Many manufacturing companies today still struggle with understanding how to orchestrate end-to-end business processes across their value chain. Often, these companies have already invested heavily in Lean or Operational Excellence programs to define and standardize best practices. These companies have also likely invested in one or two software platforms that already have some process management capabilities like ERP or PLM. However, key areas of the value chain such as manufacturing, quality, distribution, sales, and service, are often still managed with data centric legacy applications that lack strong process management capabilities.
Unfortunately, this approach tends to leave manufacturing companies with some challenging questions:
- Should we extend ERP or PLM into other areas of our value chain like manufacturing, distribution, sales, or service?
- Should we try to fill gaps and white space with a Business Process Management Suite (BPMS)?
- Do best of breed software solutions in areas like Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) have the BPM capabilities we need?
- If we invest in multiple process management software platforms, how do we inter-operate across these platforms and optimize end-to-end business processes?
In this blog post I will examine how leading manufacturers are attempting to answer these questions through a recent real world example. I will also provide some insight into my perspective on the MOM space at LNS Research, and how I advise clients that seek an answer to these questions by establishing an enterprise-wide Business Process Platform.
The Challenges in Aligning Business Process and IT Applications
As manufacturing companies work to answer these questions and better align processes with applications, they often don’t realize the extent to which many existing application providers in the MOM and Enterprise Quality Management System (EQMS) spaces have already gone to re-architect their systems and incorporate BPM capabilities into their platforms.
As an example, I recently had the chance to discuss IT strategy and architecture with the director of quality for a multi-billion dollar A&D company in the APAC region. I spoke with the executive about his search for a solution to manage quality, production, EH&S, and other areas of operations. His company, which has grown quickly both organically and through acquisition, was challenged with a disparate set of standalone solutions that are no longer able to support improvements in business process and performance.
To address these challenges, going into the project there were three main goals:
- Achieve better business process visibility and management across operations
- Provide the ability to display and map out a system that can drive process and standardization
- Improve the management of critical business and quality processes like Corrective and Preventive Actions (CAPA)
As the quality executive began the search he understood which business processes needed to be standardized and automated across operations. He also had a good understanding of which IT capabilities he required.
A sampling of his requirements includes:
Business Processes to Automate
- Nonconformance Reporting/CAPA
- Complaint Management
- Incident Reporting and Investigations
- Supplier Audit Management
- Internal Audit Management
- Environment, Health, and Safety
Needed IT Capabilities
- Support 1,000+ concurrent users
- Set security level for each individual user based on role
- Login via intranet portal
- Search ability for any document, process, process step, key personnel, objective
- Be able to embed or link any MS Office or Adobe document e.g.: contracts, policies, standards and specs, forms and templates, etc.
- Intuitive process map builder
- Drill down functionality from highest level value stream to core working level process
- Ability to add extra detail to process maps including descriptions, conditions, risks, accountable positions, KPIs to processes.
- Easy to build and manage changes of processes and documents with version control
- Visibility for anyone to see where changes are up to/ revisions due
- Ability to see the functional grouping, swim lane, Flow Chart and Organization
What the executive in my example did not have was a strong understanding of the existing best of breed software solution space and how different software platforms could enable these business processes and needed IT capabilities. In my next post you can read how I examined the process this company used to address these needs and make recommendations on how other companies should think about the relationship between line of business and IT through the creation of a Business Process Platform.