Whether you are taking your first foray into the MES/MOM world or have an older system, there are some important first steps before you take a serious look at the contenders for your money.
You’ve probably done the online research and looked at the brochures and white papers from the various vendors, but the one thing they don’t know in detail is your business, goals, metrics and challenges. Let’s take a look at the next steps so you can be prepared for these vendors.
There are some excellent systems out there to consider. Some are specialized around aerospace, automotive, chemical and medical processes. Some concentrate on manufacturing, some on overhaul and repair, and some do both. Some interface with the major ERP providers and others claim to do it all “out of the box.” The best way to understand these vendor’s strengths and weaknesses is for you to understand your own first.
Start with the basics
Let’s talk about the analysis phase of this project. You’re going to need the following
- A champion for the project
- This should come from the top to send a clear message of commitment to the project.
- A clear mission statement defining your goals for this MES/MOM implementation
- A strong team with representatives from all facets of your business who will be affected, directly or indirectly.
If you’re about to say “Well, we already defined our goals and know what’s needed to meet them,” then there’s a real good chance you don’t have the whole picture. It’s always a good practice to revisit your processes to find room for improvement. In this case, it’s critical to ensure the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) on the team are experienced enough to provide quality input and keep an open mind.
Create a blueprint
Blueprinting involves mapping out each step of the process you are evaluating, including any supporting systems or groups. You’re not looking at just the systems you have, but even manual methods.
It will help define the path to meet your goals and potential improvement areas an MES/MOM system support. This will help validate what you already know and point out the areas you did not know. If done well, the investment you make up front in good requirements gathering will help you make the right decision on an MES/MOM system that will start work the first time − and take you into the future.
The blueprinting process will take place in two phases. The first is prior to the vendors’ visits and the second is after they present each system’s capabilities.
Involve the right people
The first phase gives you a good look at all of your processes and opportunities for improvement. It will enable you to give each vendor a list of capabilities you are looking for, instead of the vendor telling you what you’re looking for. This first phase should:
- Involve the SMEs who actually perform the tasks
- This gives them a stake in the new process and they are the ones who know what’s going on
- Make sure you involve all facets of the business from engineering, the shop floor, financial systems even HR.
- Clearly state the goals for this phase
- Layout the current processes as they are done today
- This is the longest part of the process
- It’s important to communicate to all involved to “tell it like is” even if the process may not be done the way you expect.
- Make sure they know there will be no retribution against anyone for telling the truth
- This will point to opportunities for improvement in your processes before even selecting a new system
- Make sure each team creates some “Use Cases” supporting these processes
- These are extremely helpful gathering data for this phase, communicating to the various vendors and a validation tool for the next phase
- Pay particular attention to
- Current inputs and outputs and their sources, both manual and electronic
- Be aware of bad or antiquated data. Are you really gathering the data you do today and using it effectively?
- Current metrics and their effect on the business
Take the next step
Now it’s time to contact the vendors.
You’ll send them a list of your requirements and use cases. While the vendors will undoubtedly have more questions, this gives them all a consistent starting point and a better chance at answering many of your questions the first time. It also gives you a much better chance of evaluating each product’s strengths and weaknesses and get ready for the next steps, which we’ll discuss in a future blog.