Starting a new project, a new initiative, or new journey to a new product solution causes a variety of questions to arise when trying to find Manufacturing Execution System (MES) software that will provide you with the results you’re looking for. And for an implementation as large as an MES, asking the right questions and doing your homework can make or break the success of your implementation. There can be many aspects and variables on your journey to finding an MES solution, but from my experience, these are the top five items you must have in place before you begin.
1. Know the problem you are trying to solve.
While there are many small things in which you see opportunity or are directed to change, you should be able to roll up the issue into a single statement. When you clearly understand the problem you are trying to solve, then you have a clear measuring stick for improvement. Some examples could be; increase efficiency on the shop floor by 25%; reduce paperwork/paper on the shop floor by 90%; reduce errors occurring in production by 50%; reduce process-planning time by 25%.
Note the percentage behind most of the problem statements – your statement should be almost a goal, a SMART goal – Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, and Targeted.
What goes without saying here is you have a method for measuring those current percentages. Let’s take the first example; in order to increase efficiency, one must understand what is measured in efficiency, which leads to the next item in the list. Sometimes the problem statements are provided to you; a current software solution is being retired, the customer demands it. These are key for some people, but often not understood by the entire business – therefore find the SMART goal.
2. Understand your business processes.
This is not for the faint of heart. To truly understand your business process, one must follow the business process. For complex discrete manufacturing, this means walking the process from the moment a new part number/article number is defined to the moment the product in which it belongs goes into finished goods. It’s mapping the input and the output, the player, the reaction, and the data that is necessary for each step in the process. This is not a week activity – but several weeks of activity where the individuals that own the processes are interviewed, the process identified is tested and all the variations are documented.
3. Start your communication plan.
Not to sound dramatic, but a new MES system is a heart transplant for your business. This is going to affect almost every single person in your facility. The time is now to start your communication that a change will be coming. Start the interview process with users, supervisors, managers, and executives to understand their fears, their concerns, and their reaction to change. Begin to document the change process and understand this will be a different process for all people involved.
4. Understand the role of MES in your business.
MES means many different things to many different people. Start with clear definition of what it will mean to your business, how other businesses define their MES, and start your research of where MES will fit in your list of Enterprise applications.
5. Start to question everything.
We in the complex discrete manufacturing business love the reason of status quo. It’s not enough to simply document a process and try to replace it. We must improve (think back to the problem we are trying to solve) even if it’s just incrementally in some areas. Be ready, tune your brain to not accept status quo anymore. Look for new ways of doing something, understand the threshold to change to which your users can handle.
After these five items are in place – you are ready to start your research and journey to a new MES, paperless or improved solution. To help narrow down your initial prospect solutions we’ve created a checklist of items each solutions provider must have in order to move on to the next phase of the MES selection process.