It’s the bane of not just Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), but of all enterprise software applications – customers have complex challenges to address. As a result, sometimes the implementation phase can be prolonged, creating stress to those responsible for implementation.
One reason why is because business processes must often be identified, evaluated and standardized on an enterprise wide basis. This reconciliation process goes beyond the simple writing of new programming code, but can often require strong leadership to convey consensus across regions with varying local requirements, cultures and personalities. Another challenge is the “chasm” that can exist between the IT team and business process owners. This gap can sometimes result in misunderstood requirements or communications, leading to delays, misappropriated resources and budget over-runs.
I was recently part of an implementation team at one of our clients in Eastern Europe that manufactures electronics and safety equipment for markets across the globe. We were installing a new manufacturing execution system at one of their more complex plants, a facility that had been recently acquired. And, to further complicate matters, the pressure was on for a quick implementation based on other factors unique to this particular installation.
We used this project as an opportunity to take an “agile” approach to implementation, now possible with our most recent version of FlexNet. We were able to model new business processes that actually made sense to both the business and IT users, which was then easily converted to business processes that the IT team could immediately use.
This project consisted of a series of overlapping design, workshop and implementation phases, each of which took about three weeks to complete. This process continued through the entire project where by both business and IT managers were satisfied their needs were met, helping to accelerate our implementation time frame to just 3½ months. This was a remarkable achievement.
Here are three tips that helped to accelerate the project:
- Know what you want. Our customer had a clear understanding of what they needed, and made a lot of contributions to help accelerate this implementation. By providing clear, specific, detailed instructions on exactly what they wanted, we skipped many steps, helping to make the process much faster.
- Agility. We completed the project design / workshop process in 3 week iterations, which were performed sequentially for a total of four times. With full participation by both the IT and business teams during each of these review periods and a flexible design platform utilizing an embedded business process management (BPM) architecture that was easy to use, we identified all needs and modeled the resulting business flows in a language understood by all.
- Get motivated. Our customer was genuinely motivated to get this project done within the budgeted time frame. So were we. This motivation resulted in faster response times and decisions; completing deliverables was a top priority to get things done.
Once a decision has been made to implement a new manufacturing execution system, it can sometimes be forgotten that the concept of changing the way you do business can be disruptive, especially if implementing a next generation solution that involves the standardization of business processes on an enterprise wide basis. I don’t take this challenge lightly. By taking a Lean approach to our own implementation methodologies, we are now achieving some of the fastest installation times in our industry, an accomplishment we are all quite proud of.