The Worst Advice I’ve Ever Heard about Manufacturing Execution Systems

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This blog has been written by a Factora Senior MES Consultant.

I’ve been in the Systems Integration field for a couple of decades now and I’ve had the pleasure of running across some really bad advice. Sometimes even career-stunting bad advice! Following, the worst of the worst. Don’t let the shining star of your career be tarnished by following these ideas!

  • Creating documentation is a waste of time. Sounds like good advice, right? Who needs binders full of boilerplate stacked on the shelves for the next 20 years? The catch is that boilerplate and binders are not the critical documentation you need to make a system successful. What you do need to do is document your requirements and business functions well. And in detail. Before you develop any major application, your stakeholders need to thoroughly review and approve these documents. Sure, they will change and evolve over time. But the documents provide a solid foundation that keeps all development and implementation efforts in line and moving toward the same goal. I know, creating documentation isn’t fun and can feel tedious. Trust me, it works.
  • Pull integration work in-house to save money. Again, this sounds like good project management advice. You have some people that need something to do – why not put them on the new project to keep them busy? While an active and involved in-house team is critical to the success of your project, dumping experienced people from the system’s integration team to replace them with whoever is available can be a disaster. Your goal in creating an in-house project team must be to 1) ensure the successful delivery of the project scope, and 2) develop the skills to successfully use and manage the application. Never put reducing cost ahead of these critical requirements.
  • You don’t need an MES, your ERP can handle it! As the ERP space has become saturated, all of the ERP vendors have looked for additional revenue by expanding their footprint into adjacent spaces. The MES space is primary among these. And the argument is seductive: you already have the system in place, why not use it? Also, you can minimize the number of interfaces and support resources. The advice is bad for one huge reason, ERP systems operate on a transactional basis (something got ordered, made, tested, and delivered). While manufacturing, like your HMI and SCADA applications, operates in real time. And often very fast! An MES is designed to bridge the gap between the transactional and real-time worlds. It provides the business context required to assess what should be made and how, and it can track the most granular details of the manufacturing process to provide you the data you need to optimize your performance. An ERP, by contrast, provides rolled-up, summary-type data that leaves you in the dark about the critical issues in your delivery process.

Most of the bad advice I’ve seen over the years related directly to saving money. Cut a corner here; reduce resources there; repurpose and reuse here. They all look like tempting ways to cut costs. Maybe even boost bonuses!

If only it were that simple. The ongoing overruns, change orders and delays that result from the advice above inevitably eat up far more than the corner-cutting ever saves you.