While having its roots in manufacturing, the Center of Excellence (CoE) is more often associated with either academic or IT practice. The Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute (SEI), also known as the originator of the capability maturity model (CMM), formalized the CoE concept based on work done throughout the US Federal government. With today’s continued investment in digital transformation initiatives and the blurring of lines between IT and OT systems, manufacturers are seeing new value in establishing a Center of Excellence to optimize how manufacturing operations are managed and digital programs are executed.
From an IT perspective, the CoE is most deeply rooted in the push to deploy ERP software across the enterprise. It expanded to become the model by which many, if not most, IT applications like CRM, HR, or Supply Chain solutions were supported. In manufacturing, the CoE has also became associated with actual manufacturing processes like a Machining CoE or a Welding CoE where a business concentrated its best-practice development to spread across the entire enterprise.
In these specific use cases, the Center of Excellence was often located at a single site. The focus was then devoted to improving the processes associated with the CoE and then spreading that knowledge. At our recent business conference, Excelerate Innovation 2020, I co-presented with one of our System Integration partners, DXC, on how to take the CoE concept and use it to maximize the benefit you can receive from your Solumina iSeries investment.
Elements of a Center of Excellence
One of the challenges of establishing a Center of Excellence is defining the scope or role of the CoE. Depending on the organization, a CoE is often thought of as a:
- Governance body that sets standards for the use of a technology
- Help desks that coach users on how to use or resolve technology issues
- Project management office that facilitates the deployment of a technology
- Laboratory or testbed where technology is refined for eventual deployment
- Quality assurance function that monitors the use of a technology
- Communications office that disseminates information about how to use a technology
- Best practices center that establishes the best way to gain value from a technology
- The team that focuses on process improvement and is technology agnostic
Or some combination of some or all the above, and more.
From iBase-t’s perspective, a Center of Excellence for operations can be focused on much more than just technology. Instead, think of it as capturing a combination of these key attributes.
Your CoE should be centered on change management and enablement. When implementing an MES or supporting other enterprise applications like Quality Management or MRO, the real goal is process and performance improvement. Software is just a means to the end. Consequently, the focus of your CoE should be on this objective. That means your CoE should take elements of all the definitions above and combine them in a manner appropriate for your organization, to ensure that your people use iBase-t’s solutions to gain the process and performance improvements desired for your organization.
Key Attributes of an MES CoE
BASEt and DXC have found that there are a few critical steps to getting the most value from the use of a CoE in support of your MES or MRO software deployment. First, you need to think about who will be interacting with your iBase-t solution. Build your CoE around the personas of these users. Think about what they do and how they do it when it comes to their operational roles.
Next, use design thinking to shape implementation projects. With design thinking you focus on the problem first, then on how to solve the problem, not about how to use the technology to find and solve problems.
Finally, use an agile methodology. The idea is to use your Center of Excellence to drive small, incremental improvements and technology shifts, not a big waterfall project with an all-or-nothing approach. By setting up a cross-functional team of experts as your CoE, you can get the most from your iBase-t investment and get your return on investment more quickly.