The big divide – with solutions for bridging it

The big divide – with solutions for bridging it

The big divide – with solutions for bridging it

Today I’m writing about the big divide in our society – the polarization that everyone’s talking about. The one that makes it tough for all of us to see eye to eye.

You know the one I mean! The divide between manufacturing and IT people, on every shop floor.

Joking aside … to have success in any manufacturing project, one of the first requirements is to bridge the gaps in communications and objectives between IT and manufacturing. Project success depends upon it. Many of the projects you’ve seen fail or go over on time or budget can trace their lack of success to the Big Divide.

Later in this blog you’ll see a table of examples – I’ll bet at least some will sound familiar.

Where does the Divide start?

Manufacturing works in gritty reality, a world filled with physical bumps and setbacks and human imperfection. IT, by contrast, works in the virtual world, with data and numbers and programming logic. In concept, software can be perfect and elegant. And that’s the way IT likes it.

In any working day, manufacturing leadership cares about hours, about time and effort. Save these people time and they’ll be your friend for ever. Their ultimate compliment to an IT colleague? “This is great, it fills the bill. Long as we can count on it, it should save us some hours.”

While IT wants each part of the execution to be exactly as requested, regardless of whether the effort required is proportionate to the value earned. Risks and consequent costs of system shutdowns are likewise not big on their radar. Ultimate compliment to an IT colleague? “This is a work of art!”

How do you close the Divide?

Before we talk about how you close the divide, let’s see if I can make you smile. How many examples do you recognize?

IT says… Manufacturing responds…
Look at this! When you click here, you see the ID of what you’ve created. Awesome, right?


That ID tells me nothing. What the heck is 56435?
Every new roll we’re getting, we’re asking the other system for data. And it only takes seconds each time. It’s too complex to be reliable, and it makes us totally dependent – when it goes sideways we can’t do a thing.
We’re going to use this event model to trigger a calculation that will insert the results into the interface table. Say what?


M says… IT responds
This is great – going to save us a ton of time and effort! But it’s not elegant, some of the labels need to be fixed, they’re not [etc]
Good enough, this works, it’s fine for what we need to do. But it’s missing Feature XYZ, that you said you wanted.
How come the technology doesn’t do this? I mean, how hard can it be?? And why is it taking so long to get what the data on the screen? That would require X number of coding hours, we need to add features Y and Z to make it work. [Excellent answer, IT!] And the data takes time because it has to do X, Y, & Z before it can show. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes here. [Another excellent answer, IT! Now you’re getting it!]

The Six Commandments

Following a list of six commandments I’ve developed to try and help my IT and Manufacturing teams work together more effectively.

  1. Both: For success in an MES project get both groups together very early on. Get early feedback on plans and decisions. Make buy-in a priority. Clarify expectations. Throughout, have IT test with the customer (Manufacturing) to see that wires haven’t been crossed. Show and tell.
  2. Tech: Keep in mind, technology should not be a bottleneck in the process. Try to ensure that it’s still possible to keep the machines operational when the technology has issues.
  3. Tech: Describe what you’re doing in process words, not tech words. Remember, you’re doing this to make some kind of machinery operate better, to save time and money. Tell your client how what you’re doing improves the process.
  4. Manufacturing: Make Tech knows understand that good beats perfect. Ask them to consult you if a minor component requested is taking a major part of time/resources. Show/teach IT what you’re actually trying to do.
  5. Manufacturing: Try to avoid the mindset that IT can do anything in a heartbeat, because it’s all a matter of keystrokes and magic. It isn’t.
  6. Both: Build trust. Try not to see yourself as two different (opposing) entities. You have a common goal! And remember – nine times out of ten – good beats perfect.

In summary – crossing that big divide

Of all the suggestions I’ve given here, the most critical is for IT/Tech to meet early on and regularly request feedback from each other. This process prevents misunderstandings, and builds trust. That helps to build success, which deepens trust, which … you see where this is going!