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Manufacturing Software Risks Top 4 Reasons Why Manufacturing Systems Fail To Deliver – and 4 Fixes

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Lack of management commitment, poor project planning, inadequate project resources and ineffective user training are top cited factors as to why manufacturing software systems fall short in achieving planned benefits. In the case of Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) specific reasons related to these particular solutions routinely emerge as prime contributors to diminished returns and unsuccessful implementations. Here's a closer look.

  1. Project scope is too broad or unclear — Too often manufacturing software initiatives attempt to provide visibility to every activity taking place in the production environment. As a result resources can become ill spent on low priority activities or consumed in developing Manufacturing Execution System processes that have little or no value while adding significant time, cost and risk to the project.

  2. Improper fit between the software solution and business environment — A disconnect between the business software selected to support the MES initiative and specific business processes used by the company can significantly hamper the ease of implementation and minimize benefits. This lack of synergy can result in continuous costly customization to meet existing or changing business conditions or processes reducing the agility of the system to accommodate business requirements. Another disconnect may result if the required infrastructure for the manufacturing software solution selected is not readily supported by the company’s existing IT environment. This can diminish system integration capability with other systems and/or force additional costs for more complex integration or infrastructure upgrades.

  3. Inexperienced integration resources — Internal resources assigned to the Manufacturing Execution Systems implementation often lack the required technical skills and experience to properly support the initiative. Likewise the expertise of the chosen solution provider may be limited in terms of the specific processes and needs of the client’s industry. These experience gaps can cause efforts to be misdirected resulting in project delays and reduced system effectiveness.

  4. Implementation methodology – Recognizing the comprehensive nature of many manufacturing system solutions, organizations too often attempt to implement too many features of the business system at one time in the belief that without all elements being in place the value of the system is diminished. These "Big Bang" or waterfall implementation approaches can greatly extend initial project completion and may subject the organization to risks of significant production interruptions due to the inability to respond effectively to system or process failures that may impact the operation.

To optimize the benefits of an Manufacturing Execution System implementation, organizations should recognize the following as critical success factors:

  • Upfront analysis of production processes – A detailed review of all existing production processes incorporating input from key personnel forms the foundation for highlighting processes requiring attention and which are appropriate candidates for manufacturing software process improvement activity. The output from this analysis allows management to prioritize areas to be addressed based on benefits to be gained, begins to involve more personnel in the overall process, clarifies data utilization and integration to other business information systems, and provides a framework for ongoing analysis and deployment.

    The success or failure of manufacturing software hinges on the amount of time and effort invested in the upfront discovery and definition phases of the project. The process of defining all the specific business steps and individual procedures that occur during the normal and, more importantly, the abnormal workflows of a plant requires significant effort. Taking the time to correctly perform this important task will yield extensive benefits.

  • Partner with a manufacturing software expert – It's critical to engage an experienced manufacturing software integrator prior to selection of the software solution and throughout the project. An independent, experienced manufacturing system integrator with strong business, industry and technical knowledge can provide critical support to a Manufacturing Execution System project by i) assisting the upfront production process analysis/documentation and recommending appropriate integration opportunities for MES, ii) assisting in performing an objective system selection process utilizing knowledge gained from the comprehensive process review and expertise with manufacturing solutions, iii) assisting IT in evaluating MES solutions and clarifying infrastructure and technology issues which may impact integration, customization and system performance, and iv) helping develop a comprehensive, complete and accurate project plan along with coordinating key system deployment activities.

  • Employ a phased approach to implementation – By constructing a project plan that incorporates a pilot integration of manufacturing software with defined subsequent deployment targets the organization can quickly evaluate the effectiveness of its implementation methodology and make changes along the journey. This approach allows for early adjustments to be made in the methodology to ensure the repeatability of the approach for phases to follow and reduces risk of significant business interruption as the implementation process proceeds.

  • Implement an effective communication plan – A comprehensive communication plan spearheaded by senior management which continues to stress the specific objectives of the project and its progress is a critical component of the overall project plan. It assists in highlighting business priorities, engaging the workforce in the process, preparing the operation for each phase of implementation, and stressing the concept of MES as a continuous process improvement tool. End

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The communication plan should highlight business priorities, engage the workforce in the process, prepare the operation for each phase of implementation, and stress the concept of manufacturing software as a continuous process improvement tool.


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