How to implement a successful MES, #2 of 4

MES on the plant floor

Assessing MES Readiness

To refresh your memory, following are the 9 building blocks that we’ll discuss in this series. The first post focused on defining business scope. Today’s will cover steps 2 and 3:  Assessing MES readiness and documenting as-is operations.

  1. Define and agree to business scope
  2. Assessing MES readiness
  3. Documenting current (as-is) operations
  4. Identifying pain points and improvement areas
  5. Assessing MES fitment
  6. Creating “to-be” vision and roadmap
  7. Quantifying the value of enterprise to plant floor integration
  8. Building measurable ROI justification
  9. Planning for a successful implementation and sustainment

Assessing MES Readiness

You’ve established business scope. Stakeholders understand and agree. Now it’s time to assess MES readiness.

Experience teaches that knowing where you are now is critical to getting to where you want to go. Vague, loose, or inaccurate estimates of current levels will derail plans to move forward, every time. You need to know the direction and length of the journey you’re on to get to your goal successfully.

You’ll be evaluating the readiness of individual units to contribute to and benefit from MES, based on their business objectives and drivers. By precisely defining cost-benefits, you’ll ensure the consistent adoption of MES across your organization and maximize ROI.

You’ll need to assess and document MES requirements from four separate perspectives:

  • Business
  • Users
  • Process
  • Technology.

This method provides for a clear definition of costs/benefits, and improves organization-wide, consistent adoption.

Assessing MES Readiness – Business Perspective

To measure what you need to do, you first need to know where you are. The better you understand the direction and content of the journey – the roadmap – the smoother the trip will be.

The best way to understand where you are is to measure yourself – against your competition and industry standards. You’ll want to:

  • Compare your performance metrics against industry standards
  • Identify strong and weak business areas
  • Highlight best practices for input into your roadmap
  • Use historical averages (from industry groups, and/or research organizations) of reported benefits to quantify the impact to your business
  • Use the output from above to substantiate the business case.
  • Now build a vision and roadmap, as part of your cost-benefit analysis

You’ll also need to educate your leadership, to know where they are and to start them moving forward. Hold workshops for leaders in your organization, covering:

  • What is needed for a successful implementation
  • Performance benefits of an MES.

Assessing MES Readiness – User Perspective

It’s hard to over-emphasize the importance of cultural buy-in, it’s a major indicator of successful MES implementation. Effective change management is essential. At Factora, we see our ability to work with and influence culture as one of the keys to a successful MES implementation.

These steps will help you establish and evaluate user readiness:

  • Build a governance model that covers all relevant components: C-Suite, IT, Production, Quality, Validation, Operations and Maintenance
  • Create a cross-functional user base to verify pain points, business scope and corresponding high-level requirements. Your team should include SMEs from a range of areas (e.g. Quality, Manufacturing, Finance, IT, Supply Chain, Planning/Scheduling) so that you have input on the pains/weaknesses/shortcomings of all current systems.
  • Educate individual workers on MES benefits and impacts
  • Build a consistent, repeatable process for translating high-level requirements into evaluation criteria
  • Use this evaluation criteria to populate your functionality selection

Assessing MES Readiness – Process Perspective

Now we’re getting to the areas – process and technology – that first come to mind for most people when they discuss MES implementation. The focus here is process mapping and opportunity analysis:

  • Interview SMEs and stakeholders to determine current process landscape
  • Document quality, customer, compliance and regulatory requirements
  • Review use of shop floor automation for process control
  • Process impact of MES-automation layer and MES-ERP integration
  • Identify and prioritize MES low-hanging fruit.

The last step above is critical one to earning buy-in. While everything I’ve described in this post is designed to gain buy-in, the biggest single sway you’ll likely see will be post-implementation.  When you achieve that first objective, the low-hanging fruit you’ve identified in this process readiness step, the groundswell is palpable.

Assessing MES Readiness – Technology Perspective

This step focuses on exploring your current IT environment and how the MES will integrate with legacy systems:

  • Assess automation/process control layer to identify operational readiness and available data
  • Explore technical readiness of integration points between the layers that comprise the enterprise architecture
  • Evaluate availability of real-time manufacturing data flows
  • Evaluate current IT infrastructure and potential new requirements to support an MES solution

Summary: assessing readiness

An you can see from the above, assessing readiness, is a big job.

And from my experience, most organizations are tempted to short-change this step. It’s cumbersome, it’s not fun, and it feels like you are making no progress towards your exciting goal. You wonder if you’re wasting the resources you’re investing in this step. Maybe thinking to yourself: “Wouldn’t it be better to get actually moving on implementation?”

Don’t go there! Nothing guarantees MES implementation success more than knowing exactly where you are before you start, knowing what you have to do to get where you want to be, and preparing every stakeholder, from operators on up, for the changes ahead. 

Describe and document current operations

Now you want to know and document exactly how you operate right now, including systems, processes, and metrics.

Why do you need to do this? Because it will:

  • Increase and clarify the understanding of current processes across departments
  • Assess automation
  • Define the current IT landscape
  • Assist in identifying strong and weak areas, as well as best practices
  • Take into account your organization’s maturity, business drivers, and technology and process complexity, when preparing for engagement

How do you do this?

  • Conduct interviews and discussions with SMEs and stakeholders
  • Plant visits
  • Use any existing documentation studies

Summary: assessing MES readiness; documenting as-is operations

One final reminder: get a partner you trust to help you through this step, and do not shirk it! You will see the pay-off when you implement.

In the next post, third in the series, we will:

  1. Identify pain points and improvement areas
  2. Assess MES fitment
  3. Create a to-be vision and roadmap.

This means we’ll be moving past understanding where we are now, and towards where we want to be. Join me in two weeks!