“If you want a thing to be well done, you must do it yourself.”
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in 1858
Did you know that the origin of the above proverb originally dates back to 1541? To say there is some history with this logic is an understatement. While this type of thinking may still hold true for a “Do-it-Yourself” (DIY) home improvement, it makes less sense for most other tasks, given the complexity and expertise that is now woven into the fabric of our society. For example, you shouldn’t self-diagnose a medical condition – it is better to go to a Doctor instead.
But in the field of manufacturing, there are still those that believe otherwise. These folks believe in a DIY mentality to managing their operations – either by pen and paper – with a spreadsheet, or by writing and maintaining their own software. Given the complexity of today’s products, processes, and regulatory compliance, one might think there is a better way … I would propose there is.
Given the nature of my job, I spend a lot of time on the phone with many different manufacturers. Nearly every week I get the opportunity to meet someone new and interesting, which is great. As part of these interactions, I have spoken with many DIYs, so I thought it might be interesting to list the top 10 reasons how these people (and organizations) justify their actions to implement a homegrown Manufacturing Execution System, or MES:
The Top 10 List
|#10||Too much time and effort has been invested to walk away – this perspective can be from either an emotional or return on investment perspective. The question to ask, however, is “What is the opportunity cost of maintaining a legacy system versus implementing a new, state-of-the-art system?|
|#9||If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – a rationale that might work if the risk of downtime is limited. However, from a risk management view, if a day or two of downtime is a problem to fix and there is a remote possibility of catastrophic failure then doing nothing is taking a greater risk.|
|#8||No time to upgrade – this is where it might make sense to evaluate what your true costs are, and what the cost of “less than optimal” performance is actually costing you. How easy is it for you to perform continuous process improvement?|
|#7||Can’t afford the cost to replace our legacy system – this is similar thinking to #8, with the only difference being a focus on the hard cost of implementation fees versus the soft cost of not having the time to accomplish the replacement/upgraded system.|
|#6||Out of my control – in this scenario, the ability to make a decision is deferred to corporate. The question I would then ask is what incentive you have to improve performance? If you had a way to increase output and lower costs, do you think corporate might be interested?|
|#5||Too many systems at risk – this is actually quite common, and is typically solved with “Shadow IT.” Neither of these options are good strategic approaches to growth or an increase in productivity. The risk still exists – even with a “do nothing” approach. The decision is whether or not to be proactive or reactive.|
|#4||Job security – few will likely come right out and state this perspective, however, I am sure it exists. The problem is not thinking on a big enough scale … if your entire plant costs too much compared to other locations or the competition, everyone may lose their job!|
|#3||Our needs are unique – so a vendor solution could never work, unless it was so customized that it became akin to what we already have. Here is where the concept of an operations platform should be considered where new upgrades and applications can be readily added to expand functionality. Custom-built solutions inevitably will become obsolete.|
|#2||We have a single vendor policy – in an effort to save time and costs, some companies establish a single vendor policy. As an unexpected result, when their “single vendor” doesn’t offer an effective MES solution, the manufacturing operations team is then forced to build their own, as the “lesser of two evils.”|
And the top reason to implement a homegrown MES is …
|#1||You can’t help us to “eat the elephant” – the point here is that the task to implement a new system is just too difficult! We have such a complicated layout and custom modifications that it would be impossible to migrate to a new system. This is the saddest reason of all, as the people who speak it are the ones that most need help, yet, they feel like prisoners in their own job. There is hope! I have seen many situations that have been fixed, which now deliver a level of performance improvement that was never thought possible.|
There you have it. This is a list of the top 10 reasons I have heard to keep an existing manufacturing execution system, when asked to consider an upgrade to a new, state-of-the-art solution. What is your situation? Do you fall into the trap of thinking along these lines? Do you disagree? I am eager to hear your thoughts!