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5. Unclear expectations

MESA International identifies over 20 operations and initiatives under the MES umbrella.  Without focused expectation setting, stakeholders in an MES implementation may develop their own views of which initiatives will be addressed, and which operations will be supported by the MES upon deployment.  As the implementations unfold, each stakeholder may pull the project in the direction of his/her expected objective, not only raising objections from other stakeholders, but also jeopardizing the entire implementation.  It is important to socialize with each stakeholder specifically which initiatives the MES will address and why, and exactly what functionality will be available upon deployment.  It may also help to internally brand the project away from the MES umbrella moniker, to a more specific objective based name, i.e. the Traceability System, the Production Validation system, the Process Enforcement System, or the Production Reporting system.  See www.mesa.org

4. Lack of business champion

An internal champion without implementation responsibility dramatically improves the opportunity for success in MES implementations.  Without this champion, it is more likely that expectations will not be properly socialized with the stakeholders, more likely that the implementation team will emphasize non-core functionality, and more likely that the project will face interruptions in funding, interruptions in line availability, and interruptions in knowledge transfer and training.  A champion can help guide the priorities from a business and production perspective, relay the import of continuing to make goods through the implementation and the costs of interruption, and validate that the implementation meets business objectives.

3. Perception of lower output

Many MES implementations are focused on production optimization.  The premise is to identify bottlenecks and areas for performance improvement, and act quickly to resolve them.  The MES can raise visibility to these areas, signal or notify the appropriate parties, and continue to do so until remedial action has been taken.  Therefore, the expectation is higher throughput, higher output, and higher yield.  However, in some cases, the MES is also used to enforce production processes, examine product in-line, and hold back or quarantine product that is not meeting specifications.  In this way, initial output may decrease, although good product yield is actually increasing, and value is not being added to bad product.  If more product is being held back due to non-conformance, the perception is that the MES is slowing down production, or causing lower output.  To remedy this, include post-launch production improvement efforts in the implementation plan, to focus on trouble areas where production is being withheld.  Improving performance and getting it right will lead to higher profits and more satisfied customers.

2. Business interruption

Package identification and integration to the controls layer are typical core MES functions.  As a result, product does not get made and product does not get shipped if the MES is unavailable.  Software malfunction, network infrastructure malfunction, database responsiveness, server unavailability, and system mis-configuration are all culprits.  When product doesn’t get made, heads roll.  An unreliable MES is a doomed MES.  Therefore it is paramount to design in failure mode and effects analysis, infrastructure redundancy and fail-safes, as well as manual overrides and procedures so that production can continue in the event the MES becomes unavailable.  In addition, implementation alone often requires some amount of downtime to make interconnections, test, and train personnel.  If this is not made clear up front with accurate time requirements, the implementation could be put on indefinite hold or cancelled due to lack of process and resource availability.

1. Misfit

It is obvious that production processes vary, from operation to operation, line to line, facility to facility, one division to another, and among companies.  With a variety of processes, process flows, infrastructure components, and functional requirements, it is impossible to apply a “one size fits all” rigid MES solution.  Production environments are not apt to modify processes, procedures, equipment, or flows simply to accommodate a new system.  Unless the MES can be configured to a precise fit, modifying application behavior and process integration to match existing production processes and resources, the MES implementation runs a high risk of failure.  This typically can not be accomplished through custom development, due to the fluid nature of production environments, and the validation required for each custom modification, let alone the cost.  Highly flexible and configurable MES solutions mitigate this risk, allowing the software to be configured to precisely match the production environment, and allowing future adjustments without custom development.