It is no secret that the technical capabilities and potential return on investment of manufacturing execution systems has undergone considerable change over the past five years. Partially triggered by the recent financial crisis and manufacturing’s need to be far more agile and responsive than ever before, times have changed – no longer will good enough do. The manufacturing model of how to best manage plant operations has shifted requiring agility on a global scale. Systems must work well with others, data must be readily available and understood and expectations for data availability have accelerated.
The challenge now facing many manufacturers is how to identify when is the right time to adapt to a new solution? How should the evaluation process be conducted to decide when is the time to modernize their manufacturing operation, supporting the move to being more global in nature? After all, if operations are working fine now, the expression, “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” might be applicable.
In an effort to offer insight on how to best consider this important decision, here are five indicators of when the best time to upgrade might be:
- Is change a constant if your industry? How dynamic are your operations processes right now? In other words, how often are you compelled to make an immediate process change?
- Is continuous improvement an imperative? Do you have an active Lean or other CI program that is part of your company’s culture? Do you frequently discover new improvements that impact shop floor or supply chain operations? If so, how difficult is it for you to implement these process changes?
- How diverse is your product line or production schedule? By this I mean how many times are you changing what products are manufactured across your operations? Are change overs common? If so, what sort of time period does it take for you to complete the transition?
- Do you operate across multiple locations? If so, how effectively can you compare KPIs across plants? How about a best practice process that has been identified in one plant … can you easily replicate that process at another? What about to all others?
- Are you managing multiple IT systems at every plant? Do they vary plant by plant? How much time are your IT staffs spending doing technical support, training or trouble shooting systems problems or data incompatibility between your plants and other business systems?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then a modern, next generation manufacturing execution system or MES might make a lot of sense. The financial benefit of addressing any one of these challenges could easily offset the initial cost of implementation over a reasonable payback period. If you stand to benefit from more than one of these challenges, then your payback could be even further accelerated.