The supplier has received the order for the construction of the system and that is where the project really begins. As with all IT projects, a number of steps must be followed:
- To build
- To test
However, a large number of factors are involved in Manufacturing Execution System projects. In many cases these are not sufficiently highlighted and included in the planning at the start of the project.
During the project, the surprises surface and the delay, overrun and frustration arise. A supplier is familiar with these factors, and will probably have named them, but often does not have the options to properly highlight them within the organization.
An experienced party that stands on the side of the customer and operates in close cooperation with management can often achieve this. The project runs more smoothly for both parties; the supplier can work efficiently and the goals set by the customer are achieved.
Conditions for success
A large number of factors determine the success of the project:
In Manufacturing Execution System projects, the system is specified in three steps:
- User specification
- Functional specification
- Technical specifications
Greywise has drawn up user specifications for various projects. This has advantages for both the customer and the supplier. Greywise’s method is characterized by:
- Proven approach based on the ISA-95 standard
- Focus on production processes and goods flows and ensure tracking & tracing
- Early involvement of end users leads to higher adoption
- All departments that have to deal with the new system are involved in a timely manner
- Critical view of business operations, proactive with improvement proposals
- Description of the interfaces and necessary adjustments in other systems
- Quick answers to questions because we know our way around the organization
- Based on food industry best practices, not system capabilities
For the supplier this means that he can get to work faster and more effectively with the functional and technical specifications. It saves time and increases quality.
A Manufacturing Execution System always has a number of interfaces:
- ERP system
- Control system, such as PLCs, SCADA and DCS
- Peripherals, such as scanners, label printers, weighing equipment and vision systems
Greywise prepares the interface specification, both substantive and technical, and ensures coordination between the various parties during the construction, testing and implementation phase.
There is a risk that a supplier focuses (too much) on the “happy flow” because too little time was taken in the specification phase to map out the exceptional cases.
Now not all exceptions need to be included in the system, but there should be instructions on how operators should act. We take this into account in testing, documentation and training.
The system integrator provides “train-the-trainer” for a few days and then it is up to your organization to bring all future users up to the right level. It often turns out that the client cannot free up enough people with the right level and skills to do this.
We know the subject matter and know what the training must meet. We make the training program and can also provide the training. It is important that this knowledge is secured in your organization.
In addition to classroom training and training on the job, we also provide complete E-learning programs tailored to the needs of the customer. We provide the content that can be included in the customer’s E-learning environment and can also deliver a fully working E-learning environment.
The supplier expects the customer to test the system. For this, a test plan must be written and test scripts drawn up. In many cases, the customer does not have the expertise and the time to do this right. Because we have also drawn up the specifications together with the customer, we are also well able to write the tests that must show that the system meets these specifications.
We do this together with the future users (often operators) who perform the tests. The tests are performed in a test environment that approaches reality as closely as possible. We ensure that the system integrator also resolves the errors and imperfections.
The better tested, the fewer problems during the go-live. This prevents unplanned downtime and increases acceptance.
The user documentation must be practical. No bulky books, but clear instructions on an A4 sheet, which are easily accessible and tailored to the needs of the user. Where possible, we try to integrate the help function into the system. The users, often operators, are involved in drawing up the documentation.
The documentation is drawn up before the test and tested for practicality during the test. The use of the documentation is also part of the training.
After a thorough test of the system, there is little chance that something will go wrong during the start-up, jeopardizing production progress. But this situation must also be taken into account and it must be considered beforehand whether it is possible to go back to the old situation or to keep production going through workarounds.
It is very important that the MES system is not the cause of unplanned production downtime. Various factors play a role in this. One of these is the technical IT infrastructure, the servers and the network on which the application runs.
There are several options for setting up this infrastructure. Usually, the more reliable, the more expensive. It is important to make the right choices here.
Go Live support
A lot of energy is put into training the operators and good manuals are available. Still, operators will feel insecure for the first few days. If there is extra support, this contributes to more confidence, a steeper learning curve and better acceptance.
In case of problems, there is adequate support and operators can be guided in contact with the support department.
Scope monitoring and Change Management
Primarily, of course, a good specification is important in which all requirements and wishes are included. Nevertheless, during the preparation and implementation, new insights will arise and new wishes will emerge.
Saying no to every question is impossible and saying yes to everything leads to delays and budget overruns.
Decision-making about this will have to be well organized and involvement of management is a must.
Especially in the first months after go-live, the Support department is regularly called upon. Then it is important that the support staff are well trained and have the correct query scripts. Often the support staff are involved in the start-up phase of the project so that they get to know the system, the processes, the organization and the people.
Our experience is that after go-live it takes too long before the Support department is at the right level. This leads to unnecessary production downtime and frustration among users.
System Health Monitoring
The proper functioning of the MES depends on a large number of factors. The application must not stop unexpectedly, the various servers must function properly, the interfaces must work reliably and the network with routers and firewalls must be properly configured.
If a problem occurs somewhere, it is very important that this is detected in time and preferably automatically. It is possible to monitor the different parts for their proper functioning. The status can be displayed on a dashboard that is visible, for example, in the control room and at the support department.
A common problem is a stuttering interface. If the consumption and revenue no longer come through in the ERP system, the stock in the ERP system is no longer displayed correctly. This may not be noticed until hours later. If only then a start is made on solving the problem, this can lead to production stoppage.
The project manager of the system integrator will naturally strive to make the project a success.
He can’t do that alone.
This also requires a good project manager on the customer’s side, who keeps internal affairs on the right track:
- such as monitoring the scope and budget
- ensure sound decision-making in the event of changes
- freeing up employees for activities in the project
- coordination with production about the planning and reporting to the steering group