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Lean Manufacturing Software Selection How to Select Lean Manufacturing Software

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Critical Steps to Making the Right Lean Manufacturing System Choice

By Bob Violino

Selecting the best fit lean manufacturing software for your organization is one of the more important decisions in the entire process of creating a lean operation. Pick the wrong enterprise software and you could delay your lean manufacturing progress by months or quarters while at the same time increase cost and risk.

Here are some suggested steps for making sure you choose the best manufacturing software for your company. Some of these steps will be more important for some organizations than others, but they all should be considered essential when planning a lean manufacturing software strategy and implementation.

Assemble the right selection team. Manufacturing software affects multiple parts of the organization (for example, production, accounting, sales and marketing, inventory/warehousing, quality control and engineering) so it’s critical to have cross-functional representation on the software selection team. The team also must have a representative from senior management, possibly including the CEO and CFO.

Everyone on the project team should have a clear understanding of the company’s vision and specifically how lean manufacturing supports that vision. This drills down to include knowing which business processes need to be improved, what those changes will mean for stakeholder groups, and how success will be measured. The team is also responsible for key activities such as defining the budget, creating metrics for measuring ROI, evaluating software vendors and the like. If any executives in the company have prior experience selecting lean manufacturing software, those people should either be on the selection team or serve as advisors.

Determine exactly what you want to accomplish. This sounds like an obvious step, but far too many companies jump into manufacturing software selection with only vague objectives and without thoroughly thinking through precisely why they’re doing it and how it fits into a lean strategy. Goals for lean manufacturing can’t be vague if the project is to succeed. What production or supply chain problems does the company want to solve with the business applications, or which processes is it looking to improve and in what ways? Who will be the primary users of the software and how will their software use impact specific lean objectives?

Look closely at the way production processes are handled within the organization today and how the available business software solutions can aid improvements. Keep in mind how you want to store and maintain data, keep information secure and within regulation constraints, and share it with everyone who can benefit and is authorized to access the information. Don’t forgot to consider the future needs of the company and plan for both likely contingencies and expected growth.

Thoroughly research the options in the software market. When exploring business software providers, consider the financial viability of the technology vendor and its position in the market, its level of experience in the particular areas you want to improve, the level of support it provides, whether it offers options such as software as a service or cloud delivery the like Is the manufacturing software vendor willing and able to provide comparable customer references, particularly in your specific market sector?

When examining the application software itself, determine which features and functionality you really need and which are fluff. Weight and prioritize your wants and needs so you can figure out which optional features can be skipped for the time being. Consider how customizable and scalable the software is. Manufacturing processes and markets are not static and the software must be flexible enough to support inevitable change. Also, consider your existing IT infrastructure, including hardware, networks and operating systems, and how well that fits with what the software requires.

The initial software licensing cost of the software is an obvious consideration, but don’t forget to factor in other costs such as necessary hardware upgrades, software customization, maintenance and support expenses, training and other areas. Finally, examine all possible integration issues, such as how well the software will work with existing solutions such as ERP applications. Resources such as trade associations, user groups and other industry groups and consulting firms can provide valuable independent help or advice in the software evaluation.

Insist on getting custom software demonstrations from vendors, and insist that they specifically show how the product will help your manufacturing operation run more efficiently and improve designated processes. This is an opportunity to see how products work and how they will or won’t meet your company’s needs.

It will be beneficial to score and rank the vendors and software you evaluate to help in the selection process. The project team can then use this scorecard to rekindle their memory of the demo and aid in the final selection. When checking manufacturing software vendor references, be sure to look thoroughly into how the software has worked with the processes most important to your goals, what challenges were encountered, how easily they were resolved and how effective the vendor was in solving problems.

With a thorough process for selecting a business software vendor and solution, your company stands a much better chance of having a successful lean manufacturing implementation and achieving a payback on your manufacturing software investment. End

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Far too many companies jump into manufacturing software selection with only vague objectives and without thoroughly thinking through precisely why they’re doing it and how it fits into a lean strategy.



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