frequent travelers with perks like early boarding or a special boarding area.

This trip, I was at an airport too small for a special area. So, at 7 in the morning with a crowd of tired and frustrated travelers seething because the plane was hours late, the oblivious gate agent rolled out this threadbare red carpet to welcome the frequent travelers.

“Please step off the mat,” she told a few weary travelers that were anxious to board.  The comment didn’t go over well as the one or two frequent travelers in the crowd hurried onto the plane and the rest were instructed to step back a few feet so she could roll up the carpet.

People argued.  I could understand.  It was early, and many passengers had been waiting for more than an hour. “It’s not me,” she said. “It’s the airline policy.”  The gate agent proceeded to calmly roll up the carpet, carefully put it away, and then settle back to her place at the gate.

Manufacturing Software and Production Agility

I’ve run this chain of events through my mind. I can relate to the need for processes and consistency. For manufacturers and others, repeatable processes are a sure sign of success… unless they aren’t.

Consider what “process and consistency” cost the company in this situation.

Did the benefit to the few customers that qualified warrant what looked like an entitlement for the rest?  Was it worth forcing angry and exhausted customers to continue standing on sore feet while you rolled up a stupid carpet no one in their right mind really cared about? Add to that price the loss of goodwill you would have gained if you just let the passengers on the plane.

Consistency and repeatable processes are critical for modern manufacturing, but flexibility and the ability to adjust to market conditions is a growing priority. Manufacturing software should manage change as well as consistent processes.

Systems that can’t manage change are going to limit a company, rather than increasing efficiency or competitive advantage.

Evaluating Current Manufacturing Software

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

Manufacturing is changing. Are you ready? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

There are two types of systems on the market – forms-based and workflow-based systems, and each manage change on the shop floor very differently.

A forms-based system uses forms, or fields for data, in the software. Users input data in one field, tagging the information, and retrieve it in another.  It’s easy to use and operate, but limiting when it comes to managing change.  If you don’t have the right form or fields, the shop floor will struggle to accommodate changes to processes.

Workflow-based systems are more effective at managing change.  A workflow system is designed to support a series of work activities that lead to completion. A change in processes or work requires only a simple change or addition to the workflow being supported by the software.

Reports are run on data collected by the system or the users, making it easy to run the reports required by the customer. You’re not bound by what data you can retrieve from the forms in the software.

With workflow-based software users can adjust their processes to accommodate change and still use the software as intended, rather than trying to cobble together a solution outside the scope of the system they purchased.

In the case of the clueless gate agent… the shop floor manager could see how current processes weren’t supporting conditions on the shop floor, and could adjust the workflow as needed, without having to contact the supplier for a new form.

There would be no need to piss off the customers so you could roll out a carpet.  Everyone leaves happy.

Want to learn more, or see how a workflow-based system works? Contact CIMx today for a free demonstration of our software.

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How to Successfully Replace Manufacturing Software

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

There are manufacturers out there struggling with outdated and inefficient legacy software systems supporting production.

Shop floor managers call us for help with these outdated systems – an Access database created long ago by a retired employee, or a piece of manufacturing software so old, it’s impossible to update and sits on a dilapidated server held together by rubber bands and prayers.

A Source of Manufacturing Inefficiency

3d small people - angry

How much money is wasted due to inefficient software? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Manufacturing is the foundation of the company and the engine that fuels profit, and if the company doesn’t support production with the right tools, they are holding the business back. No amount of Kanban sessions or process improvements can make up for a digital tool trying to do something it was never designed for, or should have been shelved and retired years ago.

These older systems not only impact production and create inefficiency; they are a source of errors and hide a potential production disaster if the systems ever fail.

These shop floor managers know something has to be done, but struggle to get a clear answer from the IT department or a potential solution provider. Everyone promises their solution is the one they need, often completely ignoring current production processes in their excitement to implement their solution.

Identifying and Mitigating Software Risks

The shop floor can manage the problem and solution process by identifying risks early to determine the viability of a potential solution. Here are a few items to consider as you review next steps for your shop floor.

  • Data Migration.

If you have critical production data stored on a failing, outdated system, you need to consider how to move the data to the new system. Consider not only copying the data over, but using an Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) tool. Some ETL will safely transform data to a modern format so it can be used in the new software and better support production.  Without utilizing an ETL tool, you may be stuck with unusable data in your new software.

  • Process Changes.

While you hope the new software tool improves processes, there are times the system will hinder, rather than help, production. Consider change orders and redline edits. If the new system offers a wealth of functionality that adds complexity to change orders, you may trap the shop floor with an unmanageable process.  Look at purchasing a workflow-based, rather than a forms-based, system when replacing outdated software. An initial pilot would also determine how the system will be used.

  • Increased Cost of Ownership.

It is worthwhile estimating not only the initial cost, but overall cost of ownership of manufacturing software. Often, the cost of software isn’t reflective of the benefit. The most expensive system may not offer the best solution.  Break down the cost of a potential solution, look at how it will be used, and estimate the potential ROI before making a purchase.

  • Gaps in Coverage.

Often, a software solution, especially cloud-based apps targeting manufacturing, will focus on a single challenge, rather than addressing the underlying problems facing production.  For example, purchasing a simple email app to manage production planning may seem like a quick fix to outdated software, but the gaps in coverage left by the solution expose you to other risks that may impact production.

Some manufacturers mistakenly value complexity over benefit in software. You don’t need all the complexity and functionality offered by many solution providers. Get input from the users and estimate how often and extensive their interaction will be with the software. If users spend more time serving the software than engaged in production, you don’t have an optimal solution.

Getting Started with Paperless Manufacturing

One way to overcome hesitation with a new software system is to look at change as an opportunity to eliminate the problems and frustrations the production team faces using outdated software. When we work with shop floor managers struggling with inefficient software, we start by looking at their current workflow.  The team often uncovers other process impediments that can be easily solved.

With an eye on the potential risks we’ve outlined above and the right solution provider, the new system can have a positive impact across the organization and unlock production potential you may not have known you had.  Want to know more, or talk to an application engineer about your outdated software systems? Contact CIMx today for a free shop floor analysis. We’re always happy to help.

Four Clues to Evaluating Current Manufacturing Software

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

If you take the pulse of the manufacturing software market, you’ll be surprised by what you discover.

We recently did an early demo of our product for a manufacturing prospect gone cold. A new Application Specialist was learning the job, and we offered a short demo as a way to engage the prospect and for our employee to get some experience.  We expected our main contact and maybe one or two others to show up. We were surprised when 20 executives and managers joined.

The limited discussions we had with this prospect had all been at a very high level. To have access to this many decision makers and influencers this early in the process seemed out of place.  I’ve been wondering what compels an executive to sit through a demo this early in the process, but the patterns are clear.

The Four Clues

We’re seeing signs of change in the MES market. Consider this:

  1. Manufacturers are hungry to learn more about MES and digital manufacturing.

It used to be our first calls were with quality managers or engineers, but today we are just as likely to get a call from a Vice President or Executive. The c-suite is taking an active role in the process early-on because they realize how critical the manufacturing software decision is.  They also fear getting taken by suppliers who are less than honest.  The MES purchase today is a critical foundation for the future. Sitting through a demo is an investment.

  1. Companies are searching for software solution truth.

Prospects are looking for a way to see through the empty promises offered by some software vendors.  The IoT (Internet of Things), Smart Manufacturing and the Digital Thread are terms companies use to confuse buyers into getting a solution that doesn’t really do what they need it to.  Prospects tell us regularly that software suppliers are unable to present their solution in the demo; they show illustrations of it (read more below) but rarely the real thing. Companies are beginning to question claims about functionality. They want to see the software, not a presentation.

  1. The term “out-of-the-box” has been hijacked.

Prospects are telling us that most demos they see from other MES vendors are “canned” (some are even using PowerPoint slides and short videos to “demonstrate” functionality).  Where they are able to see a real system in use, the prospect can’t ask the vendor to veer off script.  And even though almost every MES supplier markets their solution as “out-of-the-box,” for some systems a “live” MES demo requires extensive configuration of the system itself, making it unsuitable for most prospects.   The core product probably has some functionality that works out-of-the-box (OOTB), but it’s not enough to demo so vendors hide behind scripts and scenarios.

  1. A “robust” training program is not necessarily a good thing.

Want to know if a software vendor is bending the truth when they talk about their product? Ask how long training will take.  A lot of required training before using a system is not the sign of a “better” product, and a poorly designed product isn’t going to help you solve problems.  If you really don’t trust their answer, check out their website.  Verify the number of training videos or courses they offer.  Robust functionality with a laundry list of training courses that take days or weeks to complete can often signal inflexibility.

Optimizing Your Software Purchase

The long-term customers and prospects we work with are always searching for ways to improve production.  With 20 years in the industry, we have a lot of experience helping manufacturers.

Lately, we’ve had more and more prospects searching for OOTB functionality. They want to see the software, not a PowerPoint presentation.  Consultants and services companies that build custom systems or connect modules are posing as OOTB software suppliers, with sales people making promises the software team can’t keep.

“Can you demo from the live product?” It’s the one thing manufacturers challenge us to do all the time.  We can, and it’s the thing they comment on regularly.

Software vendors should show you what they can do today. Without a live demo, can you count on the system to work?  With enough time and money, anyone can build you something to do exactly what you ask, but the only way that you’re going to see a strong return on investment (ROI) is if the core system meets your needs. You shouldn’t have to rely on another module, software services, customization or extensive “configuration.”

Give us a call for more tips on MES or paperless manufacturing systems.  Whether you’re a CIMx customer or not, we’re tired of industry disinformation and happy to answer your questions, so contact us today to learn more.

By the way, our Application Specialist gave a fantastic demo of the product with just one month of work under his belt.  It’s hard to imagine software vendors with rigid systems and unnecessary complexity and don’t demo live could have had him demo-ready that early.  With CIMx, it just works.

What to do when an ERP vendor wants to be an MES

There is a big difference between an ERP and an MES, as companies using their ERP on the shop floor have discovered.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

Every day, we work with manufacturers to make them more productive, and every day we hear stories about Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems trying to replicate an MES. The ERP supplier promises they can replicate the functionality of an MES in their system, offering a single solution for the manufacturers software needs.  Why buy multiple systems when you can get everything in a single purchase?

Trust me – this never turns out well. If you really want to improve and support manufacturing, you need an MES. Manufacturing is one of the most complex processes in business today, and a few features tacked onto an ERP aren’t going to help.

Defining the ERP

3d man in trouble

Can your ERP really support optimized production? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

An ERP is a transactional system.  It can keep track of things – employees, vendors, customers, orders.  An MES is based on workflow and processes, completely different than a transactional system.  If you need to build something then send it to a customer, an ERP can track an order and the payment, but how does a system like that help you plan work, implement changes to the plan, and give you visibility into processes and workflow?

On the shop floor, the ERP can easily keep track of a routing; it’s a thing.  A routing is a list of work centers (things) and it can put those centers into an order. The ERP can list out what you will need to complete the work, and maybe even attach a document or spreadsheet.  That simple listing works perfectly fine in the core mechanics hard-wired functionality of an ERP – leading many to believe there is an MES lurking inside the ERP. Mapping workflow isn’t a natural function within a transactional system.  It can’t tell you where the order is, when it’ll get to the next step, or whether the order will finish on time.  Worst of all, an ERP can’t help you when things go wrong.

Identifying the Gaps in an ERP

And things go wrong on the shop floor.  Parts are missing.  Machines break down.  Operators make mistakes.  The ERP fails you completely when it comes time to adjust workflow or automate processes to mitigate production disruption.

Sure, with custom-built tools, complex integrations and savvy coding, the ERP can be linked to shop floor machines.  A unique screen can be added so operators log in, tracking when work starts.  An ERP offers the illusion of workflow control, but it’s a shiny veneer on shallow functionality.

Most systems like this quickly fail under the pressure of supporting production, and the shop floor is forced to develop homegrown work-arounds. We’ve seen shop floor workers holding dirty plastic folders with the actual work instructions on a supposedly “paperless” shop floor supported by an ERP. It’s even worse with job shop software that uses email as the vehicle – nothing like putting the fate of production in the same tool an email spammer uses!

These systems simply weren’t designed to support workflow processes or the shop floor, and putting in a request for manufacturing functionality with an ERP implementer who doesn’t fully grasp the complexity or requirements of production is setting the whole team up for failure. Having an ERP company go out and buy an MES so they can market itself as an “all-in-one” solution is basically letting the ERP vendor charge more for a solution they don’t really support.

The Benefit of an MES

Only a system built to handle workflow can optimally support manufacturing.  The system has to connect the individual steps in a rhythm that can be redirected, rescheduled or rerun as things change, and it has to minimize complexity.

3d small people with a checklist

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

If the software has separate modules for Work Instructions, Data Collections and Non-conformance Management (all critical components of a shop floor system), then there isn’t a natural connection between these processes, and it’s likely operations will need to develop “work-arounds” for the missing functionality. When you start connecting modules for processes with other modules for functionality, the complexity grows.

When a company licenses, sells, and implements modules independently, you know it’s either a modular MES (lots of problems and costs there) or an ERP trying to be an MES. The core system doesn’t have the functionality you need.  The modular MES vendor will build it for you; the ERP vendor will try to cobble together some solution to sell you.  Both will fail. Neither will give you the flexibility you need.

Manufacturing has different needs than the front office. You wouldn’t ask Human Resources to use a CNC machine, and the sales team isn’t going to use a dynamic scheduler, so why are you asking Operations to use the same tool as Procurement? If you consider manufacturing the core of your business, the profit driver, shouldn’t you give them a tool designed for their unique needs?

An ERP is great for the front office, but it will never offer the same benefit as an MES for production.

Want to learn more, or see how paperless manufacturing can help you?  Call us and ask questions.  We’re always willing to help.

Manufacturing has different needs than the front office. You wouldn’t ask Human Resources to use a CNC machine, and the sales team isn’t going to use a dynamic scheduler, so why are you asking Operations to use the same tool as Procurement? If you consider manufacturing the core of your business, the profit driver, shouldn’t you give them a tool designed for their unique needs?

An ERP is great for the front office, but it will never offer the same benefit as an MES for production.

Want to learn more, or see how paperless manufacturing can help you?  Call us and ask questions.  We’re always willing to help.

Are There “Gentlemen’s Rules” in MES Sales?

Many software suppliers are more focused on the sale than the solution when working with customers.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

Twenty-something years ago, software demos gave potential customers a good idea of the system they were buying.

Today, as software functionality continues to expand and teams of consultants scramble for profit (read our blog on Tesla for more on that), it’s difficult for manufacturers to know what they are purchasing.  The skill in selling software has grown faster than the market’s ability to discern fact and fiction.  The rules in the software market have gotten skewed, and without rules, how do we play (or purchase a system)?

Gentlemen’s Rules in Cycling

I was an avid cyclist.  After competing for 18 years on the cycling circuit in the US, I’m content now to watch the Tour de France in a comfortable armchair.

MES and the Human Element

Does your implementation team really know the software and your processes? Illustration from http://www.colourbox.com

The Grand Tour is an amazing spectacle.  If you live in France, the month of July is dedicated to the sporting event.  It is called one of the most grueling sporting events in the world.  For 21 days straight, almost 200 cyclists (usually 22 teams of 9 riders) compete in road stages that make Death Valley seem leisurely.

In cycling, there’s always been an unwritten gentlemen’s code of conduct. If you are a rider, a competitive one, you know it.  And you live by it…

Cycling is, at its heart, a team sport.  Inevitably, the entire group (the peloton) doesn’t ride together – the group will split as the race speeds up or the hills get steep.  In these situations, the gentlemen’s code ensures:

  • you never attack the leader if he or she is down;
  • you work together and everyone takes a turn, and;
  • if you’re not able to work with the group, you may sit on the back (where there’s less wind and it takes less effort) but you won’t participate in the sprint or receive points on the day.

The code subtly manages the race.  You don’t win if you can’t do the work.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the software industry has a similar rule…

As a customer, you want to get the best product for your business.  The purpose of the demo(s), the Request for Proposals (RFPs), and the other stages of the software purchase process is to determine how well the system will serve your manufacturing needs.  The process should let you “try out the team,” who will be providing your new system, ensuring only a company that can do the work will earn the job.

But, that’s not how it works today.  Many suppliers use resellers so they never work with an end user. Other suppliers are so big, there are layers and layers of bureaucracy between you and the people who really know the software.  Most customers only meet the sales team, and are introduced to a few people on the installation project leads – a team focused on sales and collecting commission or service charges, and not meeting the goals of the implementation.

How are those implementations working out?  How many companies suffered with a poor software installation when the salesperson (who was well-liked liked) made promises the solution couldn’t keep?

Implementing a Code of Conduct for Software Sales

Confidence Button Shows Assurance Belief And Boldness

Are you confident your team is focused on shop floor improvement? Illustration by www,colourbox.com

Let’s go back to my gentlemen’s code theory.  If the sales team tells is focused on closing the sale, are they really worried about what your needs will be in the future?  When you have an issue, are they there to help you, or are they counting on your service charges each time a problem comes up?  Are the sales or implementation team best positioned to answer your questions?  You never even meet the real software experts (if there are some).  In fact, it’s not in the interest of some companies to review every option or potential problem before an implementation, because their sales model is based on the additional service charges they’ll be getting from you.

I’m not suggesting you find a better salesperson.  It certainly helps the process, but I think you need to look deeper.  With the increase in consultants, and the constant attrition in the marketplace as smaller companies are eaten by the monolithic software enterprises, the “team” concept in software sales has disappeared.  As software companies absorb functionality from other systems, finding someone, anyone, who understands the software enough to provide adequate, or useful, support, is almost impossible. This leads to higher cost, additional complexity, and a software product that never works the way it was sold.

A gentlemen’s code of conduct would help eliminate many of these problems.  Consider this:

  • The software supplier should walk a customer through the entire implementation process (eliminating those “surprise” service charges that creep into many projects).
  • No system should be installed without an upgrade path. Systems shouldn’t fade into obsolescence.  (Read more about it here.  It’s critical.)
  • The software supplier should offer a guarantee and benchmarks for the system and implementation. They should take some risk in the project, and not expect the customer to carry the burden.
  • No product should require a manufacturer to completely change their processes and work instructions. Too often the shop floor ends up serving the software, rather than the software supporting production.

I’m sure every person who has ever worked with a software supplier could add to this list, but it’s a start, and we need to start somewhere.

Will Your Supplier Go the Distance?

We should all work for our customers like members of a cycling team.

This year’s Tour has been one for the books.  Last week’s stage to Mont Ventoux reminded me of a software installation gone awry.  With winds topping 60 to 100 kms/hr, race officials cancelled the last 6 kilometers of the race.  None of the teams complained, even though the decision hindered the advantage of the top climbers.  Unfortunately, many people had camped on the side of the road for those final 6 kilometers, and as word spread, those people waiting at the top started to make their way down the mountain.  The crowded roads caused the leader to crash badly.

If something like this happened during an MES implementation, many suppliers would sigh and extend the schedule, halt production on the shop floor while they fixed the problem, or call procurement with more service charges.  Installation is a tricky process and things go wrong.  Is your software vendor willing to change the requirements or project plan when problems happen?  How painful will the service charges be?  How will they work with you?

If you have a problem, will your team (if you even have one) do what the leader did on Mont Ventoux?  With a wrecked bike and watching other groups pass him as he waited for a team car, he began to run.  Running in the Tour de France?  In 25 years, I’d never seen it.  He did what it took to keep the winning jersey with Team Sky.  And he delivered.

That’s the difference between working with a team focused on your goals and with people who really care about your success and the product they offer, and working with just another software reseller.

The Importance of an MES to Optimizing Manufacturing Quality

Procedures and checks can only take your quality improvements so far. To maximize your quality, you need to design quality feedback loops.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Manufacturing companies are continually pursuing quality improvements, and with good reason. Improved quality not only increases productivity and profit as non-conformances and scrap are reduced, ensuring the shop floor is focused on product that ships, but also aids in sales. Consumers buying a product don’t care about productivity and efficiency; they care about value and quality – manufacturing quality.

MES and the Human Element

A sustainable solution to quality improvements requires feedback loops. Illustration from http://www.colourbox.com

Many manufacturers are wasting resources and effort on quality initiatives with limited benefit, relying on quality procedures and checks to catch quality escapes and eliminate them in the future – efforts that never achieve the expected results.

Trying to use paper processes or even a separate QMS (Quality Management System) or other system is the problem. The manufacturer may not be collecting the right information, can’t enforce quality initiatives on the shop floor, can’t identify where or why the quality escape occurs, and is finding the problem too late for corrective action. Without a system to address the total manufacturing value chain, there can be no cohesive solution to improving quality.

The Benefit of an MES to Quality

An MES or paperless manufacturing system creates an integrated system for managing the production process. It’s a single source for shop floor visibility and control, transmitting and managing information along the manufacturing value chain.

According to Jamie Finchbaugh, Lean Advisor and Speaker, quality initiatives require feedback loops between the consumer, the design team, and operations, with production information getting to the right people at the right time to positively impact Quality. From Finchbaugh’s article in IndustryWeek magazine, Is Quality a Result or a System, “Since quality is dynamic, we cannot just design it out of the system; we have to effectively react to it. Your feedback, and feed-forward, loops must be designed to be visible, relevant and timely.”

An effective MES allows you to design and re-design your quality feedback loops to optimize your quality. It acts as a single source of manufacturing information, providing real-time information anywhere and anytime, as well as the process enforcement and shop floor control necessary to close the feedback loop. Paper processes and disconnected software systems will never offer this level of control or sustainability.

Consider this – an MES can provide automatic tolerance checks for the data collected, so an operator immediately discovers a problem. If it falls within a certain range, a disposition plan is automatically sent to the operator to manage the non-conformance. Quality is informed, and can provide sign-off on the solution if necessary, but the feedback loop provides a solution to the people best positioned to manage the problem. In the future, process enforcement ensures the shop floor makes the necessary adjustments to improve quality.

No other tool can directly address the feedback loop like an MES. No other tool provides the capability of an MES to improve quality.

Companies still relying on paper are forced to create another procedure, quality check or dated report to somehow eke out a slight quality improvement.  Customers are demanding more of manufacturers, and dated methods will no longer deliver the expected results.

Want to learn more, or see what a quality program based on an MES can do for you? Contact CIMx today for a free shop floor analysis to learn more.

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.