Q&A w/ the CTO: What’s Driving the Need for BPM in Manufacturing?

Our CTO Chris Will has been with us since he cofounded the company as CIM Vision International in 1992. Apriso was launched about 10 years later with its new product, FlexNet, a BPM-based platform for manufacturing operations management. For almost 20 years, he’s been utilizing technology to let manufacturers improve productivity and achieve better results.

After our previous post “BPM and continuous improvement were made for each other,” we wanted to sit down with Chris to find out how BPM in manufacturing is different and how to use it to drive successful implementations.

Doesn’t BPM trace its roots back to manufacturing?
Interestingly, while financial services are well known for capitalizing on BPM the most, the principles of process improvement do in fact have their roots in the manufacturing industry, with the business process reengineering that occurred in the 1980’s and 1990’s. So, it seems quite fitting that manufacturing now borrows from BPM’s success in the financial world, and applies it to Six Sigma, Lean and other manufacturing excellence programs. Improving businesses productivity is a key goal … BPM can help accelerate this initiative, which in turn can give its adopters a competitive edge.

What is Apriso’s history in BPM?
Throughout the 1990’s, we realized a strong correlation between the adaptability of a manufacturing and process control system and improved manufacturing operations. It became apparent that the next version of our product had to incorporate an adaptable platform for process change and improvement. By applying BPM technology to specific manufacturing use cases, we were able to address many of our customer’s problems. Core to our approach was to apply the same platform uniformly across all manufacturing operations – even across multiple plants.

Has there been one factor in successful BPM projects that stands above the rest?
In order to scale the BPM technology and approach across global implementations and yield consistent results, we quickly learned that success was contingent on strong corporate sponsorship and governance. So, while BPM is a key element towards our successes in the past 7 years, strong central governance was equally important. Apriso works closely with our customers and partners to enable such governance of BPM projects, helping to ensure all elements for success are in place.

Often a company knows they have a problem with inventory, manufacturing, quality or other area of production, yet they don’t totally understand how to fix it. Sometimes they haven’t defined a process on how to do things, or simply don’t consistently follow their established best practices. Proper corporate governance can help address this challenge.

How is BPM different for manufacturing than in other industries?
BPM in financial services targets back-end workflows focused on document management tasks like routing, storage and version management. Its workflows involved the branch office, underwriting and other back-office tasks. A key focus was integrating multiple disparate systems and locations while maintaining a relatively static workflow.

BPM in manufacturing must deal with many different types of “resources,” such as machines, inventory, forklifts and sensors. And, it must be capable of working with each of these elements, in real-time, while serving users in multiple roles and skill-levels. For multi-site management and governance, BPM in manufacturing must include a component that supports process deployment across the entire IT landscape. FlexNet uniquely addresses each of these requirements.

What specific product enhancements you performed to address these unique needs?
First, we introduced “dynamic rendering” of the user experience across multiple devices (desktop, mobile, etc.) to help simplify the interface between processes and users while supporting collaboration and frequent process change. Next, we designed FlexNet to manage events and tasks by directing or guiding them to the right person at the right time, presenting accurate status and information needed to drive the intended results. As processes change, the system is designed to implement those changes immediately against active work orders as well as against new production runs.

Did you have any BPM improvements in the recently released FlexNet 9.5?
Yes, in fact, BPM was one of the areas where significant improvements were made. In this release, we introduced rapid process blueprinting and prototyping. These enhancements enable an agile approach to introducing or revising a process as an integral part of the BPM. With rapid prototyping, FlexNet 9.5 truly offers the best way to visualize what a new process entails before implementation, further improving a manufacturer’s overall agility.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.apriso.com/blog/2010/10/qa-w-the-cto-what%e2%80%99s-driving-the-need-for-bpm-in-manufacturing/

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