Analytics header

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The 4 Misunderstanding About Manufacturing Systems Implementations

A few weeks ago I attended the ISPE annual meeting in Orlando. My company was hosting a session about technology and operational excellence that was pretty well attended. I take that as a sign of general interest in the topic. I believe that the interest was on the pure operational excellent side, yet the session tried to highlight the synergies that exist between manufacturing systems and operational excellence.

My colleague Carsten Holm Pedersen held a talk on the synergies between systems and operational excellence. The main theme of his talk was what he called “The 4 Myths” about manufacturing information systems or as I refer to them as “The 4 Misunderstanding” about Manufacturing System implementations. I really liked his message so I wanted to share it here.

Focus ROI
Sole focus on ROI ensures success because it defines qualitative business goals and sets a defined scope. However this also means that focus is diverted to “easy wins” rather than usable solutions and enhancement that have obvious value are ignored or rejected as “scope creep”. Furthermore there is risk that synergies from process improvement and other OpEx initiatives are not incorporated or supported by the system.

Use of Standard Systems
Application of standard systems is more effective and guarantees use of “Best Practices”. They reduce risk and provide superior maintainability. The reality is that these so-called “Best Practices” are not necessarily a good fit to your process and sometimes they are not “best” at all, but simply a result of “that is the way we have always done it” thinking. As such they sometimes do not provide the flexibility or adaptability to specific processes and force unnecessary constraints. Focus is diverted to “What we can buy” rather than “What we need”.

Competitive approaches increase productivity
Employing a competitive approach where different projects are competing for the same funds motivates and steers project teams to achieve better results. In fact just the contrary is true, this approach only ensures sub-optimization. It inhibits collaboration and does not leverage the inherent need for systems to be built to support the process. Systems are built to provide specific point solutions and not enable a streamlined lean manufacturing process or superior process understanding.

Integration should be avoided.
Interoperability between systems is not that important and if it is implemented has to be in real time. On the contrary one of the inherent attributes of Manufacturing Systems is interoperability with all levels in the manufacturing process. Not including interoperability with other system may seriously inhibit the usability of a solution and some obvious benefits to process visibility may be ignored. Also each interface may have different “real-time” requirements that have to be evaluated by needs and value.

There is obviously much more to these than what I can put in this post so let me know what you think and make sure to follow Carsten for more discussion on these topics.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What is a Manufacturing System - Part I

This is a post that is long overdue. A central discussion topic on this blog is Manufacturing Systems and I have not yet really explained what I mean by a Manufacturing System. I have talked about manufacturing system that are agile and Holonic, so it is about time that I posted a more practical or at least clear description of what I mean.

Most definitions of Manufacturing System are focused on describing a solution, or more precisely the functionality and architecture of a Manufacturing System solution. For example the MESA model presents number of functional categories from a business perspective, where as the ISA-95 (S-95) model provides a solution architecture based on functional decomposition. All these are of course relevant and useful yet it seems that the problem only interesting to academia – try to Google it. It is assumed that we in industry all know what it is – a dangerous proposition to have.

We all agree that the key to a successful deployment of a Manufacturing System is the understanding of the problem that it is designed to solve. This obviously not a novel approach – it is what everybody attempts to do with the system’s requirement or URS. Yet my experience shows that even in the requirement phase many resort to using the existing models, thus reverting to describe the problem with the solution itself. Quite confusing isn’t it?

So here is my take on what a Manufacturing System is, or in other words the Shop Floor Management Problem. I like to describe it as the problem of integrating 3 important flows in a manufacturing organization. The 2 vertical flows provide Product and Logistical information while the horizontal flow is the physical flow of material, equipment and people.

The Shop Floor Management problem is therefore: How to make use of the information provided by the Product and Logistical flow to efficiently and effectively manage the physical flow of Resources and Materials (also known as the production process). Simple isn’t it - that is what a Manufacturing System is designed to do. Try to imagine a seasoned and effective production supervisor or plant manager – the Shop Floor Management problem is very close to his real life job duties.

It is obviously not that simple and there is of course much more detail that is yet to be discussed. I plan to provide some of this in upcoming posts (hence this post is named Part I). Also this is not meant to take away from the importance and complexity of product development, process engineering, operations, and planning. It is a model that is focused on explaining the particulars of managing a shop floor (yes this is my disclaimer).

More detail to come in future posts…