Jan Snoeij, President of the MOM Institute, recently presented a webinar sponsored by iBASEt. During his presentation, he took a closer look at how manufacturers should consider re-evaluating their RFP process. Much has changed in the world of Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES). New expectations, data requirements, and integration needs now exist, which must be incorporated as part of this process.
Those attending had several questions, which might be of interest to those evaluating an MES RFP process. These have been shared below.
Question #1: How open-ended should questions be on an RFP?
Good question! Unfortunately, there really is not an algorithm to answer it. We learn over time. If I outline my requirements and business objectives to proposed vendors, then they should be able to tell me how they can achieve those objectives. To that end, there should be some open-ended questions to be sure all unique characteristics have been shared.
Of course, it is very easy for vendors to just click all the boxes and say “yes” they can do it all. Vendor reputation, however, will come into play – or at least should! You need to provide sufficient opportunities for vendors to clearly communicate back to you their strengths, to then help you assess where they might be the best fit.
Question #2: You mentioned RFP objectives should be “SMART” – can you please explain?
Yes. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Anytime you are setting objectives, you will achieve greater results when they can be measured and assessed using these guidelines.
In the case of an MES, one of your assessment criteria might be to ask a vendor how well their solutions have been embraced and adopted? You can go through the whole process for evaluating how a possible new solution might work, and what benefits it should provide, but if employees don’t use it, then your ROI will be zero!
Question #3: How do you realistically assess a SMART objective?
One way is to ask each prospective MES vendor to provide examples of customers that have already implemented the proposed solution that is part of the RFP. Then, ask to speak with them. Share possible scenarios involving both your IT and OT functions and ask the vendor if they can support each with software – not just slideware!
Those MES vendors that ask you to wait a few years for their solution to be ready might be introducing substantial risk to your assessment process. There is really is no way to perform a SMART evaluation and measurement if that solution is not yet available.
Question #4: What you mean by a scenario?
Define a critical process you execute repeatedly. Then, ask each prospective MES vendor how their solution would perform under these scenarios. Of course, many MES capabilities can (and should) be taken for granted. These are the minimum attributes all vendors must include. Ideally, the scenarios you propose should be over and above these minimum requirements.
Let us say you manufacture “rolled” products. As part of your typical production process, you might “roll-on” your raw material and then “roll-off” your finished goods. A scenario might be how does a vendor’s MES solution manage defects? What if they are discovered mid-process? Or, what happens when the material gets stretched out during the production process? How does your software manage that or other similar scenarios? Not all MES solutions can handle each of these scenarios, but it should be something you can easily check and validate.
Question #5: Should RFPs be driven more by the business or by IT departments?
What I see is not always what is best. The business (OT) should always lead an MES RFP process. They are the group that will have the obligation to use and improve the MES. Not IT. Of course, IT needs to play an important role as part of how an MES will fit within the company’s existing systems architecture and digital ecosystem.
Where I see issues is when someone with a “general” IT background is tasked with running an RFP process for MES. They simply do not have the right skill set or assessment knowledge to make the best decision for the business. As one example, this type of IT person typically under-estimates the volume of data that is generated from manufacturing activities. This lack of understanding leads to a poor MES evaluation process.
Gordon Benzie has 20+ years of leadership experience in marketing and communication roles. This knowledge was gained while working at software solution providers focused on driving digital transformation across industrial operations. As an avid technologist, Gordon has a deep understanding of how today’s technologies are improving manufacturing processes within discrete, hybrid, and process industries. Follow Gordon on LinkedIn.